Trump Nominates Betsy DeVos and Declares War on Public Education: Vouchers, Charters and School Choice on Steroids

You may have been “happier” with Michelle Rhee or Eva Moskowitz?

Trump nominated Betsy DeVos, the wife a the scion of the DeVos family (Amway), one of the wealthiest families in the nation.

Will DeVos be the next Cathy Black or the deconstructor of public education?

DeVos has been the leader of the Michigan Republican Party, a major fund raiser for the Republican Party, an early supporter of Marco Rubio and her husband has led the assault on labor in Michigan;  lost to Jennifer Grandholm for the governor of Michigan in 2007 and has been in the forefront of the anti-labor assault.

Dick” DeVos,

“The Greatest Generation did not just win a World War, they labored shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow workers to create and sustain value-added enterprises. By contrast, ‘big union bosses have engaged in cozy deals and political backroom dealings in order to advance their personal agendas, not those of their members,’” 

 “By casting off the practice of forced unionization; Michigan now publicly declares to other states and in fact the world, that we embrace freedom for our workers, true equality in the workplace and that we are ready to compete with anyone, anywhere to create economic opportunity for our Michigan families.”

President Randi Weingarten wasted no time in trashing Betsy DeVos,

“The president-elect, in his selection of Betsy DeVos, has chosen the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education. 

“In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America. 

“DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.

Dana Goldstein, the author if the acclaimed Teacher Wars: a History of America’s Most Embattled Profession parses DeVos’s attacks on public education in Michigan; a state in which charters perform poorly, well below public schools. With access to unlimited dollars DeVos passed legislation creating unregulated charter schools; in spite of legislative attempts to bring accountability to Michigan charter schools DeVos and her cronies successfully derailed the bill.

In an article in Slate  Goldstein paints a picture of DeVos as the Bill Gates of the educational far right who sees her role as creating a totally choice system. Using her fortune to impose her will on the public education.

Decisions as to the nature of schools is left to states and across the nation a handful of states have lenient charter laws, some restrict charters to not-for-profit sponsors, others for -profit and a few on-line for-profit schools.  The feds can provide dollars to existing charters schools; the creation and monitoring of charter schools is a state responsibility.

The battle over Title 1 dollars will dominate the new school wars. Republicans in the House have supported making Title 1 dollars portable, in other words turning them into vouchers that would follow the student to public, private, charters,  for-profits,  religious, or, even home schooling. The result would be dramatic reductions in dollars in the poorest public schools. A transfer of public taxpayer dollars from public schools to the free market, with for-profit schools reaping the dollars.

Diane Ravitch and the Network for Public Education have documented misuse and outright corruption in states with unregulated charter schools as well as extremely poor outcomes in voucher plans.

On the other hand the Trump/DeVos Department will be far less intrusive in states than the Obama/Duncan/King department. The Civil Rights Division of the USDOE has been activist pursuing innumerable challenges to states: Title 9 (Equity for Women in Sports programs), disproportionality (excessive numbers of minority children in Special Education classes as well as suspensions). The acceptance of Title 1 dollars gives the feds the authority to intervene, if they choose. One would expect DeVos would be a far less activist Secretary in these areas.

Under Senate rules a majority is required to confirm cabinet nominees; the Republicans hold a 52-48 majority and barring a catastrophic performance before the committee one would expect confirmations; although the dems will pressure the nominees in the process.

With virtually unlimited dollars DeVos had a free a hand in Michigan. The ability to flit from home to home; the family owns a compound in Vero Beach, Florida and a number of homes in Michigan. Dick DeVos is an accomplished pilot. Whether Betsy can maneuver the rocky shoals of public scrutiny is to be decided. Her actions will be perceived as hostile to cities, hostile to public schools, hostile to the poorest, the attacks will be unrelenting. Maybe she has alligator skin and can cast off the sticks and stones; maybe, like Cathy Black, her wealthy, elitist background will make her ill-prepared for public service.

Will the (de)formers, for example the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), progressive democrats in most arenas jump on the Trump/DeVos band wagon? Frederick Hess, a leading charter supporter has already endorsed DeVos.

Public education across the nation is at risk.

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2 responses to “Trump Nominates Betsy DeVos and Declares War on Public Education: Vouchers, Charters and School Choice on Steroids

  1. If a student is in a charter school, wouldn’t that charter get those Title I dollars already if they are a Title I school? Federal funds should not be going to any entity that is not considered a public school because that opens those entities to serving the whims of those dollars. I don’t think private schools and homeschool parents get that. Vouchers are evil and many states oppose them for use in parochial or religious schools because of the separation of church and state.

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  2. Pingback: Keep Up the Pressure - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

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