Tag Archives: Betsy DeVos

DeVos, Grizzly Bears and Public Policy: Can Parents and Teachers Create a “#PublicSchoolProud” Movement?

Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos tussled with the committee Democrats for three hours last night, and, the answers to the committee questions ranged from vague, to inaccurate to bizarre.

The fivethirtyeight blog gives a good summary of the major issues at the hearing and Aaron Pallas, a little “tongue in cheek,” recounts what he heard at the hearing.

DeVos stumbled through the three plus hours, glowing as the Republican members of the committee reaped praise and squirmed uncomfortably as the Democrats asked pointed questions. Her handlers trained her, although her performance left a lot to be desired. She refused to commit to upholding the law, waffled on Title IX and the role of the office of civil rights, was vague about supporting transparency for all schools, public and charter, sort of favored accountability in all schools. She supported guns in schools (I believe she is anti-grizzly bear in schools); she has no idea on the debate over proficiency versus growth and steadfastly refused to answer “yes” or “no.” to question after question. She was more than willing to “meet with and discuss policy issues” in her role as secretary, not willing to commit to anything specific. The handlers undoubtedly advised her to commit to nothing, be as vague as possible, charming, and try to eat up as much of the five minutes allotted to each questioner as possible.

Kudos to the Democrats on the committee, they were persistent, fair and asked the right questions.

Barring some catastrophic event, the Republican President’s Republican Senate will confirm all of the nominees. The rules of the Senate require a majority vote; the Democrats needs three Republicans to vote “no” and that is extremely unlikely.

If you watched the circus you may have been struck by the civility of the members of the committee, especially the relationship between chair Lamar Alexander and ranking member Patty Murray. The rules of the Senate require 60 votes to bring a bill to the floor for a vote, called the cloture rule. Presidential nominations only require a majority and treaties, pursuant to Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, requires a 2/3 vote.

The Majority Leader of the Senate sets the calendar, hence the refusal to schedule a confirmation vote for the Obama Supreme Court nominee.

To pass any in the Senate the Republicans require Democratic votes, which means all bills are to an extent bipartisan. Obama’s bills never saw the light of day in the House, the majority in the House totally controls the flow of legislation. If there are conflicts in the House they are within the Republican Party. The Hastert-Boehner Rules deal with whether the Republican Speaker can bring a vote to the floor that requires Democratic votes to pass. Currently the Freedom Caucus in the House, the Tea Party, controls enough votes to stop a bill from getting to the floor, unless the Speaker seeks Democratic votes, very unlikely considering the tenuous nature of the Paul Ryan leadership.

If the cabinet nominees are going to be confirmed why is there so much pressure? Why the 100% plus, plus effort to expose the inadequacies of the nominees?

Simply, we’re only a year and half away from the 2018 election cycle. If the nominees are disasters, the Democrats will pin the blame on the Republican, especially the Republican senators up for re-election in 2018. On the other hand a number of Democrats http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/senate-democrats-2018-midterms-231516 up for re-election come from pro-Trump states. The 2018 election cycle is in full swing.

Education was barely mentioned in the presidential election, I don’t think a single question was asked in the three presidential debates. Nationally public opinion polls on schools is mixed and hard to decipher.

In the current fight for the hearts and minds of voters we need heroes and villains, and, to be honest villains reap more votes than heroes; many voters voted against Hillary not for Trump.

“If it bleeds it leads” is the motto of much of the media, “eyes on the screen,” or “clicks” are generated by disasters, sex, violence and scandal. Media sites sell ads dependent on viewer/readership, as a friend told me we get the news we deserve/desire.

If Betsy DeVos is a disaster, if she “lives down” to expectations the Democrats can use her as the poster child. An arrogant billionaire, the ultimate elitist, using her billions to promote schools that enrich her friends, bring religion into the classroom, a closet bigot, the paradigm of what we do not want in our schools.

The Democrats have to motivate voters, and parents and teachers are prime voters. Arne Duncan was charming, an excellent public speaker,  dedicated to the neediest, and although his policies were anathema his close allegiance to the President gave him a Teflon shield.

Randi Weingarten at the AFT and Diane Ravitch at the Network for Public Education have been relentless and the opposition to DeVos is enormous, probably hundreds of thousands of phone calls and petitions and email to senators opposing her confirmation. Editorials and op ed columns and blogs read by countless voters opposing DeVos; this is what creating a movement of all about.

The New York City teacher union, the UFT is beginning a major initiative to involve teachers and parents at the school level, the Public School Proud campaign intends to create a pro-public school movement, beginning in New York City, spreading across New York State and the nation.

Over the months ahead as DeVos attempts to privatize public schools we must become the Communards, the defenders of public education, our weapons: words and actions.

Give a listen to Leonard Cohen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DU-RuR-qO4Y,

or, Vince Staples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62ST_xsaZUI

Albany 2017: What Can We Expect from the Governor, the Legislature and the Regents?

In a few weeks Donald Trump will put his hand on a bible and repeat the constitutional oath of office, a month or so later the Senate will confirm Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education. Yes, she’s totally unqualified, is totally committed to vouchers, to charter schools and an enemy of public schools. Unfortunately the Senate has 52 Republicans and it is highly unlikely that three Republicans will vote against DeVos.

It is impossible to know how a Trump presidency will impact New York State: drastic cuts in federal entitlement programs, cuts in federal support of Medicaid, a range of possibilities that will adversely effect New York State finances are all possibilities.

With a dark cloud hovering   the Albany legislature convened today.

A coming attraction of the legislative session.

The Assembly and the Senate:

The New York State legislature is off and running, and very unhappy. The issue: the absence of a salary raise. The last raise was at a lame duck special session in December 1998; Governor Pataki offered a salary raise in exchange for the charter school law. Yes, that’s right, a simple “deal” that was supported by Democrats as well as Republicans. The legislature can only vote raises for the incoming legislators. Almost everyone gets reelected, in fact, they are voting raises for themselves.  Legislators will have had twenty years without  a raise; with the increasing turnover in the legislature most of the members have been elected since 1998.

Legislators are paid $79,500 plus per diems for days in Albany plus a stipend for serving as a chair of a committee ranging from $4,000 to $16,000 for the few top committees. The legislature convenes on January 4th, sessions will be held two days a week, increasing in time until the April 1 budget date, and, resume after the Easter-Passover break and adjourn in mid June.

The legislature has extremely low favorability ratings with the public.

Each member maintains an office in their district, with sufficient funding to pay for a small staff.

About 15,000 bills will be introduced in the Assembly, maybe 500 will become law.

The Assembly is led by Carl Heastie, the relatively new Speaker. The Democrats have an overwhelming majority in the 150 member Assembly. The Senate is more complicated, much more complicated. There are 32 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the 63-member Senate; however, five Democratic members broke away from the other Democrats and formed the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) led by Bronx Senator Jeff Klein. The IDC caucuses with the Republicans; John Flanagan, the majority leader of the Senate leads the Senate, although, he requires IDC acquiescence.

The Democratic Assembly members wanted a raise and were willing to give up outside income, the Republican Senate members wanted a raise and were unwilling to give up outside income. The Governor wanted a strict ethics package …. eventually … the talks faded.

Democratic Assembly members who were unhappy with the Governor, now despise him.

They hinted they would not attend the Governor’s State of the State address, the Governor changed the process, five separate addresses across the state with invited guests only. (I sent in my request for an invite – we’ll see)

The Governor:

Governor Cuomo rarely, very rarely gives press conferences; he strictly controls media access and the narrative.

On one hand he chose to attack teachers and their union, to support charter schools, to vindictively punish teachers for the widespread support of Zephyr Teachout, and, to reverse course, dump Merryl Tisch as leader of the Board of Regents as well as Tisch supporters on the Regents, support a moratorium on the use of testing to assess teachers, support substantial increases in state aid; if he hasn’t made 180 degree change in attitudes towards teachers its pretty close to it.

His adoption of the Sanders/Clinton “make colleges free” plan resulted in headlines in the national press.

Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign for reelection in 2018 is off and running with an eye on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2020.

Angry Democrats and/or Republicans could sidetrack an April 1 on time budget embarrassing the Governor.

Remember the political aphorism: when you toss a rock into a pool of feces you never know whose going to be splashed.

The Issues:

State revenues are down, Trump’s policies could reduce federal dollars to New York State or more likely shift budgetary responsibilities from the feds to the state.

With budgetary woes hovering can the state afford to begin to implement the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) judicial decision?

Will the state continue to increase state aid to school districts at the rate of the last few years?

If the legislature does not agree to an April 1 budget the Governor can opt to fund the state through the continuing resolution process, unwieldy,; however, Governor Patterson used the process to bypass the legislature.

The Cuomo apotheosis: The Governor is far more in sync with the current leadership of the Board of Regents. The December 2015 Cuomo Commission Task Force Report set out a roadmap and slowly the Regents are moving to implement the recommendations.

The elephant in the room are the over 200,000 opt out parents. The state tests later this spring will continue to be three days for English Language Arts (ELA) and three days for mathematics. The evolution to computer-based testing and the problems with lack of computer hardware and band width could lengthen the testing period. The Regents are in the midst of building a new accountability plan for the state could move from proficiency (a single score) to growth (a comparison of last year to this year), or, begin to experiment with alternatives, such as performance tasks, portfolios, that are referred to as authentic assessments.

The Regents have been flirting with a big question: high school diploma requirements.

Do the current high school diploma requirements prepare students for the world of work and post secondary education?

Should we revert to a lesser or specialized diploma for students with disabilities?

Should recent immigrants have to meet the same requirements as all other students?

Why are Career and Technical Education, (CTE) programs, formerly known as Vocational Education declining across most of the state?  Are state policies and regulations too complicated? antiquated? Can/Should the state directly intervene to create more CTE schools/programs?

Are we adequately preparing prospective teachers?  Why has the enrollment in college teacher preparation programs dropped so precipitously?  Can the state both uncomplicate and bring coherence to teacher preparation programs?

New York State leads the nation in the inequality of school funding. Richer, higher tax school districts spend  far more dollars per student than poorer, low tax districts. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer. About 80% of education dollars come from local property taxes, state aid from Albany is distributed in a fairer manner; however the variation in per capita funding remains immense. Should the Regents propose a major revision in school funding?  A political land mine!!!

Will the Assembly, the Senate, the Governor and the Board of Regents dance together, or, will the dark clouds hovering over the nation’s capital move East?

A nineteenth century political wag wrote, “No one’s life, liberty or property is safe while the New York State legislature is in session.”

Maybe a little too pessimistic,  the agenda is full, and I am cautiously hopeful.

Assessing What Teachers Teach and What Students Learn: Creating Authentic Assessments for Students and Teachers

Student waiving his hand in the air enthusiastically, “Teacher, teacher, is it on the test?”

These days the answer is, “I have no idea.”

The current Common Core grades 3-8 tests are not content-based they are standards-based, they “test” the ability to identify skills-acquisition; content, curriculum, has fallen by the wayside.

See two 9th grade Social Studies Standards below:

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

I have no objection; the standards are perfectly reasonable and I would expect that teachers would address the standard in their lessons.  Testing companies, in New York State Questarai, creates test items that measure the ability to exhibit knowledge of  the standards; there are no New York State created curricula.

Standards are not new, we have had standards for decades. For a period in the nineties teachers had to include standards in each lesson plan. After the topic and the aim we were required to write three SWBATs (Students Will Be Able To)  standards related to the specific lesson. In many schools anything displayed in classrooms or hallway walls had to include the specific standard.

Standards are abstract and not related to content. New York State does provide curriculum modules on the open source Engage NY website. See an example of a Ninth Grade ELA Curriculum Module here. These are not required, they are detailed and the claim is that they are aligned to the Common Core and school districts frequently adopt the Engage NY modules.

School districts rarely have the ability to create their own curricula, they simply “adopt” the Engage NY so-called curriculum modules.

The state did spent years working on and finally released Social Studies Frameworks, close to a curriculum,

This Framework integrates existing New York State Learning Standards and the New York State Core Curriculum for Social Studies into a single, three-part document. It is intended to serve as a guide for local districts in developing their Social Studies curricula.

The state makes it clear, developing curricula is the responsibility of the local district.

The math side of the Common Core State Standards are far closer to what we would call a curriculum – see an example: the Second Grade Mathematics curriculum module.

Sol Stern, in the current issue of City Journal, is sharply critical of the absence of a “coherent, grade by grade curriculum,”

“The existing K-12 school system (including most charters and private schools) has been transformed into a knowledge-free zone. It is now producing the ‘dumbest generation’ ever …. digital-age social media stupefies young Americans and makes them less interested in serious reading than any previous generation. Add in the education establishment’s refusal to teach knowledge in the classroom and the result becomes a toxic mix of intellectual apathy and ignorance.”

Stern asks, “Will conservatives at long last begin working to restore a knowledge-based curriculum?”

No Sol, if  you define conservatives as the Betsy DeVos acolytes they will be focused on choice, and leave decisions to the Local Education Authority (LEA), including creationism as an alternative theory.

Governor Cuomo, to his credit, has suspended the use of the grades 3-8 state tests to evaluate teachers, the Board of Regents adopted a four-year moratorium.

Summative assessments, the six-day April/May state tests or the end of the term Regents Exams are not the best way to assess students or teachers. As we know school districts, schools and teachers coach students to pass tests, the test is the ultimate determinant of teacher and student performance.

In New York State teachers are currently assessed by a combination of principal observations and a locally negotiated Measurement of Student Learning (MOSL); during the moratorium  state test scores are not part off the teacher assessment process.

The United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education, after many months of negotiations, finally agreed to a Annual Personnel Performance Review (APPR), the principal/teacher assessment metric.. See a summary of the plan here.

The new  APPR agreement makes major strides towards assessing what a teacher actually teaches,

* Project Based Learning assessment, students final assessment is at least partly composed of work the student has developed over time in  conjunction with a specific project based on a learning unit.

* Student Learning Inventories, collections of student work that will include both Department of Education  developed components as well as classroom artifacts that capture student growth.

Major steps to an authentic assessment system – assessing what teachers teach and students learn.

The Secretary of Education nominee appears centered on providing opportunities for choice, and we can expect battles over Title 1 funding and a range of other contentious issues.  The new law, ESSA, does “reserve for the states,” a wide range of education decision-making.

The New York City APPR agreement may provide a path for the state in the creation of the plan that the feds require of each state: authentic assessments.

Trump, ESSA and Education Policy: Musing Over the Future of Public Education

Unlimited power is … a bad and dangerous thing; human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion, only God alone can be omnipotent … no power on earth is so worthy of honor for itself; or for reverential  obedience to the rights which it represents that I would consent to admit its uncontrolled and all-predominant authority.

In my opinion the main evil of the present democratic institutions of the United States does not arise … from their weakness but from their overpowering strength; and I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in that country as at the very inadequate securities which exist against tyranny.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.

A year ago the Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the successor to the much reviled No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The new law was the result of a few years of behind the scenes negotiating, the bill was bipartisan with Senators Lamar Alexander (R) and Patty Murray (D) leading the way.

While the law still requires annual grades 3-8 testing and the public reporting of the results states are given wide discretion in the design of accountability metrics.  States are currently deeply engaged in drafting plans that must be submitted to the feds by September, 2017. Some states are working with Linda Darling-Hammond at the Learning Policy Institute, others with Michael McGee at Chiefs for Change (See advocacy here) or the Council of State School Officers (See CCSSO guide here). States are grappling with designing accountability plans: how you measure and report student outcomes? Stick with the current pen and pencil, or computer-based testing, move to performance tasks, portfolios or other types of “authentic” assessments, and, as the law requires, are these new tools evidence-based in their reliability and validity?

The law itself, hundreds of pages of dense legal jargon must be reduced to regulations and the process is lengthy and tedious. The negotiated rule-making process, the posting of draft regulations, a lengthy public comment period and the final release of the regulations within the last month.

How will the new administration, the new Secretary of Education, implement the rules, and, can she change the regulations?

Betsy DeVoss has been one of the leading proponents of choice in the nation. Ideally choice means that each parent would be provided with a voucher, or coupon, or whatever term you use that is equal to the cost of education in a state and the parent could present the voucher to any school: public, charter, private or religious. Education; however, is a state function; over 90% of funding for schools is generated through local property taxes or state revenues, the feds on provide Title I dollars and other federal grants. DeVoss cannot impose vouchers; although she can hang the bait of increased dollars for those who take the bait.

Janelle Scott, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in a recent peer-reviewed article challenges the assertion that choice produces better outcomes. Read the essay here.

Even though ESSA is the law of the land and the regulations have been established the Secretary still interprets the law. The Secretary may issue “Dear Colleague” letters clarifying elements within the law and regulations (See examples of Dear Colleague letters here). “Dear Colleague” letters undermine the intent of the law or regulation.

How can the Secretary influence the distribution of federal education dollars?

The largest pot of federal dollars are Title I funds based on poverty metrics, distributed to states, school districts and schools. (See a detailed description of Title I here). Charter and religious schools also receive Title I funding under federal statutes. The formula for the allocation of federal dollars is complex and the Secretary plays a role; although, the states play the major role in determining cut scores for eligibility. For example: how do you measure poverty? Free and reduced lunch forms? federal census family income data? Should you concentrate the dollars: meaning should fewer schools receive more dollars?  These are debates that have been ongoing for years.

DeVoss will attempt to both reward charter and religious schools and encourage vouchers. Let us not forget that Arne Duncan offered competitive grants under Race to the Top to encourage Obama-Duncan policies, example, charter schools, Common Core, teacher evaluations plans, etc.

Will the Secretary decide how ESSA is applied to opt out schools?

The answer is yes, if she wants to play a major role. ESSA, and its predecessor required a 95% participation rate on the required standardized grades 3-8 tests. The purpose was to discourage/prevent schools from conveniently excusing kids who were likely to do poorly on the test; no one envisioned the opt out movement. Some states specifically prohibit. or specifically allow parent opt outs whiles others are completely silent. (Read description here). In January, 2016 the feds sent a letter to all states setting forth potential actions against states with low participation rates,

In addition, an SEA has a range of other enforcement actions at its disposal with respect to noncompliance by an LEA, including placing a condition on an LEA’s Title I, Part A grant or withholding an LEA’s Title I, Part A funds (see, e.g., section 440 of the General Education Provisions Act). If a State with participation rates below 95% in the 2014−2015 school year fails to assess at least 95% of its students on the statewide assessment in the 2015 − 2016 school year, ED will take one or more of the following actions: (1) withhold Title I , Part A State administrative funds ; (2) place the State’s Title I , Part A grant on high-risk status and direct the State to use a portion of its Title I State administrative funds to address low participation rates; or (3) withhold or redirect Title V I State assessment funds.

New York State, by far, has the largest number of schools/parents with low participation rates; there are a number of other states, i. e., Illinois, Maine, Connecticut, California, Colorado Idaho, North Carolina Delaware Wisconsin Washington and Rhode Island.

The law is clear, the feds can reduce Title 1 funding to states with low participation rates; to complicate many of the opt out school do not receive Title 1 funding, or receive relatively little Title 1  funding. Does the state allow Title 1 students to receive fewer dollars or does the state transfer funds form opt out to Title 1 schools?

I suspect the choice forces will do everything possible to fracture public education. Deepen the moat, sharpen the pikes, the next few years will be parry and thrust.

Why do Trump, Pence, DeVos and Republicans Support Charter Schools, Education Vouchers, “privatizing” Social Security and Medicare/caid? What Does Supporting “Small Government” Mean? And, Will Trump Build a Statute of Ayn Rand on the Washington Mall?

Almost all the people I know are shocked and appalled at the election of Trump. I will not rehash the autopsy, the deep analysis and commentary parsing the election. I will examine why Trump, Pence, Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, Speaker Paul Ryan and many of their wealthy supporters believe they have the true path.

Adam Smith, an 18th century Scot, political scientist and economist wrote The Wealth of Nations, often referred to as the “bible of capitalism.”  Smith coined the term, “invisible hand,” that somehow by “pursuing his own self-interest” the rich benefit all of society.

The rich…are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society …  Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.                                                                                       

Couple the writings of Smith with German Sociologist Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism  who examines the theosophy of John Calvin, the concept of predestination, the concept that economic success is proof that you are one of the select, chosen by God for salvation.

Historian R. H. Tawney wrote,

Adam Smith …  saw in economic self-interest the operation of a providential plan… The existing order, except insofar as the short-sighted enactments of Governments interfered with it, was the natural order, and the order established by nature was the order established by God.

Tawney, a Christian Socialist reviled what he saw as a perversion of religion,

A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify itself for making their life a hell in this.

For centuries wealth melded with religion.

At the other end of the spectrum is Karl Marx, the antithesis of Adam Smith. (Read a comparison of Smith and Marx here).

The European depression of the 1920’s and the Great Depression began with the stock market crash of 1929 challenged long standing economic theory. The “invisible hand” did not reach down from the heavens,

FDR, assuming the presidency in 1933, in the very depths of the depression vigorously intervened; federal program after program to put the nation back to work. FDR was viewed as a savior, elected four times, who led us out of the depression as well as our leader during World War Two.

Keynesian economic theory, the government has a crucial role to play; deficit spending to create demand and put us back to work was not universally accepted.

On the other side of the coin are the followers of Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, (1956), her magnum opus that has become the guiding light for those on the right, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.

Rand savaged the post-FDR view of the role of government that she defined as “collectivist.”

Collectivism is the tribal premise of primordial savages who, unable to conceive of individual rights, believed that the tribe is a supreme, omnipotent ruler, that it owns the lives of its members and may sacrifice them whenever it pleases.

 a philosophy of supreme self-reliance devoted to the pursuit of supreme self-interest appears to be an idealized version of core American ideals: freedom from tyranny, hard work and individualism. It promises a better world if people are simply allowed to pursue their own self-interest without regard to the impact of their actions on others. After all, others are simply pursuing their own self-interest as well.

Rand is enormously popular across college campuses today. The “hero” of Atlas Shrugged is John Gault, “… a ruthless captain of industry who struggles against stifling government regulations that stand in the way of commerce and profit. In a revolt, he and other captains of industry each close down production of their factories, bringing the world economy to its knees. ‘You need us more than we need you’ is their message.”

Do Ryan, Pence and DeVos worship statues of Gault?

The sharpest critic of our public school system is the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Freedman; in his Capitalism and Freedom (1962) Freedman laid out his views of education, views clearly at the core of the Trump/Pence/DeVos education philosophy,

Governments could require a minimum level of schooling financed by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on “approved” educational services. Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum they themselves provided on purchasing educational services from an “approved” institution of their own choice. The educational services could be rendered by private enterprises operated for profit, or by non-profit institutions. The role of government would be limited to insuring that the schools met certain minimum standards, such as the inclusion of a minimum common content in their programs, much as it now inspects restaurants.

 With respect to teachers’ salaries, the major problem is not that they are too low on the average, but that they are too uniform and rigid. Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority, degrees received, and teaching certificates acquired than by merit.

If one were to seek deliberately to devise a system of recruiting and paying teachers calculated to repel the imaginative and daring, and to attract the mediocre and uninspiring, he could hardly do better than imitate the system of requiring teaching certificates and enforcing standard salary structures that has developed in the largest city and state-wide systems. It is perhaps surprising that the level of ability in elementary and secondary school teaching is as high as it is under these circumstances. The alternative system would resolve these problems and permit competition to be effective in rewarding merit and attracting ability to teaching.

I understand, and vehemently disagree with this perverse combination of philosophy, religion and a defense of ruthless aggrandizement. I am far more sympathetic to Karl Marx, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.

Thirty years ago I exchanged my apartment and lived in Paris for a month, my first trip was to the The Communards’ Wall (Mur des Fédérés) at the Pere Lachaise cemetery ”… where, on May 28, 1871, one-hundred and forty-seven fédérés, combatants of the Paris Commune, were shot and thrown in an open trench at the foot of the wall. … the wall became the symbol of the people’s struggle for their liberty and ideals.”  Rationalizing the plutocracy, the oppression that has created an underclass, the use of religion to justify inequity is despicable. My ancestors lived in ghettos, oppression was their reality, pogroms a fact of life, and, those who failed to flee Europe died in the holocaust. My wife’s forbearers were transported in slave ships. We live in a nation, far from perfect; however a nation that has offered opportunity to generations of immigrants. Immigration is our life-blood; we receive the “first round draft choices” from around the world; immigration has a Darwinian aspect.

An “invisible hand” is not hovering to “save us,” greed, racism, anti-Semitism, avarice can steer our nation to anarchy, can set neighbor against neighbor. We face an uncertain future.

Pence, DeVos and Ryan worship at the altar of Rand and Freedman.

Does Trump worship at the altar of Machiavelli?

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.