So, here are a few things you need to know about Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos: Her name’s pronounced duh-VOSS, her own children have never seen the inside of a public school (they go to a private Christian school, like Thomas Jefferson intended), she loves corporate-run private and charter schools, and we kind of dodged a bullet, because Trump’s initial choice for the job was Jerry Falwell Jr., the gun-toting head of Liberty University. (Hey, it’s allowed interracial dating for years now!) Then again, maybe Falwell would have been a complete failure as an administrator and never gotten stuff done. DeVos is a ruthless advocate for “school choice” — the funneling of taxpayer funds to private schools and charters in the hope that “competition” will improve all schools, or at least make public schools and teachers unions go away forever.
Here’s a fun fact: When DeVos and her billionaire husband, Dick — heir to the Amway fortune, so all school buses will now be pink — helped push through Michigan’s charter school law, they made damn sure that charter schools would be free of burdensome regulations, like educational achievement standards. Earlier this year, when the state legislature was considering adding oversight regulations for charter schools in Detroit, the DeVos family showered $1.45 million on legislators’ campaigns, and by complete coincidence, the final bill was completely free of state oversight of charter schools. Hooray, freedom!
The DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country. Roughly 80 percent of charters in Michigan are run by private companies, far more than in any other state. And state authorities have done little up to now to ensure that charter schools are effectively serving students, eliciting concern from current federal authorities.
“There are a lot of schools that are doing poorly and charter authorizers do not seem to be taking the necessary actions to either improve performance or close those underperforming charters,” current U.S. Secretary of Education John King told Chalkbeat about Michigan last month.
But people are making money off taxpayer funds, and the places where that happens have “school” written on them, so it must be a huge success! Just imagine our entire nation’s K-12 system run by ITT Tech — it’s going to be a golden age of companies making billions off shitty private schools!
Predictably, those socialist monsters at the National Education Association don’t see why this is going to make every child well-educated, or at least a revenue enhancer for fly-by-night charter schools. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement,
By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities […] She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.
Pfft! Who doesn’t love cookies? Besides, DeVos is a proven educational leader, having donated millions and millions of dollars to Republicans who want to dismantle the Government Schools wherever possible. She’s a big pal of Gov. Mike Pence, who helped institute the nation’s biggest school voucher program in Indiana, and as if that weren’t enough, her brother is Erik Prince, the founder of those fun-loving private security goons Blackwater. Who needs a gun-free zone in a school when those guys are available?
Still, the negative nellies seem determined to take all the fun out of the coming looting of public funds:
“Betsy DeVos is everything Donald Trump said is wrong in America: an ultra-wealthy heiress who uses her money to game the system and push a special-interest agenda that is opposed by the majority of voters,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Weingarten also said,
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.”
Well, yes, that was the point, wasn’t it?
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, seems to think there’s something untoward about public monies going to Jesus Schools. He called DeVos’s nomination “an insult to public education […] Private school vouchers violate the fundamental principle of religious freedom because they fund religious education with taxpayer dollars.” That’s simply not accurate. It’s not an insult, it’s a frontal assault.
Let’s see, what else makes DeVos a great choice to run the nation’s schools? She’s against gay rights and donated $200,000 to the campaign for Michigan’s constitutional amendment against marriage equality. Her mom has served on the boards of anti-LGBT groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. So you’d better bet the public schools will knock off all that gay indoctrination they’ve been doing. If there are any still open, at least.