"Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
Alexander Hamilton

Friday, November 25, 2016

Betsey DeVos Wrong Choice to Lead US Department of Education

"Handing over national policy on the education of our children to elite GOP billionaire megadonors is not draining the swamp." I read that on social media in response to the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the US Department of Education. She and her husband have an estimated net worth of over $5 billion.
DeVos is head of the American Federation for Children (AFC) which advocates for school vouchers and charter schools. Devos has no experience as an educator and neither she nor her children have ever attended public schools. 
 The US Department of Education , which she has been nominated to run, in October 2015 denied Michigan's request for a $45 million grant to expand charter schools, because Michigan doesn’t provide sufficient oversight of those who authorize and supposedly oversee them. The Michigan law backed by Ms. DeVos to establish charter schools 20 years ago, allows many organizations to start such schools,( 80% are for profit) , but yet established little mechanism for oversight.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that Trump’s pick “makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.”
 The NY Times ("Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Has Steered Money From Public Schools") said that "..if Michigan is a center of school choice, it is also among the worst places to argue that choice has made schools better. As the state embraced and then expanded charters over the past two decades, its rank has fallen on national reading and math tests. Most charter schools perform below the state average."
Trump first rolled out his $20 billion voucher plan in early September, at the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, a for-profit charter school that received grades of D and F on a 2014–15 state report card, for failing to help its students improve academically.

The Detroit Free Press undertook a year long investigation into Michigan charter schools as Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion per year into charter schools. What they found is very troubling:
  • Wasteful spending and double-dipping. 
  • Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. 
  • Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. 
  • No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them.
  • And a record number of charter schools run by for-profit companies that rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it, saying they’re private and not subject to disclosure laws. Michigan leads the nation in schools run by for-profits.
  • 38% of charter schools that received state academic rankings during the 2012-13 school year fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all schools in the state performed better.
  • Only 23% of traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile.
  • Taxpayers and parents are left clueless about how charter schools spend the public’s money, and lawmakers have resisted measures to close schools down for poor academic performance year after year.
The AFC has been spending money in other states as well, including Wisconsin, spending $4.5 million since 2010 on political campaigns lobbying for school vouchers where four out of ten Milwaukee charter schools are failing.

According to One Wisconsin Now Executive Director Scot Ross “They (AFC)won’t say it publicly in their misleading campaign ads, but make no mistake, the AFC intends to keep the gravy train flowing for their friends and keep taking money from our public schools to support less accountable private schools. And they’re spending big money to make sure they have legislators in their pocket who will do their dirty work for them.”

The Center for Media and Democracy reports that  2,500 charter schools have shuttered between 2001 and 2013, affecting 288,000 students and that millions of federal tax dollars went to "ghost" schools that never even opened.
 DeVos will bring to Washington a national push for the failed Michigan "education choice"  model she has lobbied for and funded, and public education will be under attack to a degree that is unprecedented. To be replaced by what? Her money and influence has been a disaster for Michigan and for tax payers,  and will extend the undermining of public schools. Imagine the damage that $20 billion will do nation wide. 


Anonymous said...

Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly voted No to expand or increase enrollment in their charter schools, almost 63% against.

Constitutional Scholar said...

Elections do have consequences and as distasteful as some of Trump's choices are, he is entitled to select them. Where there is a Senate confirmation process, where opponents can request their Senators to oppose the confirmation.