She has never worked or taught in public schools.
She has never attended public schools.
She has never been a parent of public school students.
This billionaire has spent her (and her husband’s) money to privatize public education in Michigan. She bought state legislators to pass legislation which the people had rejected.
Now she wants to bring the same privatization plan to the rest of the nation. She used her billions to buy her cabinet position by bribing federal legislators with campaign contributions.
Her nomination and confirmation mobilized millions and people learned that she is unfit for her job. The nation educated itself on how she has spent her money to privatize education in Michigan, Indiana, and elsewhere across the country.
But America supports its local public schools and we’re watching.
After her first visit to a public school as Secretary of Education (or possibly ever?), DeVos said, “They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.”
She was talking about teachers…professionals who had spent years in preparation for their job and held college-level credentials which allowed them licensure to teach. She was talking about teachers who had spent a varying number of years in public school classrooms teaching children.
These are people who she claims are “waiting to be told what to do?” No, Secretary DeVos. Public school teachers know what to do.
People knew that the democrats on the HELP committee were not given much time to give questions to receive more glaring answers from a lady who does not give a damn about public schools.
So if anybody is in “receive mode,” it is Betsy DeVos.
She certainly gave a lot to receive her office.
What she should be willing to receive is an education about how public schools have been doing despite the obvious pressures that influence academic outcomes that schools have no control over like poverty. But that takes willingness, honesty, integrity, and humility.
And Betsy DeVos has not given much of that.
Test and punish is still the rule in America. Betsy DeVos said, “You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.” What does she mean by “facilitate great teaching”? For “reformers” great teaching has come to mean raising test scores.
While Betsy DeVos insulted teachers last week as “in receive mode,” in my community and my state, teachers are dismayed and up in arms about what they are receiving. Here in the words of Steve Nelson’s new book about progressive education—First Do No Harm, is the kind of pressure our teachers are irate about receiving from the U.S. Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Education: “Public schools all over America are judged by the standardized test results of their students. In many, perhaps most, communities the test results are published in local newspapers or available online. The continued existence of a school often depends on its standardized test scores… Neighborhood public schools are labeled ‘failing’ on the basis of test scores and closed, often to be replaced by a charter operation that boasts of higher test scores… What has occurred is a complex sorting mechanism. The schools, particularly the most highly praised charter schools do several things to produce better scores…. (S)tudents are suspended and expelled at a much higher rate than at the ordinary public schools in their neighborhoods. Several studies show that charter schools enroll significantly fewer students with learning challenges or students whose first language is other than English.” (pp. 68-69) All this pressures school administrators to force teachers to teach to the test at all cost.
It would be fine with me to have myself worked out of a job, but I’m not sure that — I’m not sure that there will be a champion movement in Congress to do that.
The elaboration is where it gets interesting– She sees that the feds have had a useful role at certain “important inflection points” in the past, like “when we had segregated schools and when we had a time when, you know, girls weren’t allowed to have the same kind of sports teams.” But then the question– “are there any remaining issues like that where the federal government should intervene?”
I can’t think of any now.
So there you have it. Racial and gender bias are completely under control, totally solved, no longer need any sort of federal oversight. There are no states or districts that are trying to maintain any sort of systemic inequity. Nothing to see here. Go home.
“To choose someone to have the highest position connected to education who has basically no knowledge of just even the theories and the concepts in education, I am insulted but I’m also sad for her because I cannot imagine how effective a person can be when you are in a field that everyone is translating for you,” [Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, Wendy] Robinson said.
Drivers don’t get to choose which roads their tax money is spent on. That’s left to the municipal government. The roads are kept in good condition as a public good.
Readers don’t get to choose to direct their taxes to a privately run book store. That money goes to public libraries, because libraries benefit the entire community.
Citizens don’t get to divert tax funds designated for police services to private security companies. Police and sheriff departments have resources provided by the government to benefit everyone.
When it comes to public schools, Americans seem to have forgotten what “public” means.
To Betsy DeVos, school choice is not simply the inherent right that every parent has to choose their child’s educational setting, it is all about requiring taxpayers to pick up the tab for that parent’s private individual choice, regardless of whether the parent chooses a public school, a charter school, a nonprofit private school, a religious school or even a fly-by-night online virtual school.
Historically, the United States has devoted itself to a comprehensive system of public schools, locally controlled and funded by public resources. Parents who didn’t want their children to attend the public schools, could, of course, pay for them to go to a private school.
But DeVos and her associates in the corporate education reform movement have been working hard to undermine that historic concept and replace it with one in which public funds are used to subsidize whatever “choice” a parent makes for their child.
In her radio interview with Smith, DeVos states her goal is to ensure that all schools ‘meet the need of every child that they serve, and in the cases that they don’t, parents and students should have other alternatives.’”
Secretary DeVos is wrong. Students should have schools that meet their needs. If a neighborhood public school doesn’t have the resources needed for every student, then it’s the responsibility of policy makers to provide those resources. Closing public schools and opening charter schools, or providing vouchers for parochial education, doesn’t improve public education. America’s public schools are improved when the stakeholders in the community and state provide the resources needed.
In her first week as education secretary, Betsy DeVos has given no indication that her grasp of school choice is any deeper than an ideological preference for individualism and the free market. I would have been at least a little reassured if DeVos had shown any sign of having thought about the issues that will complicate any efforts on her part to expand privatization through school choice. School choice must be evaluated by the way the expansion of “portable funding” affects all the children in a given geographic area, not merely by the test scores of the relatively few individual children who escape by winning a voucher or a place in a charter school. Here are just two research-based examples of easily available material DeVos could have studied, if she had been interested.
Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos has been U.S. education secretary for only a few weeks, but already she has shown herself to be exactly what her critics feared. In her brief time running the Education Department she has (among other things):
*insulted teachers at a middle school
*bashed protesters, saying they are “hostile” to change and new ideas
*said she would be fine if the department she runs is shut down
*complained that critics want “to make my life a living hell”
*failed to participate in the first Twitter chat her department had for teachers on Feb. 21
*suggested schools should be able to compensate for troubles children have at home, such as absent fathers
*had U.S. marshals protect her after protesters blocked her entrance to a D.C. school door
*made a confusing statement about the Common Core State Standards
*made crystal clear that a top priority will be pushing for alternatives to traditional public schools, otherwise known as “school choice.”