Betsy DeVos and the end of public education

Only if you’ve been hiding under a rock (tempting, I know) have you not heard about Betsy DeVos by now. Though she previously has functioned more in the shadowy billionaire operative realm, now she has been thrust into the light of day with Trump’s naming her Secretary of Education. I think of all his picks so far she just may prove the most controversial–owing to her billionaire operative status, her utter lack of any education experience whatsoever, and the terrible example Michigan public schools provide as evidence of her ideas in full flower. Already there have been over 78K letters sent to legislators all over the nation urging votes against her confirmation.

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled about DeVos. I’ll link some of the best pieces here.

The Chalkbeat was first out of the blocks with this realistic and measured piece.  They identify 5 priorities we might reasonably expect to see from a DeVos department of Ed.

The Atlantic has another list of 5 things, DeVos somehow lending herself to 5-item lists in the news. This one identifies a few more issues and notes that she is a “controversial” pick.

Here are two pieces that go a little behind the scenes. Mother Jones examines what De Vos influence has meant for organized labor in Michigan (of importance for teachers’ unions) and a September 2016 Detroit Free Press opinion piece looks at the effect of DeVos money on Michigan legislators. (This one comes with an extra bonus of a link to Betsy DeVos’s response.)

MSU music education professor Mitchell Robinson begins his damning analysis with the line: “Game. Set. Match.” Calling Trump Ed Secretary alternates Rhee and Moskowitz rank amateurs at the corporate ed reform game, he cites DeVos as one of the major money players in the country who will never let actual experience of children get in the way of her ideology.

EduShyster brings to bear her long perspective on the ed reform game, its longstanding racial queasiness, and the limits of its bipartisan reach in her thoughtful consideration of DeVos.

Finally, I bring you Peter Greene’s commentary about DeVos. Regular readers of this blog and the Chicago Public Fools facebook page will know the high regard in which I hold the Curmudgucator. He nails it every time, and his three columns (just this week) on DeVos are on point as always. This is my favorite. He compares Duncan, Rhee, Moskowitz, and John King to Betsy DeVos simply on the basis of competence and finds our future Secretary of Education to come up, by far, the shortest.

Read even a few of these and you will be brought up to speed about our new potential educational overlord.

But there’s one more thing to know about this woman that I haven’t seen much of in the news.

She would not have been able to accomplish what she did in Michigan without the federal government’s encouragement of privatization efforts for the past 8 years. She would not now be poised to bring full privatization to the nation if the field had not been tilled for this for the past 8 years. Duncan’s Department of Ed absolutely created the conditions for Betsy DeVos. She may be different in emphasis, but not in kind from Arne Duncan. She touts charters, choice, and competition; Duncan’s Department of Ed touted charters, choice, and competition. She likes vouchers; the Department of Ed never definitively closed the door on vouchers. She has given millions to unregulated charters; so did the Department of Ed. Federal visa policy and the New Market Tax Credit created the conditions to make charters very big–global–business.

All that was settled years ago.  Now corporate ed control is poised to succeed in a totalizing way; all that was needed was a billionaire secretary of education who knows absolutely nothing about public education, is purely ideology-driven, and is well-practiced at controlling legislators with her cash.

Don’t fool yourselves–DeVos isn’t the sudden end of the world for public education, like a bomb being dropped. She’s more like the result of a slow-traveling virus or a zombie invasion. Our schools have been in peril for years. Now I think we will be able to see it more clearly. It’s time to get to work.

You can start here, by signing your name to the Network for Public Education’s letter to legislators insisting they not confirm her.

If you want a better Chicago Public Schools system please like my Facebook page and join me there for more discussion. You can also follow me on twitter @foolforcps.

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