AFT president: Trump’s education secretary nominee wants to privatize schools

Donald Trump’s education nominee Betsy DeVos cleared a Senate committee vote but may face a challenge with the full Senate now. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Speaking today at the National Press Club in Washington, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten warned of an assault on public schools if Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos becomes education secretary. A GOP donor who has fought for school choice, DeVos is Trump’s nominee for the post. The AFT lists its membership at 1.6 million.

Here are excerpts of Weingarten’s speech: Here is a link to the full speech.

I was in the Senate gallery in December 2015 listening to Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray—two folks who don’t often agree—agree about what was needed: to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act. Sen. Alexander, who marveled at the remarkable consensus around ESSA, said at the time: “We have created an environment that I believe will unleash a flood of excellence in student achievement, state by state and community by community.”

Eighty-five senators, 359 representatives, the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the School Superintendents Association, civil rights groups, many parents and parent groups across the country including the PTA, our brothers and sisters in the National Education Association, and the people I represent in the AFT, cheered what President Obama called a Christmas miracle.

That consensus—that fundamental reform of education policy—is why K-12 education, as important as it is, wasn’t a major issue in the presidential campaign; it was the subject of not one debate question.

Well, it’s becoming an issue now. On Wednesday, the Senate education committee will hold its first hearing to consider Betsy DeVos’ nomination.

Instead of nominating an education secretary who sees her mission as strengthening public schools and implementing the blueprint Democrats and Republicans crafted and cheered, Donald Trump dismissed the will of the people, choosing instead the most anti-public education nominee in the history of the department. Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as secretary of education. Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our children.

If DeVos is confirmed—if she shatters this hard-won consensus, if she reignites the education wars—she will demonstrate that her ultimate goal is to undermine public schools, the schools that 90 percent of American children attend. It should come as no surprise that we are steadfast in opposing her nomination, and equally steadfast in our continuing work to advance reforms that will make a positive difference in the lives and success of children.

The frontier in education has moved from Washington, D.C., to state capitols, districts and school communities. This doesn’t mean that the federal government has no role. We still need it to promote equity by funding schools that serve disadvantaged children and protecting the civil rights of all children, including LGBTQ students, still vitally important 60 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

RANDI WEINGARTEN is president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel.

Randi Weingarten is president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers, which represents teachers, paraprofessionals and school-related personnel.

But ESSA quelled the education wars and enabled our shared attention to turn to what works: collaboration, and capacity building, and powerful learning, and the well-being of all children. Practical concepts that are scalable and sustainable; that Republicans and Democrats can support; and that red states and blue states, and rural, suburban and urban schools, can implement with the right investment and management.

So as Republicans and Democrats, parents and teachers, all came together around ESSA, where was Betsy DeVos? She was working in Michigan to undermine public schools and divide communities. And now, she’s poised to swing her Michigan wrecking ball all across America.

If Donald Trump wanted an ideologue, he found one. DeVos’ involvement in education has been to bankroll efforts to destabilize, defund and privatize public schools. She hasn’t taught in a public school. She hasn’t served on a school board. She never attended public school—nor did she send her kids to one. She’s a lobbyist—but she is not an educator.

One wonders why she was nominated. Well, like a lot of Donald Trump’s Cabinet choices, she’s a billionaire with an agenda. As she herself boasted: “My family is the single biggest contributor to the Republican National Committee. … We expect a return on our investment.” By the way, those investments do not exempt her from the ethics disclosures required of all Cabinet nominees. Frankly, her failure to disclose should delay her hearing.

In 2000, DeVos and her husband bankrolled a multimillion-dollar ballot initiative to create private school vouchers in Michigan. Voters rejected it by more than a 2-to-1 margin. No surprise, as the evidence over a quarter century shows that vouchers have failed to improve student achievement significantly or consistently.

After this defeat, she shifted her focus to diverting taxpayer dollars from neighborhood public schools to for-profit charter schools. And let’s give her her due. Over the last 15 years, Michigan has become America’s Wild Wild West of for-profit charter schools. Eighty percent of Michigan’s charter schools are for-profit.

Yes, give her her due, but don’t give her responsibility. Here’s why: When the option was to bolster underfunded public schools, she fought instead for a tax cut for the rich. When the option was to support neighborhood public schools, she disparaged public education and fought to divert taxpayer dollars to for-profit charters. When the option was to strengthen charter schools with real accountability, she fought for no accountability. No accountability, even in cases like the Detroit charter schools that closed just days after the deadline to get state funding, leaving students scrambling to find a new school, but the charter operators still profiting.

She’s devoted millions to elect her friends and punish her enemies, and, at every critical moment, she has tried to take the public out of public education.

What is the result of all this? Student performance has declined across Michigan. Nearly half of all its charter schools ranked among the bottom of American schools. Just look at the yearlong investigation by the Detroit Free Press, which revealed rampant problems in the state’s for-profit charter schools—corruption, cronyism, poor performance and lack of accountability.

That’s Ms. DeVos’ legacy.

Back when I taught Tamika and her classmates at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, they would say, “You can’t just talk the talk; you’ve got to walk the walk.” For a secretary of education, that means doing all you can to strengthen and improve public education. To do that, you have to first experience it—and be willing to walk the walk.

To that end, I extend both a challenge and an invitation to Ms. DeVos. Spend some time in public schools. There is no substitute for seeing firsthand what works in our public schools, or for seeing the indefensible conditions too many students, teachers and school staff endure.

The Trump administration can follow the will of the people, and walk the path laid out by Congress a year ago. Or they can follow the destructive dogmas of the past and reignite the education wars.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

70 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Rdawg seems to support big government and no accountability to taxpayers. One can only surmise that s/he personally profits from such.


Another game: Wait until RDawg posts something that has reason, logic, is thoughtful, and is backed by research and study. Or you could just wait until s/he shares his/her feelings.


Again, why are all you fake conservatives okay with the state run charter schools hiding hiring, spending, and personnel for their failing school system? Do you profit personally from this?

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

Let's play a new game-


every time there is a new article, hold your breath until AvgGeorgian complains about charter schools and transparency........


Relax, no one will have time to suffocate.

northernneighbor
northernneighbor

I hope she is successful in dissolving the federal Department of Education.

RoyalDawg
RoyalDawg

I am SHOCKED that this labor union would oppose a Trump nominee; I'm also shocked that she would put the interests of the teachers above those of the students. What is this world coming to?

CSpinks
CSpinks

Recriminations and other forms of personal disrespect will do no good for our children who are currently ill-served in our nation's public schools. Such incivility will also ill-serve the prospects for the future of our nation as a whole.

EdGraham
EdGraham

Considering how the AFT doesn't care one bit about education and only cares about unionized government school teachers paying union dues, I'd be 100% behind privatizing schools.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@EdGraham

Your comment makes no logical sense.


How about privatizing roads because AAA cares about the members who joined their organization?


How about privatizing SS because AARP cares about AARP members?


How about privatizing the military because the National Defense Industrial Association supports its members.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @EdGraham Your response makes no sense. Roads, SS and the military all function well. Public schools? in some places yes, in others no.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Starik @AvgGeorgian @EdGraham

Get a clue - never mind, I'll get it for you. 

Logical fallacies are flaws in a reasoning that lead to illogical statements. They occur when ideas are being argued within a group of people. Logical fallacies masquerade as reasonable statements, yet they are in fact statements designed to manipulate the reader by appealing to emotions rather than intellect. An argument which is irrelevant leads to conclusion because it doesn’t follow the premises. It is also called a non-sequitur (In Latin which means it does not follow). A good argument avoids logical fallacies and instead it relies on well-conducted research, critical thinking. Good arguments are based on evidence, reason but not on emotion. 

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik @EdGraham You need to get off the "transparency" theme in defending public schools. It doesn't persuade. Argue about the welfare of the kids - all the kids, including the well-behaved studious ones.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@AvgGeorgian You keep up the good fight friend...you seem to be an amazing person. Sadly, the only way true educators will win this battle is to walk off! The only way you beat a bully is to get kick em in the sack!

Astropig and the rest are cowards! Big men with keyboards.

creative
creative

@AvgGeorgian @Starik @EdGraham Its strange that you bring up logical fallacies as you just pulled the ole "faulty comparison" or "false analogy".  Here... I will do one in support of more charter schools....Ready?? Charter Schools are better than the public school system.  Look what privatization did for package delivery in the US.  In the 70s overnighting a package could not be or it ws too expensive aaccording to the USPS.  Then UPS and Fedex came along and the USPS figured out how to do it fairly quickly.  OK so my argument is a "faulty comparison" fallacy.  I compared the USPS to public schools just as you compared public roads and the military to public schools. I do get that yours was not a "pure" faulty comparison, but the intent was there.  I for one would like to see the link to the studies that show Charter Schools fail more regularly than public in the Detroit area.  I have seen great successes in the city of Atlanta with Charter Schools and while I know this is just anecdotal evidence, it seems to me that a little competition would not be that bad.  Liberals seem to say that every child learns different and I tend to agree.  This opposes the standardized testing model that we have today. Schools are not teaching our kids to reason, learn a trade, invest, start a business, or how to debate properly.   It seems to me that kids are taught to memorize things and then they are given pointless homework and projects that take away from family time and play.  The left also likes to point to western Europe as a model for Healthcare, OK point taken.  Can we look at the Belgium school system to see if they are doing anything correctly.  The system they have in place looks to me like something we should implement here, but on a state level.  Schools for Art, Science, Athletics, Math etc.  The schools compete for the parents dollar (vouchers) and they are not bound to attend by where they live.  Your argument can be, what about the kids with no father or parents that don't care?  My response would be, they are screwed NOW with the public school system we have in place, why can't a Drew Charter School be an example for kids raised by grandmas and no dads (this is a generalization of course and not a statement that EVERY kid there is raised by grand-mamma)?  If your answer is we need more money, then that is not a good argument as money going into schools has risen exponentially while performance has continually gone down.  Part of this is the FEDS incentivising single motherhood and the active role they play in they breaking up of the black family in the inner city and the  white/black families in rural towns through welfare. If there is no dad, then the school needs to be "dad" EX. Drew Charter in East Lake. Make sense?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@creative 

You totally missed the point.

A is to B as C is to D. Not A is the same as C.


AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Look to the failing, State Run Charter School System as a preview - Public tax money in, hides all spending, hiring, personnel, and vendor payments from the public -conservatives seem okay with hidden spending and no accountability when it comes to republican run charter schools. 


If the spending is private, the school is not PUBLIC.

Pelosied
Pelosied

@AvgGeorgian 

I enthusiastically support parents weighing the facts ... AND THEN FREELY CHOOSING the school which makes the most sense for their child.

YOU and the union bosses do not.

Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian 

Yes- By all means look there.But do NOT under any circumstances look at failing zip code schools.They' are above criticism.Don't even publish an objective rating system to give parents a rough idea of status quo schools effectiveness and suitability-it might not look the way it "should" look if the status quo rated itself.

Pelosied
Pelosied

@AvgGeorgian 

No parent is forced to choose a public charter school. They do so because they know the fit is better for their child's needs, and that your disinformation is just that.

Parents freely choosing is what you anti-reform types fear most.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Pelosied @AvgGeorgian Would you be okay with REAL public schools hiding all payments, personnel and spending from the taxpayers or are you just OK with state run charter schools doing this? 


So you are not for financial accountability for the state run failing charter schools?

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian

Ignore the secret spending of the state charter school system.


Is it okay with you if all the real public schools in your district start hiding all spending and personnel from taxpayers?


If you want a score, look at the individual student's score. Students fail-not schools.


All schools have students that pass and others who fail.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Pelosied So you DO NOT want to reform the secret spending and hiring of the state run charter schools?

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Pelosied @AvgGeorgian You make no sense. If you are as smart as you advertise......your children are already in the school that makes the most sense for them. 

CSpinks
CSpinks

@AvgGeorgian @Astropig How many GA public school systems subject themselves to rigorous financial audits by competent, out-of-state accounting firms? How many  SHOW  US  THE  MONEY  they spend? And let's remember that a budget is only a plan for spending. In school systems in which monies can be readily transferred among accounts, the relevance of a budget as a tool for monitoring spending is reduced.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@CSpinks @AvgGeorgian @Astropig

All Real public school post all hiring, personnel, salaries, budgets, spending, vendor payments, and audits.


The state charter schools intentionally hide the money and personnel.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Two public announcements:


(1) Be sure to watch President Obama's Farewell Speech to the nation tomorrow from Chicago, 8 p.m. CST and 9 p.m., EST.  

I predict that his speech tomorrow will be about his vision for this nation and our world as much as about the accomplishments of his administration, of which Obamacare was astounding, especially with all the Republicans in the U. S. Congress trying to make his signature legislation for the American people fail, from day one.


(2) "Lawmakers," PBS-TV, Channel 8, Atlanta, tonight from 7 to 7:30 p.m. regarding what is happening in this session of Georgia's Legislature.  This program will continue on the same channel each day at 7 p.m. while Georgia's Legislature is in session for 2017.

Jason Reece
Jason Reece

The same way we privatized the prison system \U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602\U0001f602

Ralph-43
Ralph-43

This is another 'Walter White from Breaking Bad to Run the Drug Enforcement Agency' appointment.  Trump is probably too busy tweeting to have actually analyzed what he is trying to accomplish, but presumably his advisors (e.g., Bannon from Breitbart) has carefully considered the most effective way to resegregate the public schools.  This appointment would be a major step in that direction.  In addition to racial segregation, it may also accomplish class segregation ('Master Race').  Clearly in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Is the Republican Congress and their electors going to be allowed to overthrow the United States?

Astropig
Astropig

Why should anyone care what Ms. Weingarten thinks? I can assure you,if The Wicked Witch of Arkansas had won,Randi Weingarten would give a toss what Republicans thought.


Reading her comments are just a colossal waste of time.





MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Today, we have it within our power to finally merge the two differing visions for America of Hamilton and Jefferson if the Republican Party and the Democratic Party can understand that NOW is the opportunity for America to fulfill Washington’s dream of unity and harmony between the ideas of Jefferson and Hamilton.

Hamilton pursued a course for America based on a strong central government in which commerce played a major part in building America’s status and greatness, which benefited the aristocracy, especially, although it also allowed for upward social advancement of the lower classes. On the other hand, Jefferson pursued a course of social democracy that was conducive to the advancement of the common man, especially, which reflected his views that all men, under God, were created equal.

Washington wisely saw that both commerce and goodness in social consciousness were necessary for America to thrive. The best in Donald Trump could possibly build better commerce in this world, with America leading the way in commercial endeavors. More importantly, imo, Jefferson’s social awareness and belief that all humanity is equal to one another, in God’s omniscient eye, is essential to making America a moral leader for this world. Hopefully, if the better angels of our nation’s people will prevail in this national crisis and hold our nation together as one union, the Utopian “line” of Washington’s dreams will finally form and commerce (Hamilton/today’s Republicans) and social consciousness of others, not just of ourselves (Jefferson/ today’s Democrats), will make our great nation the leader of the planet’s future, under God. But, this huge feat will take both of our political parties’ coming together to complete the forming of our more perfect Union for the betterment not only of ourselves, but for all of humankind.

We must keep public education available for all of America's students and not allow commerce or business to take over every aspect of American society, including our schools. Balance must prevail.

Pelosied
Pelosied

@MaryElizabethSings 

Revolutionary America had no aristocracy, dearie. That was a major point the Founding Fathers wished to establish.

And by "public education" Jefferson meant schooling, public or private, which all could access.
But yes, the voters have spoken and it's time to get behind our new president.

Pelosied
Pelosied

@MaryElizabethSings 

I do understand it. You've written variations of it almost daily for years.

Always with the same lack of insight into Jefferson's mind.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Pelosied @MaryElizabethSings


Jefferson advocated for public education for all citizens, paid for by public taxes, not private education.  That is why he founded the University of Virginia in the decade before he died in 1826.


You might assert that I have a lack of insight into Jefferson's mind but I have studied his mind as depicted in Pulitzer Prize writers for almost 20 years now, and I was complimented at the Atlanta History Center for being able to communicate the ideas of Jefferson and Hamilton so that others might see their differences well.


You would be wise to keep your biased opinions of my thought to yourself.  Your mind works in petty ways, for which I have little tolerance. 

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings 

" at nation the leader of the planet’s future, under God. But, this huge feat will take both of our political parties’ coming together to complete the forming of our more perfect Union for the betterment not only of ourselves, but for all of humankind."

Then I'm inviting you to come together. Your side lost.Time for you to "reach across the aisle" and cooperate.

Astropig
Astropig

@Pelosied @MaryElizabethSings 

" , the voters have spoken and it's time to get behind our new president."

Hear! Hear!


Time for Democrats to "reach across the aisle" and practice "bipartisanship".


...But everyone reading this knows that that won't happen.

independentiii
independentiii

yea, it really would make sense to add a middle man to providing public education, who would suck out 30% of the cost just to line their pockets, as well as the politicians.  And for what?  Adding a middle man would create the same problem as we have with medical care.  The USA spends way more % GDP  than any other country for medical care - and one BIG reason is the middle man insurance companies.  You want your schools to end up like that?  Even Trump has said, in the medical care issue, that some sort of single payer system makes the most sense.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Let's imagine that we all have to go to one "public" health care facility - run by the VA. Would you like that? Or would you like some "choice"?

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog After basic medical care is provided by a single payer system, like Medicare, we can talk about choice.

class80olddog
class80olddog

How have LGBTQ children's civil rights been abridged? Are they making them go to segregated schools? Drink from different water fountains?

#SoreLosers
#SoreLosers

Betsy DeVos will make an excellent Secretary of Education.

The teachers' union bosses and their media mouthpieces opposed education reform even under Obama, so President Trump can expect no better. Parental choice lessens union revenues, as charter schools are free to hire the best teachers regardless of union status.

This reduced union revenue means reduced cash to Democrat Party coffers. So, yes, they will squeal.

Astropig
Astropig

@#SoreLosers 

Agree. Ms. DeVos has walked the walk. I'm really excited to see her nomination.