Under Betsy DeVos, expect more choice, less accountability in federal education policies

Bet

The Senate starts debate and final vote on Betsy DeVos Monday.

Public schools will be under siege or under water if Betsy DeVos takes the helm of the U.S. Department of Education. Her answers at her confirmation hearing Tuesday ranged from the all-purpose dodge, “Interesting,” to the non-answer, “That is something we can discuss.”

DeVos offered up the standard crowd pleaser that we must end a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education, which somehow gets translated to we ought to privatize schools rather than let’s figure out and fund innovation in our existing schools.

The hearing showed the deep partisan divide, with Republicans lauding DeVos as an outsider who will put parents and students before institutions and bureaucracies and Democrats pointing out her lack of experience and understanding of education and education law.

DeVos made the Democrats’ job easier. The evasiveness of Donald Trump’s nominee to even softball questions — should the federal government, by virtue of the funding it provides, enforce special education requirements — is worrisome.

She was incapable of a simple “yes” on that special ed question from Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, telling him special education ought to be a state matter. During that terse exchange, DeVos appeared to not grasp that federal civil rights laws require states meet specific standards for special ed if they accept federal dollars.

After rephrasing his question to prod a response from DeVos, Kaine gave up and said,  “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities, and other states might not be so good, and then what, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?”

Special education standards and quality once varied among states and children often ended up warehoused or ignored, which is why the feds entered the fray. That critical chapter of history eluded DeVos, who appeared to have done no prep on federal education law. Under later questioning, she told senators she might be confused on the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The Michigan billionaire and school choice champion has no education training, did not herself attend public schools or send her own children — making her a departure from prior education secretaries who had long years in the profession and a strong commitment to public education.

Many posters here on the blog have deemed DeVos a “breath of fresh air,” which, after watching the hearing, must be a euphemism for knowing little about the job, the history of public education or current law.

Ignorance may be bliss to those supporting DeVos. However, as any civil rights lawyer will tell you, neither ignorance nor fresh air is a defense against failing to enforce the laws of the land or flouting those laws.

DeVos declined to commit that all schools getting tax dollars should be held to the same standards. She fought efforts for higher accountability of charter schools in her home state of Michigan, which has both some of the weakest oversight and, in Detroit, lowest test score growth compared with other cities participating in the urban NAEP trials. It would be difficult to build a case for choice based on the performance of charter schools in her state.

As Chalkbeat reported: “DeVos and her husband played a role in getting Michigan’s charter school law passed in 1993, and ever since have worked to protect charters from additional regulation. When Michigan lawmakers this year were considering a measure that would have added oversight for charter schools in Detroit, members of the DeVos family poured $1.45 million into legislators’ campaign coffers — an average of $25,000 a day for seven weeks. Oversight was not included in the final legislation.”

Nor would DeVos commit to continuing the U.S. Department of Education’s efforts to fight bullying and inequities in school discipline, declining to answer whether the agency under her direction would collect data on suspensions and expulsions, bullying and harassment.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren targeted DeVos’ lack of experience, saying, “As Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos would be in charge of running a $1 trillion student loan bank. She has no experience doing that. In fact, Betsy DeVos has no experience with student loans, Pell Grants, or public education at all. Tonight at her confirmation hearing, I asked Betsy DeVos a straight forward set of questions about her education experience and commitment to protecting students cheated by for-profit colleges. If Betsy DeVos can’t commit to using the Department of Education’s many tools and resources to protect students from fraud, I don’t see how she can be the Secretary of Education.”

DeVos was not the only confused about how education works. An alarmed reader sent me this note about Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson’s comments at the hearing:

Did Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson intentionally ask misleading questions at the Betsy DeVos Secretary of Education hearing? Is he confused about the source of Georgia Pre-K dollars?  Does he note the difference between taxpayer dollars and Georgia Lottery dollars?  Is he suggesting taxpayer dollars be used for private and charter for-profit education corporations and, therefore, not supporting public education students and public school teachers 100 percent?

(Source: 1:01:58  CSPAN.org of the  Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing for Secretary of State January 17,2017)   “SEN. ISAKSON: THAT BRINGS ME TO THIS POINT. SENATOR MURRAY WAS TALKING ABOUT PRIVATIZING SCHOOLS AND TALKING ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE LACK OF IMPORTANCE OF CHARTER SCHOOLS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTING PUBLIC EDUCATION. SHE TALKED ABOUT HER GOAL AND MY GOAL, WHICH WE HAVE SHARED, AND THAT IS TO WORK TOWARDS REQUIRING PREKINDERGARTEN FOR EVERY STUDENT IN THE COUNTRY, BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT IS IMPORTANT. WE DID IT IN GEORGIA. HOW WE DID IT IN GEORGIA WAS TAKING FAITH-BASED REEDUCATION OR — FAITH-BASED PREKINDERGARTEN PROGRAMS AND PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS TO PROVIDE US WITH THE CLASSROOMS AND TEACHERS TO TEACH THE CURRICULUM. TODAY IN GEORGIA, 16,000 FOUR-YEAR-OLD KIDS GO TO PREKINDERGARTEN PAID FOR BY THE STATE, DELIVERED BY A VARIETY OF PRIVATE AND PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS. MY POINT IS, IF YOU ARE GOING TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF PUBLIC EDUCATION TODAY AND HAVE TO THE BIT ON THE RESOURCES AVAILABLE, YOU WILL NEVER GET TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GO, BUT IF YOU GET THE PRIVATE SECTOR MAKING AN INVESTMENT IN PUBLIC EDUCATION AND HAVE STANDARDS EVERYONE COMMITS TO, YOU CAN GREATLY EXPAND THE OPPORTUNITY OF EDUCATION, GREATLY EXPAND THE ACCESSIBILITY OF EDUCATION, AND DO IT THROUGH FAITH-BASED AND PRIVATIZATION — PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS.”

(Source: Georgia.Gov  Free PreK in Georgia: How Does It Work?” June 16,2016)   “Georgia’s Pre-K program is a nationally recognized success. It’s the nation’s first universal Pre-Kindergarten program entirely funded by the state lottery. Thanks to former Governor Zell Miller, Georgia Pre-K is not marginalized by income or location, and because it operates entirely from lottery funds, it’s not subject to taxpayer budget cuts.”

Reader Comments 0

122 comments
MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/detroit-mother-betsy-devos_us_58860d87e4b096b4a232ebc3


Excerpt from the link, above, on Betsy DeVos' educational approach:


"Don’t be fooled. I’m a mother of eight living in Detroit, the city where DeVos’s ideas about education have played out for 20 years. Her push for charter schools without any accountability exposed my children and their classmates to chaos and unacceptable classroom conditions. They are working to reach their potential, but it’s no thanks to her.

When my daughter Virkyla was in the ninth grade and my son Virgil in the eighth grade, I sent them to a for-profit charter school with a performing arts theme. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity for them to study music and art.


But that “choice” meant dragging my kids out of bed at 5 a.m. each morning and paying to put them on the city bus. The bus could be an hour, even two hours late, but the school would lock its doors 45 minutes after the opening bell. If my kids were late, the school would make them go home and miss the entire school day. 


I later realized that it’s not an accident that charter schools don’t offer buses, or that many are downtown, far from the neighborhoods where families like ours live. These schools don’t want low-income kids like mine. . . ."


Call the Capitol in DC and let your senators know that you do not support Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, at (202) 225-3121.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

The previous two Secretaries of Education (appointed by Obama) were both strong proponents of charter schools.  How about the previous Dimocrat prior to Obama (Bill Clinton)?  Nope, he appointed Richard Riley, a career politician.  Let's see, what about Jimmy Carter, the Dimocrat who created the Dept of Education?  Surely he appointed a strong educator.  Right?

Nope.  The first Secretary of Education, appointed by Carter, was Shirley Hufstadler, an attorney and judge.


The fact of the matter is that of the previous ten Secretaries of Education, only four could could be considered "educators".


What you are witnessing are the Dimocrats, having lost the race for the Presidency as well as both houses of Congress, pitching a hissy fit.

BRV
BRV

Riley was a two term governor prior to joining the Clinton administration. It's not as though a governor oversees public education in a state. Oh wait, that's exactly what governors do dim wit.

DeVos is an extreme outlier. She is the only nominee ever who has no k -12 education, academic or government administrative experience. She is the first nominee to the position who is openly hostile to public schools as well. The overwhelming majority of children attend public schools and attend schools that aren't "failing", but why would we want someone to represent their interests? DeVos completely ignored the tens of millions of children in those schools during her testimony. Her responses consisted of evasive non-answers, promoting charters and vouchers, platitudes, or deer (Grizzlies?) in the headlights moments. Grizzlies? Really Betsy?

While I don't share DeVos opinions I was genuinely surprised by how badly she bungled the questions about special education. I assume she'll get up to speed in that area quickly. If she doesn't she'll have a tenure marked by constant litigation and/or public embarrassment.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Moreover, I only saw a small portion of Tom Price's performance before the same Congressional Committee, but I saw enough to know that this man is totally self-absorbed in his own success and lacks the degree of humanity that I would expect from anyone becoming America's Secretary of Health and Human Resources.


His appointment to that role would be disastrous for the health and well-being of the American people, as I read him and his performance.

Tracy Cook Peters
Tracy Cook Peters

Her state now has a 1 billion $ private charter school industry, no accountability and the highest failure rate for charter schools. It's all about the money \U0001f622

Sharon LaBorn
Sharon LaBorn

She sure is better than what is going on now

Mary Eye
Mary Eye

Democracy is built on a basis of good education. Without an educated public we continue with Trump Land and the middle class will never break free. Whatever form of government we're headed for, it's not a representative democracy because our citizens will not be and are not prepared.

Len Miller
Len Miller

We're a representative REPUBLIC, not democracy. By definition democracy equals mob rule.

David Tinch
David Tinch

If you don't want be asked or can't answer basic question about a job you're applying for don't show up for the interview. Simple

Putz Cracker
Putz Cracker

Ties to Amway and Blackwater.  Her people made their fortunes by being the worst kind of unscrupulous shills.  No wonder the average backward asswipe American loves her.

Nadia Lee
Nadia Lee

What's the point of the confirmation hearings if they're going to put someone who isn't qualified anyway because of partisan politics?

Putz Cracker
Putz Cracker

Sur-PRISE, Sur-PRISE, Sur-PRISE. . . A silver spooner calling for less accountability for herself and her performance.  What a hack!

Len Miller
Len Miller

One question....................Why aren't the obama daughters going to public school????????????????

Jenny Smalls
Jenny Smalls

Does trump's son go or will he be going to public school?

Len Miller
Len Miller

And when he is president, he'll forfeit the 400K salary so yes, he WILL be paying out of his pocket.....Nice try..................

Ellen Cannon
Ellen Cannon

The same reason all other Presidents' children don't go to public school. Dumb question. Try again.

Ellen Cannon
Ellen Cannon

This doesn't concern the Obamas children. This is about Betsy DeVos being in charge of Department of Education.

Tracy Cook Peters
Tracy Cook Peters

Security!!! They looked at public schools....their first choice... But the secret service made them realize it wasn't feasible. Do your homework.

Catherine Downs
Catherine Downs

Emily Conway Ballew not all of them. There ARE good public schools

Catherine Downs
Catherine Downs

Because the security that is needed and the principals don't want them there. It is too disruptive for other students. At the private school security is already provided ( as well as their SS detail) because kids of diplomats are there already.

Len Miller
Len Miller

Every one of you missed my point. No surprise there. I don't care WHICH politician sends their kids to private school. Obama, bush,ryan et al. The point is if they try to prevent ME from having that same choice by blocking options to say a charter schools THAT is when I have a problem. Now to address jenny smalls......Trump is using HIS OWN MONEY to pay for school. And Ellen? Dumb answer

Len Miller
Len Miller

Chylda.....so much for having an intelligent dialogue. Plantation? Really?

Ellen Cannon
Ellen Cannon

Len Miller Trump should pay for his son to go to school. First he is not President until January 20th. Next!!

Stewart Coleman Speights
Stewart Coleman Speights

This woman doesn't have any kind of degree, training or experience in the field of education. All she did was donate over $200 million to the Trump campaign. Today she was exposed as the total idiot she is in the field of education. She couldn't even answer the question "should there be guns in schools"? She said something totally ignorant having to do with grizzly bears. She's just a billionaire who wants to privatize all schools. Oh yeah, and she didn't do anything to make all those billions, she married a billionaire.

Wayne Ford
Wayne Ford

Less government interference is not a bad thing.

Lindsey Gregory
Lindsey Gregory

It showed the divide between someone with sense who could see as plain as day that this Amway chick is deeply unqualified and the idiots who for some reason support her

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Never accept the lie that parents of school-aged children should steal choice from all taxpayers. 

If you want vouchers, then give vouchers to all children and use a lottery to let parents choose ANY public or private school in the state that accepts vouchers. These schools will be be required to accept every student who applies based on lottery standing.


Tara Persinger Harris
Tara Persinger Harris

This is not about political sides, she is highly unqualified, and didn't even know or understand what she was being asked. These are our children's education we are looking at here, all of our children. Do you really want someone who hasn't held any position of relevance be in charge of that?

Annette Laing
Annette Laing

She is grossly unqualified, and has bought this nomination.

Vie Hendley
Vie Hendley

Keep politics out of the class room and religion. Teach . Basics if more is wanted go to a special school that teaches what you want to know.

Tony Glisson
Tony Glisson

They say that our present system is not working. And when I think back to how little I learned even in college (a long, long time ago) and when I talk to other young people today, I am amazed at how little some of them know about oh so many things.

Donna Delgadillo
Donna Delgadillo

But she said we need guns in schools to protect children from bears! She said from bears!

Jamson Eddie
Jamson Eddie

No experience, probably get the job because she rich and white, thanks America.

Tara Persinger Harris
Tara Persinger Harris

She was asked if she and her family hadn't donated $200 million to the Republican party, if she feels she would be there. Her slight stammering before her answer was enough.

Randy Motes
Randy Motes

Hope she can do the job because most schools have gone down the toilet.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

  Being born rich and marrying into an even richer family is not a qualification that would earn you a CEO role at any major U.S. corporation -- unless you bought the company. 


This is " draining the swamp " ? With billionaires who buy their positions.


That is called oligarchy.

Astropig
Astropig

I didn't get an answer to my question below,so I'll ask it another way: (This is for anyone,since I'm sure Maureen is busy)


Who would you folks that don't want Ms. DeVos-who would you appoint? Who meets your standards for the job? You're all righteous about her, but who would you deem worthy? I'd like to see some names out there that would be a better choice.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @Astropig


All totally unacceptable.Just a crowd of RINOs,partisan hacks and disgraced former pols.


See how easy it is to just reject the other side's choices? It's a game both sides can play.


Anybody got any good choices to offer?

Astropig
Astropig

@Pelosied @Astropig @MaureenDowney


Did you see the list of people that Maureen put forth? 


A quick Google search shows that all but one have endorsed her!


Which just shows that this is all just bare knuckle,scorched earth politics at work.


http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/jeb-bush-calls-betsy-devos-an-inspired-choice/2309852



http://www.aforaz.org/blog/two-enthusiastic-thumbs-up-for-education-secretary-pick-betsy-devos


http://www.detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2017/01/05/besty-devos/96172376/


Pelosied
Pelosied

@Astropig @MaureenDowney 

The opposition to reformer DeVos is strictly about money: union dues money, especially the millions which end up in Democrats' campaign coffers. 

More parental choice inevitably means fewer kids attending unionized public schools.

Hence, the push to eliminate or at least undermine her.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig You never answer questions.....but how about someone that knows what a gallon of milk cost....or a gallon of gas......or real problems in the average american family.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaureenDowney @Astropig Not Chester Finn! Nor any of the Bushes! (Texas "Miracle" anyone?)


Of those whose party affiliation I do not know, since that should not matter, the superintendent of Clarke County GA (Lanoue) would be a knowledgable pick.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig @JBBrown1968 and you have no answers! Hey.... why is your daddy little deal embarrassing the entire state? Is he a democrat again? 


2400 - 134 even you can do the math!


Wait......guess you are pouting again!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig Detached to news this week on inauguration stuff and soon to leave for DC, but among conservatives, I would have considered Jeb Bush, Lisa Keegan, Checker Finn or Rep. Amanda Price. Closer to home, Alabama's Mary Scott Hunter has an interesting background, which includes attorney, US Air Force officer, state school board and board of trustees for a college.