Heavens to Betsy: DeVos expected to win confirmation Tuesday. Will all hell break loose?

Bet

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

Betsy DeVos, the most controversial and least experienced pick ever to lead the U.S. Department of Education, is expected to win easy confirmation Tuesday with the Republican Senate majority fully behind her.

As Education Week notes, DeVos is “at the center of a social media maelstrom and has stirred more opposition than any other candidate for secretary in the department’s more than three decade history. Over the past couple of weeks, educators and activists concerned about her appointment have made thousands of calls to congressional offices and organized a spate of protests in Washington D.C.DeVos’ hometown of Holland, Michigan, and elsewhere. Still, she’ll probably be the next secretary of education. DeVos only needs Republican support to be confirmed. And the GOP controls the U.S. Senate 52 to 48. That means, if all the Democrats vote against DeVos as expected, three senators would need to flip to defeat her.”

Her nomination has sparked a flood of calls, emails and letters; Georgia voters cannot even leave voicemail messages for their two U.S. senators because of the volume of anti-DeVos calls.

A petition by the grassroots activism network Credo Action collected 1.45 million signatures in opposition.  “Ms. DeVos is wholly unfit to lead the department responsible for making sure all of our children have access to high-quality education,” said Heidi Hess, campaign director for Credo Action.

Her lack of experience – the Michigan billionaire neither attended public schools nor sent her children to them and has pushed taxpayer-funded alternatives – is considered an asset. That DeVos has never held a job in the field is celebrated as a welcome alternative to pointy-headed experts who haven’t moved the needle.

That narrative overlooks some key truths. American students are doing better by many key measures, including high school attendance and graduation. It was not that long ago that half of the students in Georgia didn’t go onto high school; they left school after eighth grade to work in farms, mills and factories.

“By 1960, 42 percent of males, 25 years old and over [nationally], still had completed no more than the eighth grade, but 40 percent had completed high school and 10 percent had completed four years of college,” according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The problem is students now need education beyond high school and stronger math skills to thrive in a knowledge-based economy. That higher bar is tougher to reach, and schools with the hardest-to-educate kids are struggling. But DeVos’ only solution is more choice, even bad ones.

She’s invested her time and her husband’s Amway fortune into making her home state of Michigan charter school friendly, embracing even the under-performing for-profit sector.

And what does Michigan have to show for her efforts, and what can the nation expect if DeVos expands those Michigan policies to all states?

Not excellence. Not by any measure.

Unlike New Orleans where there has been tighter control over charter schools, Michigan resisted accountability, in large part because DeVos fought it. Despite study after study finding for-profit operators produce the lowest-achieving  schools, for-profits operate about 80 percent of charters in Michigan, more than in any other state.

And their guardian angel — fighting regulations through political donations and clout– has been DeVos, whose family invested in the omnipresent K12, which runs for-profit, virtual charter schools with a dismal track record in student performance.

(See the AJC investigation on Georgia Cyber Academy, a charter school here that pays K12 to provide technology and curriculum services, including $36.9 million in 2014-15. The AJC reported: The academy scored near the bottom in the state that year for “growth,” a measure of how each student did on standardized state tests compared to others with similar past performance. The graduation rate of 66 percent lagged behind the state average by 13 percentage points. Reading ability in third grade, a key marker of future academic success, also lagged, with 47 percent of its students able to digest books on their grade level versus a state average of 52 percent.)

In an investigation into charter schools that examined two decades of records, the Detroit Free Press found:

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.

Michigan’s laws are either nonexistent or so lenient that there are often no consequences for abuses or poor academics. 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.

Writing in The New York Times, Douglas N. Harris, a professor of economics at Tulane University and the founding director of the Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, wrote:

“The situation is not entirely Ms. DeVos’s fault, of course, but she is widely seen as the main driver of the entire state’s school overhaul. She devised Detroit’s system to run like the Wild West. It’s hardly a surprise that the system, which has almost no oversight, has failed. Schools there can do poorly and still continue to enroll students. Also, after more than a decade of Ms. DeVos’s getting her way on a host of statewide education policies, Michigan has the dubious distinction of being one of five states with declining reading scores.

I understand the appeal of fresh ideas, but the public record proves DeVos’ ideas have not helped students.  Couldn’t Donald Trump find someone who shared his education views but also offered a track record of success?

 

 

Reader Comments 0

138 comments
Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

Of all the secretaries, this is the only one I'm actually looking forward to seeing how she is going to "Reform education" that so many have talked about needing.

Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown

Sheva Bree the public education system, as it is right now is doing the same thing. The kids attending Title I schools are the ones not "making the grade" either. I am not arguing your points at all, but what I am saying is how long have we been hearing we need to "reform" our education processes. Today, hundreds of BILLIONS of $$$$ are allocated to state and local agencies for JUST POOR kids, At Risk kids. THe formula to get this fortune? The more uneducated and poor kids a school system produces, the more unregulated Title I funds that pour into the state and local education agencies, WITH NO ZERO consequences for poor outcomes.

Sheva Bree
Sheva Bree

Go look at Michigan. That was her testing ground. Charter schools with little to no oversight as far as the eye can see. Guess what happened? Kids did not get an education. They were just means to profit for those running the charter schools.

Morgan A. McLaughlin McFarland
Morgan A. McLaughlin McFarland

I worry about my high school aged son who is a 2e student (has ASD but is also highly gifted) on a 504. I worry about my younger children and what the state of public education will look like for them in the future.

Cobbian
Cobbian

What is the oversight of Charter Schools in Georgia?  If it is just state monitoring, then that is very, very bad because those at the state level have no skin in the game in the education of the local child.  If they are going to get my tax dollars, then I want them to be locally (at least at the county level) monitored and I want records of their performance made public.  I also want them to have to take all the kids that apply, including kids with learning and physical disabilities.  


It has been my impression that, overall, Charter schools don't perform any better than public schools, if they have students of the same economic background.  True?


I also do not want tax dollars spent on religious education of any kind.  So no tax dollars for church or mosque or synagogue affiliated schools. 


I think abandoning public schools is another step in breaking apart any sense we have of community, of working together to create as a community what we cannot achieve as individuals.  

John Rochelle
John Rochelle

Too many people don't know the difference between educators and administrators. It's the cost of administrators that has ruined the education system.

Robyn Smith Adams
Robyn Smith Adams

And in charter schools, more of the education dollars are spent on administration.

Stephen Boone
Stephen Boone

Being trained for the labor force is not education.

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

" the Detroit Free Press found:

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."  Sounds a lot like the Atlanta PUBLIC School System, the DeKalb County School System, a lot of the Fulton County School System....

creative
creative

Do people think that charter schools are run by the Monopoly guy with a monocle and a top hat trying to figure out how to stick it to kids and make sure that they get a poor education while they get rich?  Charter schools are not this at all.  They get the same funding that a "government school" gets, but they can operate outside of the normal rules and regulations to educate the kids to the best of their ability according to what is determined best by the charter school.  An inner city black kid with no dad needs to be educated differently that a rich white kid in Sandy Springs.  A rural English Second language child in Dalton needs to be educated differently than the suburban kids in Dekalb and Gwinnett.   We have tripled money that goes into education, but scores have flat-lined for 40 years.  Do you know what the definition of insanity?  How many "administrators" are needed at a school?  silliness.  Charter Schools get children educated for LESS than what it costs a government school.  The video is anecdotal (if you went to a government school, you may not know what that means), but maybe it will open your eyes to what Charter Schools are all about.  Please do research on Drew Charter School in Atlanta and check the success rate of the local government school.  Black single moms will BENEFIT from more charter schools.  Does anyone have google?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Xr4KC251pU 

creative
creative

Maureen, can you respond to my post.  It would be greatly appreciated.  I would like to see you refute my points.  Thanks.  Let's keep it to charter schools and vouchers and not DeVos

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

@creative How do you feel about this fact or are you a follower of "alternative facts?" Betsy DeVos, President Trump's pick to run the Department of Education, plagiarized answers she submitted to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions as part of her confirmation process.

Letusteach
Letusteach

@creative "They get the same funding that a "government school" gets, but they can operate outside of the normal rules and regulations to educate the kids to the best of their ability according to what is determined best by the charter school."  


Why can't "government schools" operate this way as well?  If this is the answer, why aren't we doing this in public schools?  Teachers don't make the decision to operate under "rules and regulations", politicians make this decision. 

Another comment
Another comment

The Public Schools in Sandy Springs are Majority Minority with the exception of Heards Ferry ELementary School. Once you get to middle school you are dealing with the war zone of 40 year old section 8 apartments and illegals. RIdgeview Middle that even Heardsferry feeds into is 76% free lunch and an equal number of black and Hispanic.

Jim Calder
Jim Calder

She should win, if there ever was something that is broken, it is Education. DeVoss represents real change, nobody has fixed it in my lifetime, no matter your politics. As BO said " maybe it's time to try something new"

Sheva Bree
Sheva Bree

Have you seen what she did to school in Michigan?

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

This is going to be a major disaster. Teachers, students, parents and society loses due to the corporatization of education where critical thinking will die and thought control will win. We will attempt to produce a nation of mindless drones who will refuse to question authoritarian rule. The key word here is "attempt" because this method of educating our young ones will lead to high rates of depression turning our future leaders into miserable zombies. Furthermore, 'separate but equal' will return in a more disguised form when it comes to many arenas, but education will take the biggest hit. Those who can afford a good education will be just fine, but those who cannot will find it far harder to become an educated individual. Some of those who are commenting here that Ms. Downey is being political are a great example of how the U.S. has produced sheep-like people who cannot think for themselves. Rather, they regurgitate mindless alt-right talking points. These type of people possess the ever-more "I've got mine" mentality. 

creative
creative

@ptcrunner This is one of the dumbest things I have ever read.  I think we are all a little more retarded for having read your thoughts.  Nothing you said is remotely close to being a rational argument.  I feel that I have actually had knowledge sucked from my brain.  Thanks  for this.  

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@ptcrunner

“This is going to be a major disaster. Teachers, students, parents and society loses due to the corporatization of education where critical thinking will die and thought control will win.”

This is what you should understand when you hear the Atlanta superintendent talk about imposing the corporatists’ mechanistic “backward map” from College and Career Ready down to even pre-K. 

A modicum of critical thinking would lead a reasonable person to ask: Who would do such a thing to children?  The whole backward map thing is a most anti-democracy sustaining scheme.

creative
creative

@ptcrunner Its difficult to break down your argument as its like arguing with an 8 year old, but here goes.  Critical Thinking will die...Are you kidding. It is completely dead now. School is memorization and worthless busy work homework with parent produced projects.  Ok I'm up 1-0.  Kids refuse to question authority..... Have you taken a look at a college campus lately.  Kids in school TODAY are taught to not question authority as long as it is allegiance to the state.  These kids are being taught to be loyal subjects of the gov't.  OK 2-0 me.  Kids will be more depressed and turn into zombies.  How do you know?  More school choice and a better education will cause kids to be Zombies?   Sheep like people are commenting here and the are mindless alt-right racists....OK yes a lot of people are like sheep, but far more on the left are in the sheep category.  "Ive got mine"  what are you talking about.  If its I am taking care of my friends and family, how could you have issue with that.  Grow a pair, get to work, marry the mother of your children, graduate high school and stay at the same job for at least 3 years before moving. Pull your pants up speak english, eat less fried foods, drink less booze, and make sure your kids have a dad.  If you do these things you will be successful.  

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

@creative @ptcrunner To be honest, critical thinking went downhill with No Child Left Behind which is the brainchild of the pro-corporation,pro-voucher, private, religious school crowd. Indeed, this crowd attempted to distance itself from NCLB, but they forget that they were squarely behind its implementation. Rote memorization is hand-in-hand with the way kids have been tested. The pro-testing crowd is cut from the same cloth as those who support pro-corporate, private, religious schools. Actually, kids under corporate rule are taught to be loyal subjects to the for-profit, anti-environmental narrative. Those on the right have short memories indeed (Me-1, You-0). "School choice" is quite a misnomer due to the fact that the pro-voucher crowd will privatize schools to make them act like private businesses. We all know what private businesses do: they compete and have the ability to wipe each other out. The pro-school-corporation idea will lead to monopolies which will shut out those who are already disadvantaged (Me-2, You-0). The sheep are those on the right who repeat conservative talking points including anti-intellectualism, pro-corporatism, anti-environmentalism and most of all, an anti-governmental/pro-Rand view that teaches pro-selfishness. Pro-selfishness is actually anti-Judeo-Christian, but the right refuses to admit this fact. You are absolutely wrong that there are more sheep on the left. It takes courage to speak truth to power as has been witnessed over the past few weekends.  (Me-3, You-0).

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

@Astropig @ptcrunner @creative Easy ad-hominem attack a la Rush, Sean and Neal. It's mindless anger that never advances the debate, which you are clearly on the wrong side. 

ptcrunner
ptcrunner

@creative @ptcrunner Hey, easy on the "R" word, but then again you may wish to say that to yourself in the mirror which would be the most accurate act to happen today. It's quite lazy to throw a label here simply because you disagree with the comment and prove that you are clearly on the wrong side of the argument. 

Astropig
Astropig

I'm going on record here and saying that Maureen doesn't like this pick for political reasons. There is no living person that President Trump could have chosen that would have met with her approval.Every selection would have been greeted with cynical,selective criticism designed to delegitimize their appointment.


I'm behind Ms. DeVos because I'm tired of an unelected,largely unaccountable babbling class of know-it-alls telling the general public what is "acceptable" and proper.


The parrots that will...Um, parrot what you read above have no better solutions and that is abundantly clear from the decline of our education system.It's time to frankly admit that the old system is broken and try a new approach.

JKToole
JKToole

@Astropig By your own admission, you're behind a nominee, for a cabinet level position, only because it annoys people that you don't agree with politically. Yet, you accuse the writer for not liking the pick for political reasons and entirely ignore an argument that outlines her inexperience, the resulting failure of the policies she has heralded and the appearance of a pay-to-play rationale behind her appointment.

Would you use the same rationale to pick your child's doctor?

Astropig
Astropig

@JKToole @Astropig


The writer is more conversant with the views of her favorite late night comedians than she is with the views of the soon to be confirmed secretary.This is part of the reason that her opinion has no more weight than anybody down here in the comments section.


This lady has spent her adult life trying to improve education. She's already a billionaire,so she doesn't need the money.She already has more power to influence events than this job can provide.She is doing this because of a desire to serve the public.It's hard to get anyone in public service worth a hoot because of the hypocritical nonsense like the above.The good ones don't want the headache. Again, Ms. DeVos is just getting the same pre-cooked,worn out media flogging that any candidate would have gotten.That's part of the reason that she's even being considered-the voters were fed up with only one side of the argument.



JKToole
JKToole

@Astropig You still attack the writer, not for her well presented argument against her nomination but because of the TV she watches.

This lady has spent her life trying to privatize education. You present no proof as to any improvements that have been made as a result of the policies she has heralded and the power, according to you, she wields.

The reason she is being considered appears to be for the same reason you support her, she annoys people, not because she has a modicum of experience or a history of success in the arena she is expected to lead.

How do you select your, say, automobile mechanic?

Astropig
Astropig

@JKToole @Astropig


I guess it took even less time to be proven right today than usual.Squawk,squawk.


This isn't about me. I'm for Ms. DeVos. She brings a new voice to education policy.If you don't like her,too bad for you.In four years,put somebody better on the ballot and we can change places and I can tear into your choice.

JKToole
JKToole

@Astropig No, it isn't about you.  "She brings a new voice to education policy" (albeit a failing) one by all, investigative accounts.

But yet you make it about you:

"put somebody better on the ballot and we can change places and I can tear into your choice.

Do you always choose "new voices" with proven records of failure when looking  for a service provider?

Astropig
Astropig

@JKToole @Astropig


Your response is emblematic of why we are at this juncture-There is only one way-your way.If people happen to have a different view,they're stupid.Your bigotry in this regard is so large that you don't even perceive it. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one that dislikes being condescended to by the eduacracy and their media mouthpieces.

JKToole
JKToole

@Astropig I didn't say she is stupid. I said she is failure in the realm of Michigan public school policy. Your inability to produce evidence otherwise is what is bothersome. The reverb is deafening.

Astropig
Astropig

@JKToole @Astropig


Maybe by your standards,she is a failure.But if your standards are status quo school accomplishments,then you don't have any standards at all.We have all seen how the eduacracy wants absolutely no accountability for their zip code creations.Why should anyone care what the failing status quo thinks of an outsider? 

JKToole
JKToole

@Astropig By all measurable standards, the policies and ideas she has championed are failures. Please enlighten me. I hate the status quo.

Astropig
Astropig

@JKToole @Astropig


All measurable standards? All? Or just by your selective,get-the-results-that-we-want-by-cooking-the-number-standards?


You don't like her.Got it. But the president has earned the right to implement his policies with his personnel and I am proud that she'll be confirmed (probably today).

creative
creative

@JKToole @Astropig honestly dude, I really don't care how much experience she has.  As long as their are more charter schools then I am for it.  Charter Schools are the only way to give black kids a chance to succeed.  Black parents consistently poll as favoring school choice.  Have you been to an APS lately.  I have.  Its a fistFu%^....Anything is better than what we have now.  Maybe vouchers and charter schools fail.  Maybe they won't.  Why not try something else.  Your way is not working, but I see the kids at Drew Charter School everyday and most these kids are going to college.  Black parents FIGHT each other to get their kids into charter schools via the lottery system. Charter Schools often times need to act as the father for most of these kids IE providing discipline.  Drew Charter is not like this, but some kids need to run laps and be in a uniform and some kids need to be in a STEM environment and some kids need arts.  You LIBS love pointing to Western Europe.  This is what western Europe does to educate their children.  

JKToole
JKToole

@creative Her experience has been failure in the very areas you champion. I'm for choice with transparency. I'm for parents having the opportunity to send their child to a more structured environment if they think their child needs it. I'm for a "Western Europe" i.e. classic liberal arts education.

If you're going to siphon money from an existing, albeit imperfect, system we already have to a new system, hold it to the same standards of performance for what already exists. Currently they are not. My experience tells me that public schools worked for me and the kids I grew up with. 

JKToole
JKToole

@Astropig Got it scarecrow, so it was all about you, and your pride, after all.

Congratulations on "your victory" and the big win. If you had just admitted that in the beginning we could have avoided the discourse.

Astropig
Astropig

@JKToole @Astropig


So now you're elevating the discussion with name calling? I'm sure that that technique is effective in your world.

JKToole
JKToole

@MaureenDowney You're thinking logically. Wasted breath. You could be Milton Friedman presenting this argument and it would still fall upon deaf ears. This is about our political system becoming based upon sports and their metaphors. It's all about the W's and L's. That's it.

Just win, baby. No recognition that there is only one "winner" in the realm of athletic competition. Everyone else loses. Great policy.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney @Astropig


She's giving away her money,she's not demanding that we give away ours.She's free like George Soros to give money to anyone she pleases.It's hypocritical to criticize her for being politically active with her own money while ignoring people like him. 


And she's as qualified as Obama's two secretaries of education.If it weren't for double standards,the media wouldn't have any standards at all.

JKToole
JKToole

@Astropig Scarecrow? That refers to the straw man arguments you espouse.

I believe and ignored you refering to me as a "bigot"?

creative
creative

@JKToole @creative I think we are on the same page.  I to went to public school, but we can agree that school choice is a good thing.  Your zip code should not determine that you go to a failing school.  I believe your statement that Charter Schools will siphon money from Public Schools is false.  If a Charter School pops up, parents want their kids to go there, the public school loses kids and then they are forced to improve.  Competition makes everything better.  The reason you can overnight a package is because UPS and FEDEX came in the 70s and said "we can do that" after the USPS said it couldn't be done.  Within a year, the USPS figured out how to overnight a package.  Make sense??  I believe we want the same things and you seem like a good person, I want to say I appreciate your response without name calling...

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig She's unqualified. Even her proponents acknowledge that, but say give her a chance and she will rise to the job. Why does her chance have to start as the leader of a billion dollar agency? Why can't she work her way to the top? 

Because she is standing on a pile of a money -- at least $200 million in political donations.


Astropig
Astropig

@creative @JKToole


Charter schools actually increase public funding per student in zip code schools in most states.That status quo school still gets the money for that kid in the charter,but only the state money follows the child.


This is another little tidbit that you have to winkle out because the status quo and the media try to hide it.

JKToole
JKToole

@creative @JKToole I'm sorry. You did not address transparency and results. Charter Schools have succeeded in instances. I'm not arguing that.

They have also failed, abysmally, in places like New Orleans and where this opinion piece cites.

I'm sorry, I'm suspect of privatization for the simple fact that not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable. Reality TV, pornography, fashion, sports, and gambling are all of questionable social value, but each is quite profitable and exists in the private sector. Meanwhile, few would argue that the armed forces, police department, fire department, libraries, parks, and public schools are of no social value, and yet they could not exist if they were required to be profitable.