Accountability Betsy DeVos Charter Schools Education Industry Privatization

Gail Collins: Trump’s War on Public Education

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For nearly a decade, public schools have been under siege by politicians and pundits. The biggest salve before now was the fraudulent propaganda film “Waiting for Superman,” which gathered together all the lies about teachers, unions, “failing” public schools, and charter-schools-to-the rescue. It launched the full frontal attack, funded by Wall Street, the Waltons, Eli Broad, and Bill Gates. They didn’t want to “reform” public schools that needed help, they wanted to privatize as many public schools as possible, starting in the poorest neighborhoods, where there was the least political power to resist the attack.

Now, Betsy DeVos has brought the plan into the open and stripped it of any pretense of being part of the “civil rights movement.”

As Gail Collins of the New York Times wrote, it is “Trump’s War on Public Schools.” Readers of this blog know that Trump is the full-blown version of reform-that-dare-not-speak-its-name (Privatization).

It is wonderful to see Collins blow up Betsy DeVos as Trump’s disastrous cabinet choice for education, despite her lack of qualification. She goes into detail about the damage that DeVos has done to Michigan and Detroit–not with vouchers, but with unregulated, unaccountable charters.

One of the most disturbing things about the Trump administration is its antipathy toward public schools.

Perhaps you remember the president’s mini-rant in his inaugural speech about an “education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.”

Well, Trump’s choice for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is responsible for Michigan’s charter school boom, which currently costs the state about $1.1 billion a year. A 2014 investigation by The Detroit Free Press found myriad examples of “wasteful spending and double-dipping.” Thanks in large part to DeVos’s lobbying in the Legislature, there’s virtually no oversight. So much for the young and beautiful students.

Take that for a rant.

DeVos is stupendously rich, and a longtime crusader for charters, vouchers and using federal funds for religious education. She was once the Michigan Republican state chairwoman, a fact completely unconnected to the $200 million or so her family has donated to the party. She’s used all that clout to make Michigan a model of how not to improve public education.

Readers of this blog know about her embarrassing performance before the Senate HELP committee. Collins sums up:

We have two problems here. One is that DeVos is obviously unqualified. While it was nice to learn that she “mentors students,” that’s not really a great preparation for running a 4,400-employee organization with a $68 billion budget. She has never actually worked in a school system or managed a large institution — she and her husband became billionaires through the old-fashioned strategy of having stupendously rich parents.

DeVos’s big selling point for Republicans is her manic devotion to charter schools. There are, of course, some great charters around the country. But there are also some terrible ones, and she is deeply unenthusiastic about any system that would weed out the losers.

She invested in K-12 Inc., the cybercharter company where students learn less each year. The bottom line is that she was picked to harm public schools. As Trump might tweet, “So sad.”

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