Home > Uncategorized > Betsy DeVos’ Fingerprints on Detroit’s Demise

Betsy DeVos’ Fingerprints on Detroit’s Demise

Yesterday’s NYTimes included an article by Kathy Zernicke titled “How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit Schools to Her Will on Charter Schools”… and it provides an insight into how Ms. DeVos is likely to operate should she be appointed Secretary of Education. It also provides an insight into who really benefits from her advocacy for deregulated charter schools… and it ISN’T the students!

The article describes how the billionaire DeVos family operates in Michigan, and it can only be described as bullying. She and her husband are ardent supporters of deregulated for-profit charters and deregulated religiously affiliated schools and equally ardent opponents of unions of any kind. They use their fortune to underwrite the campaigns of like-minded State representatives to oppose any candidate who opposes their views.

Ms. Zernicke described their behind the scenes machinations to defeat legislation introduced in Michigan designed to regulate the charter schools in place in Detroit, charter schools that emerged in large measure thanks to legislation the DeVos family funded two decades ago. The bill, drafted by a “…broad coalition of charter school and teachers’ union leaders, the Detroit chamber of commerce and some of the city’s most prominent Republican philanthropists and politicians, its Democratic mayor and the state’s Republican governor” sought to grade schools on an A to F scale and withhold new charters to schools earning an “F” and to have a panel review charters receiving grades other than A or B. To the DeVos’ this was interference with the free market! And so they launched a campaign to defeat this legislation that would have not only regulated charters, but restored their oversight to an elected school board and waived the indebtedness of the Detroit Public Schools who were on the brink of bankruptcy. And the campaign they launched was full of misinformation, disinformation and appealing but bogus arguments like this:

“Why, they argued, should residents have choice in where they shop for food and travel, but not in schools?”

This is the kind of logic that appeals to suburbanites with decent incomes who have an array of grocery stores to choose from, who can get in a car to go shopping in the mall of their choice, and who have enough disposal income to travel. What many affluent suburbanites cannot comprehend is the reality residents of poverty-stricken neighborhoods face. They have NO choice “in where they shop for food and travel” and because they have low incomes they have limited choices in where they live.

By repeating Ms. DeVos’ facile argument, the mainstream media and politicians reinforced the “free market” narrative while side-stepping the reality that those who live in poverty have very limited choices when it comes to shopping and none whatsoever when it comes to travel. Moreover, as this story points out, Ms. DeVos’ “free market” arguments ultimately made no difference politically. In the end, the ONLY reason that legislators defeated this bill was the money the DeVos could use to unseat them.

My advice to those who cover Ms. DeVos should she be appointed Secretary of Education: Follow the money and ignore her “creative solutions” and “intellectual” arguments about choice.

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