Archive for January, 2017

Devos Looks Like She’s In… Edelblut is Likely to Follow in NH… and Schools Serving Disadvantaged Students Lose

January 31, 2017 Comments off

Here’s the NYTimes story on Betsy DeVos clearing her first hurdle: getting through the HELP Committee in the Senate. The article seems to intimate that some GOP members might push back… but I fully expect the votes in opposition to her to go along party lines.

Tomorrow the NH Executive Council will vote on Governor Chris Sununu’s nominee for Commissioner of Education, Frank Edelblut, his main foe in the Republican gubernatorial primary who is a successful business who homeschooled all seven of his children.

So… at the national level we have a pro-voucher Secretary of Education with no public school experience who has spent millions of dollars campaigning for legislation that would eviscerate public education and in my home state of NH we will likely have a Commissioner who is a homeschooling businessman with no experience in public administration.

What could go wrong?

And most importantly, who will stand up for disadvantaged children who will be the only ones left behind in America’s public schools.

It’s time to develop a counter-attack….. and it won’t be electing another neoliberal like Obama whose appointees, as noted in earlier posts, were not much different from DeVos in terms of their attitudes toward privatization.

When an Ed Tech Entrepreneur Opposes DeVos, MAYBE Someone Will Pay Attention

January 31, 2017 Comments off

Today’s Google feed included a Forbes article by an Ed Tech entrepreneur Courtney Williams titled “Why Entrepreneurs Should Really Care About Public Schools”, an article I expected to be supportive of the candidacy of Betsy DeVos based on the title. But Mr. Williams has a different take. He opens his essay making the case that his fellow entrepreneurs should realize that their future depends on an education system that provides a strong workforce:

…here’s a newsflash: your company’s future employees are likely sitting in a public school classroom at this very moment. Are they getting the education they deserve? Are they getting the training to equip them with the relevant 21st-century knowledge and skills that will prepare them to work in your company 10 to 20 years from now?

Chances are, if they live in white, upper-middle-class communities, they will be just fine. But what about kids from poor families? What about kids of color, many of whom are born into poverty and can only avail themselves of schools that are underfunded and in many cases, unsafe? We all know the research about changing demographics. That research is real. Our country is getting browner and poorer, and those are the children who will build our products, sell our technology, and run our franchises. As entrepreneurs, we have no choice but to care about how they are educated.

Mr. Williams then expresses his reservations about Ms. DeVos as being the person to lead public schools:

At first, I was intrigued by Betsy DeVos. She is an “outsider” who is not part of the current system. My hope was that a fresh perspective could shed new light on what has become an alarming problem. She, like me, is also a charter advocate, who sees value in offering parents alternatives to traditional public schools. And to top it off, she is a big fan of integrating technology in education, a subject that is near and dear to my heart. But as I started looking closer, I’ve discovered that we have some real differences. We disagree on vouchers as a means for school choice… Her strategy is to help kids by moving them out of the public school system rather than committing to the hard work required to make the public school system better. She has called public schools a “dead end” in the past and her policy proposals speak to that belief.

I’m also worried about how she will fund the voucher system–her core policy suggestion. The program will cost the federal government over $20 billion dollars. Will she cut funding from Title 1 and other programs designed to help low-income kids? Will the vouchers funnel money away from public schools? Will this mean that public schools will have less funding…? How will these changes impact the delivery of education to the vast majority of our country who rely on public education? As entrepreneurs, we should be very concerned about policy choices that are not based on valid research and which may have the unintended consequence of making matters worse, thereby forcing us to fish for talent in an ever-shrinking pool of qualified candidates over the next 10 to 20 years. Our fortunes are inextricably linked to a well-educated workforce and we need a Secretary of Education who will improve public education instead of tearing it down.

Policy issues and concerns aside, my biggest objection to Betsy DeVos is that, at a very basic level, she seems to lack both the knowledge for the job and a commitment to doing the hard work required to acquire that knowledge.

He concluded the article with a summary of examples of the embarrassing unpreparedness Ms. DeVos displayed in her testimony before the Senate HELP Committee, ending with this:

I firmly believe that our future success, and the success of every entrepreneur for that matter, depends on our public schools and the children they educate. Those children are the workforce of tomorrow and if our schools fail them, then we too shall fail.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Ms. Warren’s Conditional Conditional Acceptance of Dr. Carson Does Not Bode Well… and it Requires Her Staff to Keep Track of Broken Promises

January 30, 2017 Comments off

While the Senate is awaiting responses from the Ethics Committee on Betsy DeVos. Washington Post blogger Valerie Strauss reports that Democrats on the HELP Committee that is reviewing her nomination are awaiting responses to scores of questions they sent to her. In the meantime, several nominations of equally unqualified nominees to cabinet positions have been approved, including that of Ben Carson. Dr. Carson, like Ms. DeVos, was nominated to oversee a huge bureaucracy, the Department of HUD, that he publicly decried. And Dr. Carson, like Ms. DeVos, received scores of questions from Democrats who expressed strong opposition to the appointment. But Mr. Carson’s appointment glided through the committee and the Senate, receiving support from reliably Progressive Senators like Warren and Sanders. Senator Warren’s inbox and Facebook page was overrun with objections to her support for Dr. Carson, leading her to offer this explanation for her vote in his favor:

Warren explained that she sent Carson a nine-page letter with detailed questions on a host of issues she considers central for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including providing housing assistance, fighting homelessness, preparing for natural disasters, and protecting the LGBT community.

“Dr. Carson’s answers weren’t perfect. But at his hearing, he committed to track and report on conflicts of interest at the agency. In his written responses to me, he made good, detailed promises, on everything from protecting anti-homelessness programs to enforcing fair housing laws,” Warren wrote. “Promises that — if they’re honored — would help a lot of working families.”

Based on Senator Warren’s rationale for her vote in support of Ben Carson, all Ms. DeVos needs to do is provide answers to the questions Ms. Warren posed and she’ll get an affirmative vote. Ms. Warren will then hold Ms. DeVos accountable any time she breaks those promises. Given Mr. Trump’s nominees, if Ms. Warren applies this logic to every nominee her staff will be working overtime to track promise-keeping… and in the meantime the public will suffer the consequences of broken promises and the failed ideas that both Dr. Carson and Ms. DeVos advocate.

I keep hoping against hope that someone will raise a principled objection to candidates who publicly express the belief that the agency they are heading is unnecessary or imposes unnecessary regulations. Instead, if they make promises that are contrary to their expressed beliefs and their track record we see qualified support.

In the coming week, I expect to react to not only the appointment of Betsy DeVos but also the appointment of the equally unqualified Frank Edelblut to NH Commissioner of Education. With leaders like this at the head of public education in the nation and my home state I fear for the future of our schools.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags: