Home > Uncategorized > Jeff Bryant Warns: Do NOT Be Fooled— Betsy DeVos Is Intent on Imposing Her Will on Public Education

Jeff Bryant Warns: Do NOT Be Fooled— Betsy DeVos Is Intent on Imposing Her Will on Public Education

October 13, 2017

In a bluntly titled post for Common Dreams, Betsy DeVos Attack on Public Education is Just Beginning, education blogger Jeff Bryant warns public education to be skeptical of reports to the country. Referencing articles by conservative blogger Rick Hess and US News and World Report education writer Lauren Camera Bryant is concerned that the broader media have adopted their stance that Ms. DeVos is incapable of influencing education policy:

In addition to these “she ain’t so bad” portrayals of DeVos, there has been a rash of reports on the apparent inability of her agenda to gain support in Congress. The House rejected the proposals of DeVos and Trump for more federal spending to boost school choice, and the Senate also rejected the Trump administration’s funding for more school choice ventures.

Reports like these have lulled education policy poohbahs into believing DeVos and her agenda have been effectively neutered by Congressional opposition.

In fact, a recent survey of education policy elites – current and former government officials and bureaucrats and Beltway apparatchiks – finds these “Insiders are skeptical that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will effectively advance any policies during her tenure at the Department of Education.”

But Mr. Bryant isn’t nearly as sanguine. He sees her relentless emphasis on “choice” and her lack of focus on “equity” as evidence that she will be doing everything possible to emphasize the market forces and neglect the inherent inequalities that exist in our society and economy. He examines her recently published list of priorities for USDOE and writes:

Any speculation that DeVos is somehow backing off her intent to impose school choice on communities or softening her approach to privatizing schools is further cast into doubt by her Department’s recently published “priorities” document that makes clear what her tenure will continue to focus on at the expense of all other possible goals.

The document lists 11 priorities for use in federal discretionary grant programs under her rule. Priority No. 1 deals with school choice. The document specifically proposes giving priority to projects that seek to increase the proportion of students with access to “educational choice.”

In the document, the word “choice” and its variations – “choose” and “option” – occurs 22 times

On the other hand, “equity,” something many would want at the top of the list, is not a priority at all. Its mention occurs twice, once in a footnote and the other parenthetically. The issue of school funding is also mostly ignored, mentioned only three times. When the subject does occur, it is de-prioritized. “Increased Federal funding cannot be a stand-in for increased learning,” the document declares. “We will focus less on discrete funding streams and more on innovative problem solving.”

There is no mention of the need to work toward racial integration of schools or rectify the harms of segregation.

Clearly, those trying to recast the narrative of DeVos from the potent force originally described in the media into the weakened warrior currently in fashion are seeing the trees and not the forest.

Words matter if the bully pulpit is your most important tool, and how you set priorities matters even if you have a limited stream of revenue. If you don’t think either of these is the case, look at what Arne Duncan wrought with Race to the Top.

I’m in complete agreement with Jeff Bryant and most progressive bloggers when it comes to Betsy DeVos’  intentions: her actions to date give no indication whatsoever that she intends to back down from school choice and no indication whatsoever that she will champion funding equity, equal opportunity, or racial justice. We re moving backward even further than we’ve done since NCLB and there is no bottom in sight.

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