Home > Uncategorized > Slate Calls Out Neo-Liberal Democrats on Their Philosophical Alignment with Betsy DeVos

Slate Calls Out Neo-Liberal Democrats on Their Philosophical Alignment with Betsy DeVos

March 13, 2018

I haven’t written about Betsy DeVos’ appearance on 60 Minutes because I haven’t watched it and, quite frankly, have no intention of doing so. From what I’ve read and heard from friends and relatives, her appearance on the show was an unmitigated disaster. It showed her total lack of comprehension for what goes on in public schools– especially those in her home state— and her unalloyed support for market-based and wholly unregulated “choice” as the solution to every problem.

There are a couple of reasons for my decision to ignore the 60 minutes interview. First, I read extensively about Ms. DeVos background after she was nominated and before her appointment was voted on by Congress…. and from everything I’ve read I am not at all surprised that she came across as unprepared, ignorant of public policy, and in generally over her head. I didn’t need a face-to-face with a TV interviewer to learn that about Ms. DeVos. And secondly, watching such an interview would make me angry because it would reinforce my belief that Ms. DeVos is not all that different from Arne Duncan or John King in terms of her ideas about choice… and in all probability would not be much different than whoever Hillary Clinton would have nominated. The difference between a Clinton nominee and a Trump nominee would be that Ms. Clinton would likely have chosen a “proven reformer” who “transformed a failing district” into a successful one. I may be cynical… but had Ms. Clinton won I would not have been surprised if she had nominated Eva Moskowitz for Secretary of Education. Whoever Ms. Clinton chose would have had an agenda much like DeVos’… but the person would have had experience public education and would be a deft interviewer with a good grasp of the language billionaire reformers use in their efforts to privatize public education. Watching DeVos fumble in an interview would bring me no joy, then, because it would serve to remind me that in the last election there was really no choice in terms of public education policy.

An article by Ben Mathis-Lilley in yesterday’s Slate captures the rationale for the second reason outlined above. Titled “Betsy DeVos Disin’t say Anything in her Viral 60 Minutes Clip that Democrats Haven’t Supported for Years”, Mr. Mathis-Lilley’s article underscored the sad reality that Democrats base their public school policy on the same two tenets as Ms. DeVos. Those tenets are:

• That rewarding high-performing schools with more resources will compel low-performing schools to improve themselves.

• That school-choice programs should be expanded despite mixed or poor results in states such as Michigan.

Mr. Mathis-Lilley’s main paragraph is a good summary of the failed direction public education has taken with bi-partisan support over the past sixteen years:

The bad news for Democrats who found DeVos’ performance appalling is that these principles have been a crucial part of their party’s education policy for 17 years. Broadly speaking, the regime of compelling competition between schools by creating charter-school or school-choice programs and by rewarding those whose students do well on standardized tests was launched at a federal level by the No Child Left Behind Act; the NCLB was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and passed the Senate in 2001 with 87 votes. When Barack Obama became president, he created the Race to the Top program, which the Washington Post described at the time as a “competition for $4.35 billion in grants” that would “ease limits on charter schools” and “tie teacher pay to student achievement,” i.e. direct extra funds to already-successful schools.

A look at the Democratic Party’s current set of neo-liberal frontrunners indicates that a change in this direction is currently unlikely… and as a consequence we will likely find a well-spoken DeVos clone heading the education department and more tests that prove that schools housing children raised in poverty by parents who cannot or will not navigate a complex market-place of school choices will inevitably do worse than schools populated by children raised in households with affluent and/or engaged parents…. and the economic divide will continue to widen while the billionaires get increasingly wealthier using taxpayers money.


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