Home > Uncategorized > Betsy DeVos’ Policies May Be Reversed at the FEDERAL Level…. but at the STATE Level, they are Just Beginning!

Betsy DeVos’ Policies May Be Reversed at the FEDERAL Level…. but at the STATE Level, they are Just Beginning!

December 6, 2020

An op ed piece in the December Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider offers a glass-half-full assessment of Betsy DeVos’ legacy at the Federal level, an optimistic perspective I hope becomes a reality! Citing the short and seemingly insignificant list of Ms. DeVos’ accomplishments in four years as Secretary of Education, Berkshire and Schneider suggest that the UN-intended consequences of Ms. DeVos’ policies should give heart to progressive educators. The one accomplishment that is especially heartening is the potential demise of test-based accountability. They write:

Though Ms. DeVos has been mostly stymied, both by Trumpism’s policy indifference and progressive opposition, her legacy will still be far-reaching and long-lasting. This is not a result of what she made, but of what she broke: a bipartisan federal consensus around testing and charters that extended from the George H.W. Bush administration through the end of the Obama era.

At this juncture, I am not at all certain that the writers’ belief that the 2020 election signals a break of the neoliberal consensus is accurate. Until we find out who Joe Biden ultimately appoints as Secretary of Education and the extent to which he wants to unravel the consensus that exists in the existing federal legislation, I fear that politicians of both parties will continue to viewed public education as a commodity as opposed to public good.  Worse, the practical reality is that while DeVos may have lost her policy battle at the FEDERAL level over vouchers and funding religious schools with public funds, her ideas (and those of the GOP) are going to dominate STATE politics for at least the next two years and possibly for the entire decade ahead. Indeed, both Ms. Berkshire and Mr. Schneider acknowledge this in their essay:

Although Congress never took up her radical measures, such as a $5 billion annual tax credit for private school tuition, Ms. DeVos and her allies have made tremendous inroads at the state level. In Arizona and Florida funding for school choice programs has ballooned, with Florida taxpayers now spending more than $1 billion annually to send students to private schools.

For those who are skeptical of this belief, I offer my home state of NH as a case in point. After four years of split leadership between the governor and the legislature, our Trump-minded Governor and DeVos-like State Superintendent find themselves with a GOP majority in both the house and senate and a bushel of ALEC legislation that mirrors DeVos’ agenda. While I wish that DeVos’ policies would vanish with the election of Joe Biden, I see them as dominating our state for the foreseeable future…. and our Governor and legislature will find a way to package the voucher ideas so that the costs for public education will remain static, a broad based tax can be avoided, and inequities can persist for at least another decade.

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