Posts Tagged ‘DeVos’

This Just In: Bill Gates Has an Outsized Influence on State Education Policy. Why? Read On:

May 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Diane Ravitch wrote a post yesterday that had a link to an AP article by Salli Ho that described Bill Gates’ outsized influence in the development of State policy. I offered the following explanation for this evolution in a comment i left…. and here it is:

Here’s the way I see the shift in policy-making: The influence of billionaires is linked to the decimation of State Departments of Education. While many in public school employees bemoaned the regulations that emanated from the “bureaucrats” at the state capitals, there was a time when State legislators deferred to their expertise and allowed them to develop the policies and regulations that dictated what transpired in classrooms. As state $$$ became scarce, the “bureaucrats” were the first to go and when they were gone there was a void in “expert” policy making… a void filled by Blue Ribbon panels of businessmen who complained that the workforce was untrained and unprepared (at the same time as THEY cut back on in house training that formerly trained entry level employees). Eventually the tech moguls and Friedman-ites who saw an opportunity to make $$$ in the “education marketplace” got a foothold and… behold… we now have Bill Gates setting policy and Betsy DeVos promoting vouchers.

Bottom line: if you want educator to set educational policy at any level, you need to provide the funds for high quality staff… which some might interpret as “diverting money away from the classroom”. But now that we’ve witnessed the benefits of having education policy written and implemented by educators, we might re-think that assertion.


DeVos Visits Private, Sectarian, and For-Profit Schools While Spewing Misinformation, Invective Toward “Government Schools”

May 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Several decades ago I took a time management course that indicated that the priorities of school leaders could be determined by looking at how and where they spent their time. In shorthand, actions speak louder than words. Looking at Betsy DeVos calendar during recent visits to several NE states it is abundantly clear that she favors sectarian and for-profit schools over “government schools” and favors the spreading of malicious misinformation about how those schools operate and who they serve.

An Alternet article by David Badas who is writing on the “new civil rights movement” for that magazine, reports on who Ms. DeVos did and did not visit during the two days visit to NYC:

Betsy DeVos has concluded her two-day visit to New York City, during which she refused to visit a single public school, although she did attend two private, Orthodox Jewish religious schools. The Education Secretary also delivered remarks at a Catholic organization’s breakfast meeting, and blasted bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private religious schools.

1.1 million students in New York City get their education in 1800 public schools – the largest school system in America. DeVos did not step foot in any of them.

Worse, from my perspective, her speeches were full of disinformation on the performance of public schools and the openness and willingness of sectarian and for-profit schools to open their doors to anyone who applies. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, was among those who heard a speech given by Ms. DeVos at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Alfred E. Smith Foundation.

“I know that those sycophants of ‘the system’ have kept legislators here from enacting a common-sense program that would open options to thousands of kids in need,” she said, referring to bans on the use of taxpayer funds for private, religious schools. “Catholic education aims to serve the whole community — especially ‘the least of these.’ It aims to promote individual student achievement while developing the whole person…body, mind and soul,” she said. “Those are goals we share.”

Unfortunately neither the press reporting on this nor Cardinal Dolan corrected Ms. DeVos by noting that Catholic schools routinely deny acceptance to underprivileged children who cannot afford to pay the tuition and also compel students with special needs and “behavior problems” to leave. The public schools, meanwhile, DO work with “the least of these” and do so without relying on Biblical teachings. And the press continually reports that states’ refusal to fund sectarian schools is based on the Constitution, which envisioned a bright line between church and state. As Mr. Badas notes, Ms. DeVos, like her GOP supporters and the “reformers” have expropriated the language of civil rights leaders during the 60s to advance their cause and muddy the argument for providing more money to schools overseen by publicly elected school boards.

One of the biggest challenges the media face today is documenting misinformation and disinformation spewed by Ms. DeVos, the POTUS, and all of the leaders in the GOP, none of whom have spoken up on behalf of public education or the constitutional requirement that public funds cannot be used to promote religion. If Ms. DeVos were the only cabinet member charging around the country spewing false information it might be possible to push back… but since the volume of misinformation is huge, it’s left to publications like Alternet and bloggers to make certain the record is being set straight.

Politico Recaps Legislative Action in Response to Parkland Shooting— and Good Guys With Guns Won Out

May 16, 2018 Leave a comment

Immediately after the shooting of innocent high school students in Parkland, Florida, politicians across the country pledged to provide more mental health services in schools and many politicians— including President Trump, changed their positions on gun laws advocated by the NRA. Since then, things changed. The NRA got most legislators and the President to back off on changes to gun regulations and most states beefed up law enforcement in schools instead of prioritizing mental health services. Indeed, the President went from a position of decrying legislators for their lack of courage in standing up to the NRA to adopting a position on school safety that only NRA hardliners believed in: arming classroom teachers.

Here is Politico’s synopsis of what transpired in legislatures since the Parkland shootings, which my emphases added:

STATES BOLSTER LAW ENFORCEMENT IN SCHOOLS: With the exception of Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people at a school shooting on Feb. 14, most states have so far rejected the Trump administration’s call to expand the number of armed teachers in schools. Many, though, are opting to add school resource officers — usually armed and specially trained officers employed by a police department or other law enforcement agency to work in one or more schools.

Legislation enacted or moving through 23 state legislatures since Feb. 14 would increase the number of law enforcement officers in schools, boost their training and allow retired officers to work in schools and carry firearms. More than 30 measures on using officers in schools have been proposed by lawmakers, according to data compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eleven have been signed into law.

Roughly two-thirds of public schools across the country already have either a law enforcement officer or a guard on campus, according to recently published federal Education Department data from 2016. That represents 43 percent of students in the U.S.

Shaken by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida lawmakers enacted a school safety package that includes $67 million to establish a program under the direction of sheriffs that would arm and train school staff to assist in active shooter situations. The package would also appropriate roughly $100 million to help districts hire school-based law enforcement and $70 million for programs to boost mental health assistance. (Let me do the math for you: $167 million for guns and good-guys-with-guns vs. $70 million for “mental health assistance”.)

In Kentucky, legislators instituted a fund to award $4,000 incentives for law enforcement officers who participate in school resource officertraining. In New York, legislators increased funding for school districts to hire law enforcement officers from just over $443,000 to $1.9 million. In Colorado, the legislature set aside $30 million for school safety, which districts can used to train school law enforcement officers.

In California, legislation introduced in the state Assembly would require a school resource officer in every school, including charters. In Rhode Island, a similar bill would require an officer at every middle school and high school.

The proposals come amid concerns from civil rights groups about the potential harm of heightened law enforcement for students of color and those with disabilities. They note that more officers are already assigned to middle and high schools with mostly black students. An analysis of recent Education Department civil rights data by the nonprofit research group Child Trends found that 54 percent of black students in mostly black middle schools and high schools have school-based law enforcement or security officers. Among white students in mostly white schools, that rate is 33 percent. Mel Leonor has the full story.

At the same time as states are spending millions on security, Politico noted that in the name of “efficiency” the USDOE is scaling back it’s efforts to address civil rights litigation and consolidating departments that provide services and support to K-12 education. Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos was visiting Southern New Hampshire University and a STEM public charter school in Manchester, NH, essentially championing on-line colleges and charter schools. Something is amiss with our nation’s priorities.

Caveat Emptor Replaces Student Support at USDOE

May 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes has a lengthy article in today’s paper on the unwinding of a special team of USDOE investigators who were aggressively pursuing profiteers preying on unwitting students seeking to better their lot in life by getting college degrees. Among the for-profit enterprises under investigation for misleading college applicants was DeVry Education Group. Those investigations were recently suspended, which should come as no surprise since Secretary of Education DeVos has appointed a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor. But it doesn’t end there:

In addition to DeVry, now known as Adtalem Global Education, investigations into Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, which also operate large for-profit colleges, went dark.

Former employees of those institutions now work for Ms. DeVos as well, including Robert S. Eitel, her senior counselor, and Diane Auer Jones, a senior adviser on postsecondary education. Last month, Congress confirmed the appointment of a lawyer who provided consulting services to Career Education, Carlos G. Muñiz, as the department’s general counsel.

The USDOE’s decision to change it’s priorities away from aggressively investigating for profits has nothing to do with Ms DeVos’ appointments…. at least that’s what the USDOE’s communications team  reports:

Elizabeth Hill, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, attributed the reduction of the group to attrition and said that “conducting investigations is but one way the investigations team contributes to the department’s broad effort to provide oversight.” She said that none of the new employees who had previously worked in the for-profit education industry had influenced the unit’s work.

She also said the team’s deployment on student loan forgiveness applications was an “operational decision” that “neither points to a curtailment of our school oversight efforts nor indicates a conscious effort to ignore ‘large-scale’ investigations.”

As is always true in politics and life, actions speak louder than words… and the actions make it abundantly clear that a curtailment is underway and the students enticed to take out loans by false advertisements are the ones who will suffer.

“You’re the One Creating the ‘Bad’ Schools”: Nation’s Top Teachers Denounce Devos During Closed-Door Session

May 2, 2018 Leave a comment

Huzzah to the Teachers of the Year for speaking truth to power. Too bad more of them didn’t do the same thing when Arne Duncan was advocating Race to the Top and Margaret Spellings was promoting NCLB. Here’s hoping their voices will resonate in districts across the country!

Source: “You’re the One Creating the ‘Bad’ Schools”: Nation’s Top Teachers Denounce Devos During Closed-Door Session

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Good News from DC: A Bipartisan Rejection of DeVos’ Vouchers

March 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Three media outlets this afternoon reported that the House and Senate, while dedicating more money to education in general, have categorically rejected all of Secretary DeVos’ and President Trump’s plans for vouchers. Here’s the blow-by-blow overview from Politico, with my remarks in bold red italics:

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN THE $1.3 TRILLION SPENDING BILL: Congressional negotiations finally yielded a proposed spending deal late Wednesday that would boost Education Department funding by $3.9 billion and dole out increases for other domestic programs tied to education. The list of winning programs is long – and if Congress can pass the roughly 2,232-page bill by midnight Friday, it will also avert its third shutdown in as many months. This double boost is a VERY positive sign! The increases for “other domestic programs tied to education” MIGHT be a sign that both parties are beginning to realize that the problems faced by schools must be addressed in the context of the larger problems children face outside of school. 

– “After almost a decade of virtually stagnant federal funding for education, Congress has produced a Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package that provides real increases for education,” the Committee for Education Funding said in a statement.

– Notable K-12 increases: The deal includes $1.1 billion – a $700 million boost – for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants,

WINNERS AND LOSERS IN THE $1.3 TRILLION SPENDING BILL: Congressional negotiations finally yielded a proposed spending deal late Wednesday that would boost Education Department funding by $3.9 billion and dole out increases for other domestic programs tied to education. The list of winning programs is long – and if Congress can pass the roughly 2,232-page bill by midnight Friday, it will also avert its third shutdown in as many months.

– “After almost a decade of virtually stagnant federal funding for education, Congress has produced a Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations package that provides real increases for education,” the Committee for Education Funding said in a statement.

– Notable K-12 increases: The deal includes $1.1 billion – a $700 million boost – for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, which can be used for school counseling and mental health services, technology investments and STEM education. Both Title I funding for poor students and special education grants – the two largest sources of federal K-12 funding – would see increases. Federal funding for after-school programs would get a small $20 million boost, bringing total funding up to $1.2 billion. And the bill would maintain $2.1 billion in grants for teachers’ professional development and class-size reduction efforts. WOW! This is ALL good! 

– The STOP School Violence Act, which would repurpose a Justice Department program aimed at reducing school violence, hitched a ride on the spending package. The bill, H.R. 4909 (115) , would fund training and other initiatives intended to enhance school safety to the tune of $75 million annually – including paying for physical improvements such as metal detectors, stronger locks and emergency notification technologies. Lawmakers also plan to funnel $47 million to programs within the Education Department and the Health and Human Services Department that address youth mental health, as well as social and emotional learning in schools. This will give the legislators a fig leaf to sho that they “heard” the youth marchers… but it appears that most of the $$$ is going to “hardening” initiatives… and $75,000,000 for that long list of initiatives is a drop in the bucket… as is the $47,000,000 in redirected funds. 

Historically black colleges and universities would get millions more, including a $35 million, 14 percent boost to a program meant to help the schools strengthen their physical plants, financial management, academic resources and endowment-building capacity. Are you kidding me??? $35,000,000 will MAYBE pay for one or two new dorms at one HBC… compare this to the endowment of any Ivy League school and you will see how embarrassingly skimpy this is! 

– Other winners includeHead Start, federal Impact Aid, Pell grant recipients, STEM education and rural schools.

But for those of us who have been appalled at the direction Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, and yes, the “reformers” are attempting to steer public education, the best news is what WASN’T funded! Here’s more from Politico:

– One of the biggest losers appeared to be Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Lawmakers interfered with her plans to overhaul how the Education Department collects federal student loans, blocking an effort to go to a new system that contracts out individual loan servicing tasks to different companies. They also pushed back against DeVos’ efforts to dismantle her agency’s central budget office, stopping the department from decentralizing some functions of the budget office. More on that from Michael Stratford here– So the efforts to hand off collections to private firms who would ruthlessly dun borrowers who are unable to pay looks to be DOA as is Ms. DeVos effort to disable the budget controls… 

Also losing out were most of DeVos’ school choice proposals, which got scant traction from lawmakers. The only exception: Charter schools got a $58 million boost, bringing the total funding to $400 million. Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal called for $500 million for charter schools. It also proposed a new $250 million private school choice program, which was not funded. And it sought to use $1 billion in Title I funding for poor students to encourage public school choice, which was not included. Bottom line: vouchers are DOA as well! 

The omnibus also would send an additional $8.5 million to the Education Department’s civil rights office, which DeVos has sought to downsize. Appropriators said the money should go toward staffing up the office, from which the administration wanted to cut 46 positions. Appropriators also directed the department to maintain its 12 regional civil rights offices, turning back its proposal to reduce the number to four, according to reorganization plan obtained by POLITICO. A department spokeswoman told the New York Times this week that the plan had been abandoned. I don’t know what the Democrats gave away to get this (assuming they bargained hard for this result)… but this will take the Civil Rights Office off life support in terms of staffing… though I doubt seriously that Ms. DeVos or Mr. Trump will be expediting the posting and filling of these jobs! 

Both the Daily Beast and Salon reported on these funding increases and strategic setbacks with a certain degree of glee. The Daily Beasts article titled Education Secretary DeVos’ Agnda Rejected in Budget Bill recounts the same set of facts in broad strokes, and Charlie May’s Salon article had a subheading that read: “In a rebuff of the Education Department’s leader, Congress’ spending bill diverged from DeVos’ privatized dreams”.

As one who unalterably opposes vouchers, I am heartened that there appears to be no heart in either party to move away from the current governance structure of public education which, despite its flaws, is far superior and far more equitable than any plan that commodifies schools. We have enough evidence that markets work best for the wealthy and hardly work at all for those in poverty. Public education remains the best means for individuals to get out of poverty… and converting schools into fast food-like chains will not increase opportunities no matter what free market thinkers choose to believe.



Jeff Bryant’s Assessment of Betsy DeVos’ 60 Minutes Interview Underscores Her True Agenda: Politics Trumps Education

March 15, 2018 Leave a comment

In Jeff Bryant’s op ed column that appeared in yesterday’s Common Dreams, he captures Betsy DeVos’ world view in one sentence:

Many critics of DeVos understand her animosity toward public education, and accordingly challenge her grasp of facts, question her leadership abilities, lampoon her gaffes, and take issue with her education agenda.

The problem is, DeVos does not have an education agenda. She has a political agenda.

After observing Ms. DeVos in action over the past year, I fear that her lack of depth in public education leads many to underestimate Ms. DeVos’ political instincts. Like many politicians, it appears that Ms. DeVos knows how to carefully frame the answer to questions posed by interviewers. Mr. Bryant for example, calls her on her oft quoted “gaffe” in the 60 Minutes interview:

In the much-written-about 60 Minutes interview of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by CBS reporter Lesley Stahl there was a telling exchange when Stahl queried DeVos on whether she had visited any “bad schools.” DeVos replied, “I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.” But DeVos has visited an underperforming school—only she called it a “a shining example.”

The school, which will be closed at the end of the school year due to poor academic performance, was the Excel Academy Public Charter School, an all-girls charter in Washington, D.C. First Lady Melania Trump and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan accompanied DeVos on the visit in 2016. Trump called the charter school “an exceptional example.”

Unlike most pundits who overlooked this un-intentional visit to a failing school, Mr. Bryant flags it and uses it as evidence that Ms. DeVos doesn’t care about failing schools at all:

D.C. is chock full of charter schools, and DeVos, a big advocate for charters, could have cherry picked a better performing one. Obviously, she didn’t know about the school’s academic performance then, and doesn’t know about it now. I would also contend she doesn’t care.

I’m not so sure that Ms. DeVos doesn’t know about the school’s failure NOW, because when I read the of her use of the word “intentionally” it seemed like a studied phrase. Unlike many who criticize Ms. DeVos, I don’t doubt Ms. DeVos intellect any more than I doubt her blind faith in the power of the marketplace. Like many true believers, though, Ms. DeVos is unwilling to accept any information that contradicts the narrative she adheres to as part of her faith. She is not unintelligent, she is ignorant in the true sense of the word: she ignores any and all information that contradicts her political world view. In that respect, she is no different than any of the “reformers” who believe in the magic of the marketplace, the magic of technology, the magic of grit, and the magic of a meritocracy. Her agenda is driven by politics… but, even worse, it is driven by blind faith in the “invisible hand” of unregulated capitalism… and that blind faith requires that she not care about facts that contradict her belief.