Obama’s Failure to Write “Supplement versus Supplant” Guidelines Gives Trump and Republican Governors a Gift
I just read in this brief Politico article that the Obama administration failed to write “…proposed regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act meant to ensure that poor and minority students get their fair share of state and local education funding.”
I’m not ready to jump to too many conclusions… but… I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this opens the door for the possibility of ALL Federal dollars— including those for handicapped children— being lumped into a block grant that States could use as they wish. One thing is certain, it DOES open the door for States to dump Federal dollars formerly earmarked for schools serving children poverty into their general funds that can then be used to lower taxes for everyone… including those living in the most affluent communities. This is a sad ending to the Obama administration’s already flawed education legacy.
I just finished watching the NYTimes video and reading the NYTimes article on Betsy DeVos Senate confirmation hearing held yesterday and find myself bemoaning the Republicans double standard in reviewing appointed and begrudgingly praising Lamar Alexander for his artful framing of the debate as committee chair.
It is appalling to see the Republican party’s dramatic shift in the process used to review of cabinet appointments. When they were in the minority in 2008 and Mr. Obama was the President elect then Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell insisted that the Senators on the hearing committee receive a full report from the Ethics office and an FBI clearance for each nominee before a hearing was convened. From my perspective as a “good governance” advocate, this was eminently reasonable and given Mr. Obama’s choices for each cabinet position and the full staffing in the Ethics office it was possible to do so. Furthermore, as the Times article notes, Committee Chair decided to limit each Senator to a single round of five minutes of questioning of Ms. DeVos, a break from the typical method of providing two rounds of questioning. As Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut noted, “It suggests that this committee is trying to protect this nominee from scrutiny.” Given Ms. DeVos glaring lack of qualifications and advocacy for funneling public funds to religiously affiliated schools and her advocacy for deregulated charter schools, Mr. Alexander’s structure for the hearings was artful.
But Mr. Alexander’s framing of Ms. DeVos’ qualifications was even more artful. He said opposition to her appointment was based on three elements: her support for public charter schools; her advocacy that poor children be given more choices for where their children attend public schools; and the use of her “considerable wealth” to advance those ideas. Mr. Alexander is no fool. He must know that the opposition to her is rooted in her advocacy for deregulated and privatized charters and her openness to using public funds for religiously affiliated schools. He must know that the value of the vouchers he is advocating for each child are far below the amount any child raised in poverty can use— that is unless they want to attend a cut-rate for-profit charter school or a religiously affiliated school that underpays their staff and can exclude children based on their religious beliefs. He also must know that Ms. DeVos has used her “considerable wealth” to effectively bully State legislators to endorse some of the ideas she advocates, ideas that have not resulted in an improved education for her state.
Mr. Alexander is also an adroit politician… which is why he was able to point out that the Democrat party has also supported “public charter schools”, tacitly inserting the words “deregulated for-profit” in front of that phrase. Moreover, he noted that this is now a popular public sentiment.
And this is where the Democrat party’s record comes into play. Under President Obama the party supported Race to the Top which effectively advocated for the privatization of “failing schools” and thereby facilitated the expansion of privatization. Indeed, the Democrat’s track record on public charters only varies from Mr. DeVos in two significant respects: she wants to strip all regulatory oversight away and she wants to allow public funds to follow children into religiously affiliated schools. And while the public may support public charters, I doubt that they would support the funding of institutions like Trump University that bilk students into paying large sums for a worthless degree or madrases that teach the Koran.
Shaun King, a progressive op ed writer for the New York Daily News, wrote a short but provocative analysis of a law introduced by AZ State legislator Rep. Bob Thorpe. Thorpe’s proposed bill would ban “…virtually every college event, activity or course which discusses social justice, skin privilege, or racial equality.” And if the law is violated? the state of Arizona would be empowered “…to levy multimillion-dollar fines and penalties against universities — removing at least 10% of their state aid.” Shaun King goes on to elaborate on the provisions of the bill, closing with these paragraphs:
t appears that Bob Thorpe actually has a bigger problem with students and staff discussing white privilege than he does with the unfair privilege itself. That should disturb all of us. For all of their talk about local rights, it’s deeply telling to see conservative lawmakers go so far as to say what individual dormitory directors and instructors can and cannot discuss with their students. Conservatives like Thorpe are fully willing to be control freaks when it protects white supremacy and cultural hegemony — then say they stand on the principles of local control when it benefits them.
I have a hunch this bill is not an anomaly, but a troubling sign of things to come.
I hope Shaun King is wrong… but all signs point to the contrary. I still hold out hope that as voters see where legislators like Rep. Thorpe are leading our country they will concur that this is NOT the country they want to live in and will change their thinking about where we are headed and correct the course.
Diane Ravitch wrote a compelling ethical argument against Betsy DeVos nomination for Secretary of Education based on a post from the Center for American Progress identifying Ms. DeVos’ many conflicts of interest, one of which is that she made substantial campaign contributions to 10 of the 12 Senators on the committee that will review her fitness for office. But, as the Center for American Progress noted, neither Ms. DeVos nor the President who is nominating her have any illusions about the donations they make to politicians:
For her part, DeVos, a long-time Republican megadonor, has made clear that her extensive campaign donations are meant to sway policymakers. “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” DeVos once remarked. “Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”
It’s an approach she shares with her potential future boss, President-elect Donald Trump, who has also bragged about the political pull of his campaign donations. “I’ve given to everybody. Because that was my job,” Trump crowed at a rally last January. “I gotta give it to them. Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”
After witnessing Congress’s reaction to Mr. Trump’s ethics challenges, I am not at all confident that an argument against ethics will carry the day against anyone. Most in Congress cannot launch an ethical argument against either Ms. DeVos or Mr. Trump because they operate on the same assumptions as both, though they do so in a polite and stealthy fashion. By failing to launch a full throated protest against Mr. Trump’s unethical conduct Congress has shown its true colors. And if anyone believes the Democrats have a corner on ethical conduct, I offer the vote on Bernie Sanders amendment on lowering pharmaceutical costs as Exhibit A: thirteen Democrats who received over $3,000,000 in campaign contributions from Big Pharma since 2011 opposed the amendment.
We are now witnessing why it is important to get money out of politics. MAYBE if we get the money out we can get ethics back in.
David Leonardt’s column in today’s NYTimes, “The Betrayal of Fiscal Conservatism“, describes the demise of that group of legislators and their replacement by a similar-sized group whose “…top priority is instead reducing taxes on the affluent. If they can’t find budget cuts to match their tax cuts — especially because many budget cuts are unpopular with voters — today’s top Republicans will instead cut taxes anyway and allow the deficit to grow.”
I think Mr. Leonardt missed the point in his critique. This group’s intent on ballooning the deficit is part one of a two part strategy: Part One is to increase the deficit through tax cuts and the privatization of public projects and public services— like schools. Part Two is to shred the funding for “entitlements” and the “safety net” once the deficit is “out of control” in an effort to achieve their ultimate goal, which is to make the government so small it can be drowned in a bathtub. Once their mischief is complete, the only “solution” will be tax increases and an expansion of government… and no one will run on a platform that requires that kind of compromise.