Source: Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, January 18, 2017
DeVos seemed to have no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities. … DeVos refused to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds — traditional public, public charter or private schools that receive voucher money — should be held to the same standards of accountability. … DeVos said she would review gainful employment regulations without committing to enforce them. … DeVos appeared to have no idea what Franken was talking about when he referred to the accountability debate about whether to use test scores to measure student proficiency or student growth. … DeVos did not answer Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) when he asked her what she had learned about the failures of the Detroit traditional public and public charter schools that would inform her decision-making as the secretary of education.
What We Learned (And Didn’t) About Betsy DeVos At Her Confirmation Hearing
Source: Erin Einhorn and Sarah Darville, FiveThirtyEight, January 18, 2017
After weeks of skewering criticism from public school advocates who have painted her as an extremist who opposes public education, Betsy DeVos — a billionaire philanthropist and school-choice advocate — used her Senate confirmation hearing to mention her mother’s history as a public school teacher. She repeatedly stressed that her support for policies such as private-school vouchers is about giving parents control over their children’s education, and she pushed back against critics who suggested that her support of free-market policies has allowed failing charter schools to proliferate in her home state of Michigan. …
DeVos has long lobbied for states to allow parents to use public funds to pay private school tuition. As secretary, she said, she would encourage states to create voucher programs — but not try to impose them. … She said she would “absolutely” support a state that wanted to use federal education dollars to give students $2,100 scholarships for tuition in non-public schools. …
DeVos vows to be advocate for ‘great’ public schools
Source: Lisa Hagen, The Hill, January 17, 2017
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary Betsy DeVos was in the hot seat Tuesday evening as Senate Democrats grilled the GOP megadonor about her positions on public education and potential conflicts of interest. DeVos vowed during the three-and-a-half-hour confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that she would be an advocate for public education while defending her support for school choice and charter schools. “The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools,” DeVos said. “If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools.” “But if a school is trouble, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child — perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high quality alternative,” she said. When Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked if she would privatize public education, DeVos declined to rule that out. …
In Letter to Senate HELP Committee, 38 Groups Express Concerns with Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos
Source: Center for American Progress, Press Release, January 17, 2017
Thirty-eight groups representing a broad spectrum of education stakeholders have sent a letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, or HELP, Committee expressing “strong concerns” with President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as the next U.S. secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. “Over the course of her career as a major campaign contributor, soft-money donor, and lobbyist, DeVos has used her considerable wealth to influence legislation and the outcomes of elections to advance policies that have undermined public education and proved harmful to many of our most vulnerable students,” the groups wrote. “While what we know about DeVos’ record thus far is deeply troubling, there remain many critical issues affecting students and schools on which no record exists. As such, we urge all members of the U.S. Senate HELP Committee to make their concerns about her nomination and possible confirmation for U.S. secretary of education known.” The groups signing the letter include AASA, The School Superintendents Association; American Association of University Women; American Atheists; American Dance Therapy Association; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; American Humanist Association; Americans for Democratic Action; Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Center for American Progress; ….
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick, lauded as bold reformer, called unfit for job
Source: Emma Brown, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Moriah Balingit, The Washington Post, January 17, 2017
Democrats attacked Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education nominee, calling her unfit for the job during a contentious confirmation hearing Tuesday evening, while Republicans defended her as a bold reformer who would disrupt the status quo in U.S. education. DeVos told skeptical senators that she looked forward to working with them to improve the nation’s schools. … DeVos also declined to say whether she believes that all schools receiving taxpayer funding — public, public charter, or private — should be held accountable to the same performance standards. She also declined to say whether such schools should be required to report suspensions and expulsions, and incidents of bullying and harassment, to the federal government. … Teachers unions and civil rights groups have argued that DeVos’s support for a free-market approach to education has undermined public schools, which they see as a critical civic institution. … DeVos said Tuesday that she would not coerce states to expand vouchers or charters. But in an exchange with Murray, she also refused to say that she would not work to privatize schools.
What makes Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos as education secretary so controversial
Source: Amy X. Wang and Heather Timmons, Quartz, January 17, 2017
DeVos is already considered a controversial pick for the nomination, and her confirmation could have an outsized impact on the 50 million students that attend public schools in the US. As the Secretary of Education, DeVos will be in charge of a $70 billion budget, and the federal oversight of the US’s 98,000 public schools that around 90% of American families rely on to educate their children. … Neither she nor her children have gone to public school … DeVos is a huge believer in “school choice,” the idea of allowing public education funds to follow students to whatever institutions (e.g. charter schools or private schools) their parents want. She and her husband have pushed, through millions of dollars in contributions over two decades, both the school choice movement and the spread of charter schools throughout Michigan. … DeVos and her family have donated tens of millions of dollars to legislation and politicians who seek to weaken the power and influence of unions, yet nearly 1.6 million public school teachers belong to the American Federation of Teachers union.
Trump Will Destroy Public Education If We Let Him
Source: Donald Cohen, Huffington Post, January 13, 2017
For all the talk in public education about “choice” there’s another choice that’s often overlooked: who should control public schools? Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick to run the Department of Education, certainly has an opinion. Despite never having taught in, managed, or attended a public school, DeVos believes that public school children should be in private hands. … No wonder she’s a staunch advocate for unregulated charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. No wonder she promotes vouchers that send children to private and religious schools with taxpayer dollars. And no wonder she supports for-profit online schools managed by companies like K12 Inc., launched by a former Goldman Sachs banker. DeVos has spent decades dismantling public education, which she’s called a “closed market,” a “dead end,” and a government-run “monopoly.” … DeVos talks up “school choice” but her real choice is clear. She resents public schools because of what makes them public: transparency, oversight, and democratic accountability. Instead she wants more charter and private schools run by private groups unaccountable to neither parents nor the public who pay the bills.
Teachers unions mount campaign against Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick
Source: Emma Brown, Washington Post, January 9, 2017
National teachers unions are mounting an aggressive campaign against Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, arguing that she is an ideological extremist with a record of undermining the public schools her department would oversee. The National Education Association, the largest labor union in the nation, is mobilizing teachers to call and email their senators, urging a vote against DeVos’s confirmation. The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, is scheduled to deliver a speech Monday in which she plans to say that DeVos endangers a new and fragile bipartisan consensus on the federal government’s role in education. … DeVos is a Michigan billionaire and major Republican donor who, during the past two decades, has focused her energy and political contributions on promoting charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers for private and religious schools. She played a key role in shaping the freewheeling charter-school sector in her home state, which even some charter supporters say lacks quality, oversight and transparency. And she has been a powerful force in pushing for new voucher programs, donating to state lawmakers who favor such programs. She also has been openly hostile to teachers unions, describing them as standing in the way of an improved education system. … While the union fights DeVos and Trump in Washington, Garcia said, the NEA sees more opportunity to advance its priorities at the state and local level. The bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Obama signed into law in December 2015, introduced new restrictions on the education secretary and handed more authority back to states and school districts. In her speech Monday, the AFT’s Weingarten plans to laud the Every Student Succeeds Act as evidence that the country has moved past its bitter education wars, but she will say that DeVos’s ideology threatens to reignite those battles, according to a copy of her prepared remarks. …
Teachers Union President: Betsy DeVos ‘Has Tried To Take The Public Out Of Public Education’
Source: Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post, January 9, 2017
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union, on Monday excoriated President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education, calling Betsy DeVos “the most anti-public education nominee in the history of the department.” “Betsy DeVos lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as secretary of education. Her drive to privatize education is demonstrably destructive to public schools and to the educational success of all of our children,” Weingarten said in a speech at the National Press Club in which she laid out priorities for public education. … Weingarten spoke specifically about the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which passed with delicate bipartisan support to replace the long-expired No Child Left Behind Act. She called DeVos “a billionaire with an agenda” who could reignite “education wars” between Democrats and Republicans. … Teachers unions have warned that DeVos’ favored education initiatives operate at the expense of traditional public schools. The billionaire DeVos family, which is based in Michigan, has poured money into propping up charter schools and private schools in the state. The family helped drive an initiative in 2000 that would allow for students to use taxpayer money to attend private schools in the state. After that initiative failed, DeVos pushed for similar voucher programs around the country. DeVos has worked to expand charter schools in Detroit, which are sometimes operated for profit. Critics have questioned her support of expanding these programs, as charter schools in Michigan score worse on national tests than their traditional school counterparts ― which also don’t perform very well. In particular, public schools in Detroit are consistently ranked among the worst in the nation on math and reading. …
AOut of options: School choice gutted Detroit’s public schools. The rest of the country is next.
Source: Allie Gross, Vice News, December 19, 2016
In Detroit, choice has come largely at the expense of the traditional public school district and schools like Oakman. As students joined new charters, public school enrollment and funding fell. Unregulated competition pushed these schools into near-unrecoverable insolvency and allowed dubious for-profit charter operators to prosper without establishing a track record of better outcomes for students. A 2014 analysis showed 17 percent of Detroit charter school students were rated proficient in math, versus 13 percent of traditional public school students. Last year less than 1 percent of the city’s schools got an A or B+ rating from Excellent Schools Detroit, a local reform group that provides school information to families. Nearly 70 percent earned a D+ or lower, and 40 percent of those bottom-performers were charters. Earlier this year, seven Detroit students sued the state of Michigan for failing to provide basic access to literacy — two of the kids were enrolled in local charter schools. … Engler signed a measure in January 1994 allowing charters to operate. The first charter schools opened in Detroit in the following year. In the beginning, they fit the original charter school mission: largely mom-and-pop operations that filled an unmet need in the city. Three-quarters of Detroiters were black, and two of those first charter schools were grounded in an Afrocentric curriculum. As charters attracted families with promises of smaller class sizes, increased technology, and minimized bureaucracy, Detroit’s traditional public schools lost students and hemorrhaged funds. Because the short-term costs of losing a student were far greater than the average cost of educating one, this set the public school district on a path toward insolvency. Last year, for example, there were more than 100,000 school-age students living in the city; fewer than 47,000 of them attended the public schools. Take the estimated per-pupil funding figure of $7,500 per kid, and that’s nearly $400 million in revenue missing from the district. …
Opinion: It’s time to stop with the false choices on school choice
Source: Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Washington Post, December 16, 2016
By nominating voucher and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary, President-elect Donald Trump has ignited another round of debate over school choice. Yet as cable-news talking heads argue about whether or what kind of school reform is needed in the United States, parents are having a different discussion at the kitchen table — one based on finding the best school, not whether it’s a “reform” school. Promoting choice at the expense of quality isn’t an education strategy, it’s a political agenda. Rather, those of us creating education policy need to simply focus on providing the quality choices that students deserve. We have seen successes when choice and quality have been pursued together. Some public charter schools, such as the Noble Network and Urban Prep in Chicago, have boosted graduation rates and increased college enrollment for low-income students of color. Noble’s graduation rate is above 80 percent, and 100 percent of Urban Prep’s 2016 graduates were college-bound. Despite charter success stories such as these, however, most children will continue to enroll in their local neighborhood school. We need to ensure that those schools are providing a high-quality education, too. …
How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit to Her Will on Charter Schools
Source: Kate Zernike, New York Times, December 12, 2016
Few disagreed that schools in Detroit were a mess: a chaotic mix of charters and traditional public schools, the worst-performing in the nation. So city leaders across the political spectrum agreed on a fix, with legislation to provide oversight and set standards on how to open schools and close bad ones. But the bill died without even getting a final vote. And the person most influential in killing it is now President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee to oversee the nation’s public schools, Betsy DeVos. Her resistance to the legislation last spring is a window into Ms. DeVos’s philosophy and what she might bring to the fierce and often partisan debate about public education across the country, and in particular, the roles of choice and charter schools. The bill’s proposals are common in many states and accepted by many supporters of school choice, like a provision to stop failing charter operators from creating new schools. But Ms. DeVos argued that this kind of oversight would create too much bureaucracy and limit choice. A believer in a freer market than even some free market economists would endorse, Ms. DeVos pushed back on any regulation as too much regulation. Charter schools should be allowed to operate as they wish; parents would judge with their feet. Detroit Public Schools, she argued, should simply be shut down and the system turned over to charters, or the tax dollars given to parents in the form of vouchers to attend private schools. …
Would Donald Trump’s Giant Voucher Proposal Work For Rural Students?
Source: Alyson Klein, Education Week, December 12, 2016
Most people have taken President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to tap billionaire GOP donor and school choice champion Betsy DeVos as his education secretary as a sign that he wants to make good on his campaign promise to create a massive new school choice program. One problem? School choice, at least in the form of vouchers or brick-and-mortar charter schools, isn’t easy to do in the rural states and communities that played such a large part in Trump’s victory in the electoral College.
Opinion: Public schools may not survive Trump’s billionaire wrecking crew
Source: Nikhil Goyal, The Guardian, November 30, 2016
If DeVos’s nomination is approved, she will speed along the erosion of public education, which has been going on for some time. As I explain in my recent book, Schools on Trial, both the Obama and Bush administrations adopted a market-based approach. This was marked by privatization, austerity measures, expansion of privately managed charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing, school closures, value-added teacher evaluations and attacks on teachers unions. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and Race to the Top program in 2009 were rooted in this ideology. Over the past two decades, as members of the ultra-wealthy rightwing DeVos family, Betsy and her husband, Dick, have been discreetly using their immense fortune to underwrite many of the major local and state crusades to privatize public education. They helped pass Michigan’s first charter school law, pushed a failed Michigan school voucher referendum, helped get hundreds of pro-voucher and charter candidates for public office elected, proliferated charters, weakened teachers unions by advocating for right-to-work legislation in Michigan and warded off a proposed Detroit charter oversight commission in a state where 80% are run for profit with minimal accountability.
Opinion: Why Trump’s Education Pick Scares Unions
Source: Jason L. Riley, Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2016
… Detractors say Ms. DeVos is opposed to public education. But she told an interviewer in 2013 that her definition of educational choice includes schools of all kinds. “What we are trying to do is tear down the mindset that assigns students to a school based solely on the zip code of their family’s home,” she said. “We think of the educational choice movement as involving many parts: vouchers and tax credits, certainly, but also virtual schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and charter schools.” In the early 1990s, Ms. DeVos and her husband, a former president of Amway, were involved in passing Michigan’s first charter-school bill. Ms. Weingarten brings a different set of priorities to the education debate. She has fought to keep persistently failing schools open because they still provide jobs for her dues-paying members. She has fought to ensure that government officials, rather than parents, decide where a child attends school. Union influence over education policy in the U.S. is unrivaled, and Ms. Weingarten prefers it that way. Her top concern is better pay and working conditions for her members. Students don’t pay union dues. …
Trump’s Billionaire Education Secretary Has Been Trying to Gut Public Schools for Years
Source: Kristina Rizga, Mother Jones, November 29, 2016
Last Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate billionaire activist and Republican fundraiser Betsy DeVos as his education secretary. The news came as a shock to the education world—DeVos’ ideas for school reforms are even more radical than what Trump proposed on the campaign trail. … Here are the three most important things to know about Trump’s education nominee: The DeVos family is among America’s most wealthy, conservative clans. A daughter of privilege, DeVos is married to Richard (Dick) DeVos Jr., whose father, Richard Sr., cofounded the multilevel-marketing empire Amway and was worth an estimated $5.1 billion. … Since 1970, DeVoses have invested at least $200 million in various right-wing causes—think thanks, media outlets, political committees, and advocacy groups—as a 2014 Mother Jones investigation revealed. “There’s not a Republican president or presidential candidate in the last 50 years who hasn’t known the DeVoses,” Saul Anuzis, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, told my former colleague Andy Kroll. …
… The DeVoses created a road map for conservatives on how to bring down labor, including teachers unions. In 2007, coming off Dick’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in their home state of Michigan, the DeVoses focused their advocacy and philanthropy on controversial legislation known as “right-to-work.” These laws outlaw contracts that require all employees in unionized workplaces to pay dues for union representation. Back in 2007, such a proposal in a union-heavy state of Michigan was considered a “right-wing fantasy,” but thanks to the DeVoses’ aggressive strategy and funding, the bill became law by 2012. …
… For decades, DeVos pushed to gut public schools. Michigan serves as one of the most prominent examples of what aggressive DeVos-style school choice policies look like on the ground, especially when it comes to the expansion of charter schools. About 80 percent of state charter schools are run by for-profit management companies, a much higher share than anywhere else in the country, and with very little oversight from the state. And this year, the DeVoses were the biggest financial backers of the effort to oppose any new state oversight of charters. …
Trump picks billionaire Betsy DeVos, school voucher advocate, as education secretary
Source: Emma Brown, Washington Post, November 23, 2016
Betsy DeVos is hardly a household name, but the Michigan billionaire and conservative activist has quietly helped change the education landscape in many states, spending millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools. Now DeVos is poised to spread her preference for vouchers nationwide. … Trump’s pick has intensified what already was a polarized debate about school choice. Advocates for such choice see in the Trump administration an extraordinary opportunity to advance their cause on a national scale, whereas teachers unions and many Democrats fear an unprecedented and catastrophic attack on public schools, which they see as one of the nation’s bedrock civic institutions. Jim DeMint, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, cheered DeVos on Wednesday, saying that “the school choice movement will have a champion in the Education Department.” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that Trump’s pick “makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.” … Betsy DeVos founded and serves as chairman of the American Federation of Children and its associated political arm, a platform she has used to support candidates who endorse vouchers and charter schools and to attack candidates who don’t. Three decades ago, there were no state voucher programs. Now, according to the advocacy group EdChoice, about 400,000 children in 29 states are going to private schools with the help of public dollars. DeVos is working toward a scenario in which “all parents, regardless of their Zip code, have had the opportunity to choose the best educational setting for their children,” she told Philanthropy magazine in 2013. Trump has proposed redirecting $20 billion in federal spending toward a grant program for states to expand vouchers and charter schools. He has also said that he wants to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to persuade states to devote another $110 billion toward vouchers — enough, he has said, for every child living in poverty to have a scholarship of $12,000 toward the school of his or her choice. …
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Has Steered Money From Public Schools
Source: Kate Zernike, New York Times, November 23, 2016
It is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos, Donald J. Trump’s pick as the cabinet secretary overseeing the nation’s education system. For nearly 30 years, as a philanthropist, activist and Republican fund-raiser, she has pushed to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and tried to strip teacher unions of their influence. … But Ms. DeVos’s efforts to expand educational opportunity in her home state of Michigan and across the country have focused little on existing public schools, and almost entirely on establishing newer, more entrepreneurial models to compete with traditional schools for students and money. Her donations and advocacy go almost entirely toward groups seeking to move students and money away from what Mr. Trump calls “failing government schools.” Conservative school choice activists hailed her on Wednesday as a fellow disrupter, and as someone who would block what they see as federal intrusion on local schools. …
How much could Trump’s education secretary damage public schools? Just look at Detroit.
Source: Casey Quinlan, ThinkProgress, November 25, 2016
Throughout DeVos’ career as a school choice advocate, she has aggressively pushed for the expansion of charter schools. Although many charter schools across the country benefit low-income families seeking an alternative to public schools, educational equity advocates often raise concerns that a lack of accountability allows less effective charter schools to thrive. And DeVos has been at the forefront of efforts to push against this accountability. DeVos sits on the board of the Great Lakes Education Project, which advocates for its education reform priorities in the Michigan state legislature. This group is responsible for pushing the legislature to end its plans for a Detroit commission to regulate charter schools. Sixteen years ago, DeVos, and her husband, Dick DeVos, also pushed for a statewide ballot initiative to amend the state constitution so that tax money could go toward private school tuition. Although this effort didn’t succeed, charter schools in the area expanded anyway. The state lifted its cap on the number of charter schools. Twenty-three percent of Michigan students did not enroll in their home public school district in the fall of last year, which allows students to attend charter schools or public schools outside their community, with 10 percent of students attending charter schools.