It's important to remember that we've known we were never going to get a half-decent Secretary of Education, and that it was always only a question of what form the shafting of American public education would take.
|I'm going to hold your hand right over there so it doesn't try any grabbing|
So what do we know about DeVos?
* She is an absolutely conventional choice. Once again, if Trump supporters thought that he was going to tap someone outside the box to really shake up the establishment, they will be disappointed. DeVos has long been a supporter of Jeb Bush and his work and is a solid insider among the deep-money GOP crowd. She's a member of the board of Jeb's Foundation for Educational Excellence. She would, in fact, have had a good shot at the position if Jeb! had been elected (Jeb just called her an "outstanding pick" on facebook.)
* She is a big believer in Betterocracy, the form of government in which the people who are just better than everyone else take charge. You can usually spot your betters because they have more money than you do.
* She is a leader of the American Federation for Children, a dark money group that works school privatization. AFC is also a trustee-level member of ALEC, which means when you see ALEC pushing privatization, you will find the DeVos fingerprints on their work.
* The DeVos family tree includes, as you will read countless times, Betsy's father-in-law who made a mint from direct-marketing giant Amway, and brother Eric Prince, who was behind the infamous private security company Blackwater. The DeVos family is a Koch-level supporter of conservative advocacy groups and thinky tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, Focus on the Family, FreedomWorks Foundation, and the Heritage Foundation.
* DeVos was a big backer of Scott Walker, helping to finance his recall fight.
* DeVos has been disastrously powerful in Michigan, where their money helped push the emergency manager law that has allowed the state to suspend democracy for select cities and schools. She helped created the Great Lakes Education Project, which has fought hard for charters and against unions (and most recently suggested that Detroit schools just be shut down). The DeVos disdain for unions (it is so unseemly when the help get uppity) put them in the successful fight to make Michigan a right-to-work (for whatever we tell you to work for) state. The DeVos money is spread liberally throughout the Michigan legislature.
* While it may seem that DeVos is a charterization fan, what she would really like is vouchers, with the prospect of shuffling public tax dollars to private religious schools, new for-profit charters, and pretty much anything except public schools.
* While some choice charter fans call for a robust marketplace balanced with careful oversight to stomp on bad actors, DeVos prefers to let the wisdom of the markets rule and for little or no state or federal oversight be the rule. This has interesting implications for ESSA; the new law includes calls for federal oversight, but if the fed's attitude is, "Yeah, whatever, do what you want," the options available to states will become really large and, in some cases, really scary.
* In keeping with her Station in Life, DeVos has never held down an actual job. She graduated around 1980 with a business and poli sci degree, and a little less than a decade later she and her husband set up an investment management group for her to run. In the meantime, she became active as a political operative and party leader in Michigan.
* It will be no surprise that DeVos has never worked in education, and her children never attended (as near as I can discover) public school.
* If you can stomach it, here is Dick DeVos explaining how public education can be starved, broken, and replaced with a money-making business.
DeVos's feelings about Common Core are not clear, really. She's a friend of Jeb, but she also runs with the hard right "kill it with" fire Common Core haters. No question that more stories will come tumbling out-- as they do, pay attention to folks in Michigan who have been getting beaten up by this family for decades.
But she would rather privatize public education than help it, she would like to make teachers unions a thing of the past, and she has a deep sense of her own rightness. Chalkbeat also offers the observation that DeVos is used to buying her way into policy victories, and as Secretary she wouldn't be able to just write a check to get everyone to do her will. Or maybe she could. We don't really know if that's not okay in Trumplandia or not.
Well, we knew it wouldn't be pretty. Now we can start to get a sense of just what kind of ugly it's going to be.