Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Betsy DeVos-- Secretary of Education

According to the Washington Post, according to an associate of DeVos, Betsy DeVos will be Victor Von Trump's choice as Secretary of Education.

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.


  1. Thank you Peter Greene. Let me see if I can make this article fly.... great writing... also... while worried sick, your perspective is also helping me to calm down. Thanks again.

  2. All true but you may have missed two very dark pieces of information.

    1) Her brother is Eric Prince, the founder and CEO of the former Blackwater Corp., big private security contractor in Iraq. Not exactly an employer of the people you want to invite over for a holiday meal.

    2) She has been trying for years to "get Christianity into the public schools." Seriously. So much for the separation clause. She could well make Arnie Duncan and his short-term successor, Don, er, John King, look like geniuses and sages. I can see myself a year or so down the road yearning for the salad days of Common Core and RttT. I can also see myself living in Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, or Australia before 2020. I cannot imagine a worse pick and I know that he considered Rhee and Moskowitz, the syphilis and gonorrhea of education. But DeVos is AIDS and Ebola combined.

    1. The term "Separation of church and state" IS NO WHERE IN THE CONSTITUTION. It was in the personal writings of Thomas Jefferson but was not intended to be weaved throughout all our laws. The only thing that is stated is that no particular religion will be the official religion of state as the Anglican Church was in England. (i.e., No one here will be beheaded because they are not a Christian or Jew. Those are the kinds of things you see in the mid-east where Christians and Jews are beheaded or drowned, etc.) Today in America, Christians and Jews are persecuted but we mustn't dare show worry about a suspicious Muslim whose countrymen are slaughtering people both here and in Europe and other parts of the world. People are afraid to report unusual behavior that would have stopped some of these terrorist attacks!

      You sound like a sore loser that just wants to criticize every move Mr.Trump makes. Will he make mistakes? Sure - just as we all do. Obama doesn't make mistakes- what he does is deliberate. That is why we didn't want a third term with Hillary!

      The election is over - the people have spoken. Get over it. Embrace our freedoms and let's move on! America CAN be great again!

    2. Judikins, if I wanted to "criticize every move Mr. Trump makes," I would be doing so. Instead, I criticize his appointee. I don't care whom he picks or why, but I will oppose the appointment of this specific person to this particular position. Got that?

      Second, what people do in countries not under the rule of the constitution and laws of the United States of America is not at issue here. Bringing in your view of who does what to whom in other nations is, frankly, off-point.

      Sore loser is my favorite accusation because it's so laughable. Clearly, you think I voted for Hillary Clinton. I assure you that I did not, despite a good deal of personal pressure to do so. My gripe about the entire electoral "season" is with Clinton and the DNC. Mr. Trump and the GOP do not figure into it at all So your claims of what I sound like to you are, to put it mildly, ill-founded, as is in fact pretty much everything you wrote. And the assumptions of your last sentence are risible.


  4. she has been a proponent of common core and her money has been spent to fight to keep common core working against the grassroots parents groups who have tried to get common core out of their children's schools. Read between the lines - "national standards", "higher national standards". Trump promised to return education to the local level. Appointing DeVos shows that's one promise he will fail to keep. I'm a huge Trump supporter. But choosing DeVos is a huge mistake. Like I've said before, Trump isn't perfect. Choosing DeVos just makes that point glaringly obvious. She has zero experience in the real world. She has zero experience with the public schools. She is an elitist. She is simply not qualified to lead the department of education. But hey, follow the money.

  5. If only her support of Common Core was the dark side of DeVos. Not even close. If only have time for one of these, read the first one by Rachel Tabachnick.

  6. I've just read a dozen posts on What Betsy Could Do, checking them against my own first-hand evidence and perceptions. Yours is the only one that picks up on an important point. The DeVos family wants a free *Christian* education for white families and their children, via vouchers, preferably, but in the meantime, charters.

    She represents Advanced Charter Syndrome, the malady that impacts states where there are so many unrestricted charters that any pretense of wanting to help poor or minority children is dropped. The goal is not privatizing the work in highly stressed urban systems--that's already happened. It's swiping up the goodies for white suburban families who prefer a Christian education-- she got her start supporting that. What you might call End-Stage charterization, forcing long-respected, functional suburban and small town systems into dissolving.

  7. BTW--Her support (or actually, wishy-washy lack thereof) for Common Core should be the very last thing we worry about here. The Common Core has (rightfully) become a deflated political football, which all those Republican statehouses will kick into oblivion, as ObamaCore.

    Trump *never* had the power to end Common Core since (as the feds have been disingenuously pointing out since forever) CCSS is a "state thing." Plan on hearing Betsy DeVos say this same thing, over and over: Common Core is up to states.

    She was (briefly, mildly) in favor of the Common Core when it seemed like a useful tool to take down unionized teachers. Now? Not so much. Don't let her reputed friendship with moderates like Jeb Bush (did I just call Bush a moderate? sorry) fool anybody. Remember, the Koch Brothers (and the DeVos family has a 100% MI-based Koch Bros. modus operandi) aren't really Republicans, either. They just play Republicans on TV.

  8. Moneyed interests have always found religious fundamentalists to be convenient tools in gaining dominion over government. That is why we will not preserve the wall between church and state until we repair the wall between corporations and state.

  9. You must correct your statement. Our Constitution DOES NOT separate church and state. The Constitution only stops the government from creating a religion and ruling from within. You need to read some of the federalist papers and writing of our founders on the issue. This was twisting in order to get prayer out of school and eventually out of government all together. But our founders never intended for prayer or religion to be banned in schools or government. I am sick of people falling for the twisting of the truth as it pertains to our Constitution in order to promote their political agenda.

  10. How bold of you to weigh in anonymously, Unknown. Real gutsy for someone telling me what I must do.

    Here's the first amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    I suggest you read the history of the rulings on this issue. Here's a head-start:

    Your claims above are false, as is your suggestion that those who hold opposing views from yours are uniquely promoting a political agenda while you, of course, are free of any such motives but simply wish to enlighten us all with The Truth.

    You and every other American are free to pray all you like in school. Just not aloud or in the content of a school-sponsored activity that involuntarily forces others to "participate" in your chosen religion and its texts. So school prayer is out. Prayers at athletic contests, assemblies, etc. are out. Ditto government. And a very good thing. You may pray at your house of worship, or in the middle of a supermarket, but the ways in which you do so in public institutions, including schools and government buildings is, in fact, curtailed. That leaves you loads of places to worship, doesn't it? But that just isn't enough for fanatics. Doesn't matter what is in the Federalist OR the anti-Federalist papers (which you might want to read). The Constitution and its amendments, not the partisan writings of various founders outside of a legal context, and the subsequent court rulings based upon that document, are what counts. So sorry.

  11. dare you have a dissenting opinion. And, post anonymously to boot!! Because it's really important to know the names and see a pinkie nail sized image of the people leaving the only comments allowed.

    I hate his pick for ed sec. But I hate whiny, union-clinging, group-think excuses for educators protecting this horrid educational status quo even more. The more these fear mongers talks trash and spew their ridiculous diatribes about Koch brothers and those scary religious fundamentalist Republicans, the more I start to believe that maybe the public school system does need to go down in flames.

    Bring on the hate....the more you talk the easier it is to reconsider saving public education.

    1. You seem to hate a lot. Doesn't sound very Christian.

  12. I wonder how you squeeze "union-clinging" and "group-think" out of my comment, Toni. I mentioned nothing, in fact, about unions or teachers or the Koch brothers. I addressed the issues of the first amendment and separation clause.

    You hate unions? You hate teachers? You love the influence-peddling of billionaires? Be my guest.

    But you appear to have no use for the Constitution. Why am I unsurprised? This isn't about parties. It's about one of the fundamental principles upon which the nation was founded. And a very good thing, too.

    Maybe you have some particular refutation of the blog article in question? No? I didn't think so. Just the usual nonsense, packaged in "I hate the pick, but. . ." followed by nothing whatsoever of substance.

  13. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” means that government can make no law regulating religious expression. This means that religion is a private business, so private indeed that church property is exempt from taxation. But what the Republic cannot regulate it cannot tax the Public to support, as that would violate the principle of “no taxation without representation”. Thus religious liberty depends on the separation of church and state. It's a two-way wall or it's no wall at all.

  14. Devos' brother is the mastermind of Blackwater and her Mother, Elsa, not only an admitted islamophobe but gave millions to ban gay people from being able to marry in CA and MI.

  15. My friend needs his ged but has no money