Thursday, June 1, 2017

DeVos, Democracy and Vouchers

First came the LA Times op-ed co-authored by Randi Weingarten (AFT) and Jonah Edelman (Stand for Children). This in itself is another troubling move by Weingarten (add it to the list) because astroturfist Edelman is no angel when it comes to support of public schools. The op-ed tweaked a lot of antennae because buried in the condemnation of vouchers was a ringing endorsement of charters. 

Almost instantly, a response came back from the American Federation for Children, a group founded and financed by Betsy DeVos. Kevin Chavous, the legal mouthpiece for the group broke out the high dudgeon.

But I want to skip past all of that for the moment and focus on one statement from the AFC response:

It is school choice–directly empowering parents to choose the best educational environment for their child–that is the most democratic of ideas.

Nope. Nope nope nopity nope. There are arguments to be made for parent choice, but "it's the essence of democracy" is not one of them.

Democracy, even the sort-of-democracy practiced by the USA, is not about saying, "I want to make this personal choice, and I want everyone else to pay for it."

Democracy is not saying you want a six-lane highway to run back the lane where only your house sits, so you get the rest of the taxpayers in your state to pay for it.

Democracy is not saying that since I want to have a police force that patrols my own house 24/7, I should have that police coverage and all local taxpayers should foot the bill.

Democracy is not "My fellow taxpayers have to pay for whatever I decide on my own that I want."

Choice fans often like to talk about the money following the child because "that money doesn't belong to the school system." And they have a point-- it is not the school's money. It is also not the family's money. It is the taxpayers' money, and the taxpayers have given it to support a system that will educate all students in the community through an institution managed by elected representatives of those taxpayers (when was the last time you saw a school board requirement that only parents can be elected).

Democracy is about coming together as a group to discuss, debate, (hopefully) compromise, and elect folks who will decide how best to manage our resources. Our version of democracy has some built-in protections so that the minority can be protected from a the majority.

But the "most democratic of ideas" is not that each individual gets to live in the Land of Do As You Please at public expense. Vouchers may be many things, but they are not remotely democratic.


  1. Neither the op-ed nor the response is very well written convincing. But I'm tired of people equating democracy with capitalism/competition. The one has nothing to do with the other.

  2. Perfect, perfect, perfecty, perfect. Perfect! Talking points to use RIGHT NOW!

  3. Peter,

    One aspect of Chavous’s op-ed that so far no one one else — i.e. you, Mercedes Schneider, Jennifer Berkshire — has mentioned is .. well ... I'm just going to say it:

    Chavous is African American.

    Check out his picture and bio.

    I’m bringing that up because in her Senate testimony a week ago, Secretary Devos — who also funds American Federation of Children, and thus, currently pays Chavous’ salary at the AFC — unashamedly said that that she approves of “whites only” private schools funded by government money (via vouchers). Such “no-blacks-allowed” institutions, according to Secretary Devos, should be allowed to exist, and the U.S. Dept. of Ed under her watch would not lift a finger to assist any blacks who were denied entry into one of those voucher-funded schools.

    Sweet Jesus!

    Did you ever think that you’d see the day that a prominent, veteran African American politician like Chavous (former leader of the Washington, D.C. City Council) would be throwing his weight behind the existence of segregated schools that openly turn away black students, and that he would put his back into promoting the notion that the U.S. government must fund, promote, and protect those schools, and those schools’ operators’ right to blatantly discriminate against those members of Chavous’ own race?

    Would you ever have imagined that such an African American politician as Chavous would echo the argument that this dubious so-called idea of “school choice” should take precedence over the civil rights of his fellow African Americans? Wasn’t there a friggin’ civil war fought a century-and-a-half ago to end all this? Wasn’t there a court case called Brown vs. the Board of Education sixty-odd years ago that supposedly put a stop to this?

    We’re going backwards in time.

    Chavous is what people in the African American community would call a "sell out", or an "Uncle Tom."

    Did anyone ever see the movie DJANGO? Chavous is basically Samuel L. Jackson's character, with Betsy Devos the equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio's character. Remember (SPOILER ALERT WARNING) when Jackson's character burst into tears when DiCaprio got blown away? That's Chavous, baby.

    1. Here's that scene from DJANGO UNCHAINED where house n-word Samuel L. Jackson starts bawling like a bitch at his slave master DiCaprio's demise. This moment essentially sums up Chavous's relationship with *his* slave master Betsy Devos:

      (at around 0:55)
      (at around 0:55)

      What a disgrace to the African American community Chavous is!

  4. The Alt-Right are in lock step with Trump and his SecEd DeVos (with here in Texas; Gov. Abbott & Lt Gov. Patrick) on greatly crippling (if not eliminating) Public Schools and replacing them with Vouchers (you do realize this is public/government money being given to a private-and many times religious-institution). First we would have to abolish the United States to abolish Public that what you want? As a Constitutional Conservative and a Navy Veteran who is a Public Education Social Studies Teacher, let's see if I can educate you Alt-Right Trump supporters on what our Founding Fathers felt about School Vouchers and Public Education:

    "The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." ~ John Adams

    Nope, nothing in there about vouchers or doing away with Public Education but plenty in there about PROPERLY funding Public Education. Vouchers do one thing and one thing only; steal from the poor to enable the rich.

    Oh, what does Trump look for in a supporter:

    "I love the poorly educated." ~ Donald Trump

    ...and that's what we will get a lot of if Trump has his way with School Vouchers; the poorly educated. Perhaps this is his way to get more supporters by keeping them ignorant.