Thursday, March 2, 2023

The DeVos School Privatization Plan Turns Twenty-One

Way back in 2002, Dick DeVos, husband of Betsy, was at the Heritage Foundation, where he was introduced by former education secretary Bill Bennett. In a speech there, he laid out strategy for the dismantling of public education and replacing them with a privatized system. 

It would, he said, have to be done on the state level, with a certain amount of stealth. 

We need to be cautious about talking too much about these activities. Many of the activities and the political work that needs to go on will go on at the grass roots. It will go on quietly and it will go on in the form that often politics is done - one person at a time, speaking to another person in privacy. And so these issues will not be, maybe, as visible or as noteworthy, but they will set a framework within states for the possibility of action on education reform issues.

He argued that the only defense against choice programs was that they would hurt public schools, and he had an answer for that.

What is the purpose of a school today? Because if the purpose is to educate children, how can we hurt it [public education] anymore than it's already hurting. If the purpose of schools is to provide employment security for teachers and administrators then that pretty much defines the priority of a system that ought to die because it's not serving our children.

That's been a constant up through the current culture panic movement; privatizers keep searching for new ways to destroy trust, to hammer home a message of "public schools couldn't possibly be any worse." 

DeVos laid out a four point strategy for privatization.

First, what he called the "clarification" of Blaine amendments because they are "blocking the field of play." In other words, the wall between church and state must be broken down so that religious schools can start hoovering up taxpayer dollars.

Second, he says to push how well school choice works. Also, he recommends calling public schools "government schools." Fine plan, if only the actual data didn't get in the way.

Third, target state government and "deliver rewards and consequences" to legislators on school choice issues. AKA how rich people bend government to their will. Good time to remember this quote:

“I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence,” DeVos wrote in a 1997 piece in Roll Call. “Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return.”

Fourth, more coordination between various "school reform groups." That has certainly gone well. 

You can watch him deliver some of his shpiel below. This is what the long game looks like.

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