Archives for category: Betsy DeVos

Politico Morning Education reports that states are divided about whether to take Betsy DeVos’ advice and distribute federal funds based on enrollment, not need. This is her way of sending federal money to private schools, including elite private schools. She has been rebuked by both Republican leaders like Lamar Alexander and Democrats including Patty Murray and Bobby Scott. DeVos is not backing down and is trying to find a way of mandating her wishes, despite Congressional objections.

STATES PUSH BACK AGAINST STEERING CORONAVIRUS FUNDS TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Despite DeVos’ call to allow private school kids access to coronavirus stimulus funds, Republican-led states like Oklahoma, Mississippi and Indiana are refusing to, and so are Maine, Washington, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

— DeVos told states that they should steer a greater share of their coronavirus relief to private school students than would be usual under federal education law. She issued a policy that directed school districts to base the allocation on total enrollment in the private schools, rather than poverty levels, and could issue a rule in the next few weeks to get states to abide by it.

— Ten states say they will go along with DeVos, including Tennessee and Texas. Some states told POLITICO they’re trying to decide what to do or playing it safe by temporarily setting aside the additional money that would go to private school kids.

— Education departments in Missouri, Arizona, Connecticut, California, South Carolina, New York, Oregon and D.C. are still reviewing the guidance. Meanwhile, officials in Colorado, Illinois and Ohio are advising districts to calculate the equitable share based on students in poverty, but to set aside the difference in funding, as DeVos recommended.

How cruel can Betsy DeVos and Steven Mnuchin be? As people of great wealth and privilege, they have not a thought for those who have been impoverished by the pandemic.

Both have been sued in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of student debtors whose tax refunds they sought to garnish.

Jessica Corbett writes in Common Dreams:

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and the federal departments they run were hit with a class-action lawsuit Friday for illegal seizures of thousands of student borrowers’ tax refunds during the coronavirus pandemic, which has left over 40 million Americans jobless and familes across the country struggling to stay in their homes and keep food on the table.

The suit (pdf)—filed by Student Defense and Democracy Forward in the U.S. District Court for D.C.—accuses the Education and Treasury departments of violating the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act from late March, which halted all involuntary collection of federal student loans, including tax refund offsets, until the end of September.

“Secretaries DeVos and Mnuchin have inflicted needless financial pain on student borrowers and their families by failing to stop the illegal seizures of their tax refunds,” Democracy Forward senior counsel Jeffrey Dubner said in a statement.

“The turmoil caused by the ongoing pandemic is no excuse for breaking the law,” Dubner added. “Our class-action suit seeks to hold the administration accountable so that student borrowers can stay on their feet during this crisis.”

Trump vetoed legislation that would have protected college students burdened by debt from predatory colleges. Many of the defrauded were veterans.

Trump’s support of predatory colleges should not be surprising, since Trump owned a predatory college “Trump University”), which was closed down by regulators and led to Trump being fined $25 million.

From the Washington Post:

President Trump on Friday vetoed a bipartisan resolution to overturn a policy that makes it tougher for students who say they were defrauded by colleges to have their federal education loans canceled.

In rejecting the measure Friday, Trump called it “a misguided resolution that would increase costs for American students and undermine their ability to make choices about their education in order to best meet their needs.”

Although the White House had long signaled the move, veterans groups that strongly oppose the regulation had implored Trump to stand with members of the military who they say are routinely preyed upon by unscrupulous schools for their lucrative GI Bill education benefits.

In the lead-up to Memorial Day, veterans groups ran advertisements on Fox News urging Trump to support the congressional resolution.

But siding with veterans would have forced Trump to abandon the longest-serving member of his Cabinet: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“President Trump’s veto … was a victory for DeVos and the fraud merchants at the for-profit colleges. My question to the President: in four days did you forget those flag-waving Memorial Day speeches as you vetoed a bill the veterans were begging for?” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who introduced the resolution in the Senate.

The veto arrives two months after Congress agreed to scrap DeVos’s overhaul of a 1995 law known as “borrower defense to repayment.” The law provides federal loan forgiveness to students whose colleges lied to get them to enroll.

An Obama-era update of the statute lowered hurdles for students and shifted more of the cost onto schools, but DeVos tried to scuttle the update and then rewrite the rule.

The Trump administration in September finalized its rewrite, which limits the time borrowers have to apply for relief and requires them to prove they were harmed financially by the deception. The rule is scheduled to take effect July 1.

To sideline the policy, Democrats used the Congressional Review Act, which lets lawmakers overturn recent regulatory actions of federal agencies with a simple majority vote in both chambers.
Durbin and Rep. Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced resolutions in their chambers days after the Trump administration finalized the rule. But as the campaign to overturn the Trump policy gained momentum, the White House threatened to veto the resolution.

In a policy statement issued in January, the White House Office of Management and Budget said overturning the rule “would restore the partisan regulatory regime of the previous administration, which sacrificed the interests of taxpayers, students and schools in pursuit of narrow, ideological objectives.”

Yet in March, Trump told Republican senators that he was “neutral” on the rule, giving veterans groups hope that the president, who has sought and enjoyed support from veterans, might sign the resolution.

Hours before Trump vetoed the resolution Friday, American Legion National Commander James Oxford issued a statement urging the president to “come to the aid of student veterans,” much like he did a year ago in granting automatic student loan forgiveness to permanently disabled veterans.

News of Trump’s decision left the American Legion, other veterans groups, consumer advocates and lawmakers disappointed.
Lee pledged to forge ahead with a campaign to override the veto in the House.
“The fight for our students and veterans is far from over,” she said Friday. “I’m urging all of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to put students, veterans and taxpayers first, and vote to overturn the 2019 Borrower Defense rule.”

The Trump administration estimates its new rule will save the federal government $11 billion over 10 years — loan payments that would have gone uncollected under existing rules.

The Secretary is thankful to the president for his leadership on this issue,” Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said in a statement Friday. “This administration is committed to protecting all students from fraud and holding all schools accountable when they fail their students. This administration’s rule does just that, despite false claims from many corners.”

DeVos has defended her overhaul as a sensible and fair way to account for the needs of students, colleges and taxpayers. She has derided the Obama-era update as a giveaway for students and a veiled attempt to go after for-profit colleges.
“Whereas the last administration promoted a regulatory environment that produced precipitous school closures and stranded students, this new rule puts the needs of students first,” Trump said Friday.

The new rule “extends the window during which they can qualify for loan discharge, and encourages schools to provide students with opportunities to complete their educations.”
Trump said the resolution “would return the country to a regulatory regime in which the Federal Government and State attorneys general, rather than students, determine the kinds of education students need and which schools they should be allowed to attend.”

Under its CEO Tom Torkelsen, the charter chain IDEA experienced explosive growth, dramatic success in winning nearly $200 million in federal funds from Betsy DeVos and the federal Charter Schools Program, but multiple scandals involving lavish spending on personal perks, like a lease on a private jet, first-class travel, and box seats at sporting events.

Torkelsen announced his resignation in April, and the board has agreed to give him severance pay of $900,000. Just like a public school superintendent, right?

Denis Smith, former official in the Ohio State Education Departnent, describes here the commitment of the Founding Fathers of the nation and Ohio to “common schools” or public schools.

In our own day, however, radical libertarians—anarchists, in fact—have opposed the Founders’ vision and sought to replace the common schools with consumer choice. In place of the goal of equality of educational opportunity, these anarchists—such as Jeb Bush and Betsy DeVos—have promoted individual choice through privately managed charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.

The anarchists are repudiating our history and traditions in their efforts to eliminate any sense of social responsibility and they do so cynically, claiming that they are doing it “for the kids” who will be abandoned as the rich get richer and the poor get vouchers are low-quality schools.

Betsy DeVos has been rebuked by Congress, even by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, but she refuses to back down from her plan to force states and school districts to share emergency funding with private schools, even elite private schools.

Erica L. Green writes in the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defiant amid criticism that she is using the coronavirus to pursue a long-sought agenda, said she would force public school districts to spend a large portion of federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income.

Ms. DeVos announced the measure in a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education chiefs, defending her position on how education funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, should be spent.

“The CARES Act is a special, pandemic-related appropriation to benefit all American students, teachers and families,” she wrote in the letter on Friday. “There is nothing in the act suggesting Congress intended to discriminate between children based on public or nonpublic school attendance, as you seem to do. The virus affects everyone.”

A range of education officials say Ms. DeVos’s guidance would divert millions of dollars from disadvantaged students and force districts starved of tax revenues during an economic crisis to support even the wealthiest private schools. The association representing the nation’s schools superintendents told districts to ignore the guidance, and at least two states — Indiana and Maine — said they would.

Democratic Congressional leaders wrote a stern letter to Betsy DeVos, rebuking her for turning coronavirus relief funds into cash for vouchers. They are acting in the belief that Congress decides how money is to be spent and defines who should receive federal funding.

Betsy DeVos really doesn’t care what Congressional leaders say or do. She considers herself superior to Congress because she is a billionaire. She buys senators and members of Congress. She thinks of them as the household help. They appropriate the money and she decides how to spend it. How dare they try to tell HER what to do!

Read the letter here.

As I mentioned in the 2 pm post, even Republican Lamar Alexander chastised Betsy DeVos for diverting money from the CARES coronavirus fund to private schools. Here is the Washington Post report on the same events: DeVos is playing Reverse Robin Hood: Steal from the poor and give to the Rich.

She is thumbing her nose at Congress. She doesn’t care what their intent was.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced bipartisan resistance Thursday to her decision to direct federal stimulus money away from high-poverty public schools and to private schools serving wealthy students.

It’s one of several examples of DeVos using the relief funding to advance her longtime goals, including taxpayer support for private and religious schools. On Thursday, she defended her controversial decision on how to distribute the federal money.

She also has used $180 million from the stimulus fund for a “microgrant” program for parents to pay for educational expenses, including private school tuition. Critics say they are akin to vouchers.

Earlier in the week, she said her goal was to advance her broader agenda.

In an interview with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, on Sirius XM radio, Dolan asked DeVos if she was trying to “utilize this particular crisis to ensure that justice is finally done to our kids and the parents who choose to sent them to faith-based schools.”

DeVos responded, “Yes, absolutely”

“For more than three decades, that has been something I’ve been passionate about,” she said. “This whole pandemic has brought into clear focus that everyone has been impacted and we shouldn’t be thinking about students that are in public schools vs. private schools.”

Congress allocated roughly $13.5 billion to K-12 schools as part of the Cares Act, a stimulus package meant to mitigate the economic damage from the coronavirus crisis. Most of the funding was to be distributed to elementary and secondary schools based on a formula driven by how many poor children they serve.

The formula has long allocated some funding for poor children attending private schools. But in guidance sent to the states, DeVos said states should use a calculation that takes into account the total number of students private schools serve, not just the number of poor students attending.

The result is that millions of dollars that would otherwise assist high-poverty schools in the Title 1 program will instead be shared with private schools, regardless of the economic needs of their families.

On Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a DeVos ally, said her interpretation of the law is at odds with his own.

“My sense was that the money should have been distributed in the same way we distribute Title 1 money,” he said. “I think that’s what most of Congress was expecting.”

Harsher words came Thursday from leading Democrats, who asked DeVos to immediately revise her guidance to conform with the law.

The guidance “seeks to repurpose hundreds-of-millions of taxpayer dollars intended for public school students to provide services for private school students, in contravention of both the plain reading of the statute and the intent of Congress,” wrote Reps. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House education committee, and Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations subcommittee, as well as Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Education Committee.

They cited Louisiana as an example. The state will spent $23 million on students at private schools, they said, which is $14.4 million more than would be the case under the normal Title 1 formula.

The guidance holds considerable sway, but states are not required to follow it.

Subsequent legislation passed by the House would overturn the DeVos guidance, but that legislation is part of a large aid package whose prospects are unclear.

DeVos defended her reasoning in a question-and-answer session with reporters Thursday.

“It’s our interpretation that [the funding] is meant literally for all students, and that includes students no matter where they’re learning,” she said.

She made her comments after an online discussion about remote education across the nation that featured officials with private companies, private schools and charter schools, as well as traditional public school leaders.

DeVos has long been a vocal supporter of school choice programs that allow tax dollars to follow children to private and religious schools. She argues that this gives parents more options, though critics say it drains public schools of badly needed resources.

DeVos’s pandemic response for higher education has also stirred controversy.

She has made a range of controversial choices about how to allocate funding to aid higher education, including barring aid to undocumented students, which Democrats and other critics say was not Congress’s intent. She also made funding available to some very small, private universities without demonstrated need.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, publicly questioned Betsy DeVos’s guidance to states to include private schools when distributing federal funding of coronavirus relief. DeVos says the money should be divided according to enrollment. Alexander says it was supposed to follow the Title I funding and go to the neediest students, who are not in private schools.

Politico Morning Education reports:

ALEXANDER, DEVOS PART WAYS ON STIMULUS GUIDANCE: DeVos is now getting pushback from Alexander for controversial guidance calling on school districts to distribute stimulus funds to private school students more expansively than they would under regular federal education aid through Title I.

— Her policy says schools should spend money on services for private school students based on the total number of all students enrolled, rather than poverty levels.

— “My sense was that the money should have been distributed in the same way we distribute Title I money,” Alexander told reporters on Thursday. “I think that’s what most of Congress was expecting.”

— DeVos defended her interpretation of the law when asked by POLITICO during a video conference to respond to Alexander’s comments. “In our implementation of Congress’ action under the CARES Act, we have indicated it’s our interpretation that it is meant literally for all students and that includes students, no matter where they’re learning,” she said.

— DeVos later said that public schools should work with their private counterparts to understand student needs and to help provide services, such as tutoring or teacher professional development for teachers.

Indiana’s superintendent Jennifer McCormick has announced that she will ignore the DeVos guidance. Tennessee, however, will divert money from needy public schools and give it to private schools with advantaged students.

As DeVos’s response shows, she doesn’t care what Congressional leaders think, not even when they are members of the Republican party. She does what she wants, without regard to Congressional intent or authorization or rebuke. She was born a billionaire, she is privileged, and she is spoiled. She is a hardened ideologue. She doesn’t care about helping poor kids as much as she cares about funding private schools. She doesn’t care about the law. She, like Trump, thinks she is above it.

Without Congressional authorization, Betsy DeVos has urged states to dispense CARES Act funding based on enrollment, to include private schools, not based on economic need. As usual, she is using her authority to promote privatization of public funds intended for public schools.

The Education Law Center wrote an appeal to Governor Cuomo, urging him to reject the DeVos formula, which will divert money from the poorest children and defy the intent of Congress.

Read the letter here.