Search results for: "Betsy Devos"

Slate is posting a series of farewell to the odious cast of characters in the Trump administration. Dan Kois wrote this goodbye to Betsy DeVos.

He writes:

So long, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos! It wasn’t just that you were unqualified to lead America’s educational system, as someone who never worked at a public school, attended a public school, or took out a school loan. It was that you were the opposite of qualified, an early example of the Trump administration’s elitist disregard for the very role of government agencies themselves. You sailed into the Department of Education as if sailing into port on one of your yachts, buoyed by your belief that public schools are a “dead end,” your declaration that government “sucks,” and your family’s hundreds of millions of dollars donated to Republican causes.

And yeah, you made the most of the opportunity. You promoted charter and religious schools while ignoring public schools. You reduced protections for victims of sexual assault, for minority students, for gay and trans students. You gleefully ignored a court order and continued to collect loan payments from students at a defunct, fraudulent for-profit university—16,000 times, including wage garnishments and tax seizures.

As chair of the Trump administration’s “school safety commission,” formed after the Parkland shootings, you declined to recommend any gun control measures, but you did rescind an Obama-era guideline instructing schools not to punish minority students more harshly than white ones. Thank goodness!

But it was in 2020, as American schools faced arguably their biggest crisis since the civil rights era, that you really made your contempt for teachers and children plain. As schools across the country sought aid and advice to reopen safely in the fall, you holed up in your Michigan compound, protected by around-the-clock U.S. Marshals that have cost taxpayers as much as $25 million over four years. (You’re the first Cabinet secretary ever to insist on such protection.) From your mansion, you joined Donald Trump’s demands that schools reopen NOW—but offered no support or assistance. The end result: politicizing school reopening as an issue, making it more difficult for schools to open safely. You’ve overseen a slow-motion education disaster that will have lasting effects on an entire generation of children.

Please open the link and read it all.

Laurel Demkovich writes here about the election in Washington State for state superintendent. The incumbent Chris Reykdal faces a challenger who supports charter schools and vouchers. The Democratic Party is supporting Reykdal, the Republican Party is supporting his opponent, Maia Espinosa. Washington State has no voucher program; it has a small number of charters, established after four state referenda that were funded by Bill Gates and his billionaire friends. The only evaluation of the charters, by CREDO at Stanford, concluded that they did not get different results than similar students in public schools.

I strongly urge the voters in Washington State to vote for Reykdal.

Demkovich writes:

With less than a week before Election Day, partisan ties in the nonpartisan superintendent of public instruction race have become clear.

Incumbent Chris Reykdal, backed by the state Democratic Party, is facing challenger Maia Espinoza, backed by the state Republican Party, for his spot as the state’s chief schools official.

Worried they might lose control of education policy if Reykdal loses, prominent Democrats, including Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, held a news conference this week to “sound the alarm” on Espinoza’s plans they say would cut funding to public schools.

Jayapal called Espinoza the “Betsy DeVos of Washington” – referring to the Secretary of Education’s support for school choice and voucher programs.

The state Democratic Party has donated $105,000 into Reykdal’s campaign in the last week.

Republicans and Espinoza want to return to the status quo and not upend public schools, state GOP Rep. Drew Stokesbary said in a news conference.

“Why is anybody afraid of a Hispanic mother of three who cares about kids across the state as our superintendent of public instruction?” added state Sen. Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville. “This would be a superintendent of public instruction that is not a slave to the union bosses.”

Meanwhile, the state Republican Party contributed $10,000 to Espinoza in the past week.

Accusations from both sides about the other candidate’s plan and background have circulated throughout the campaign, but what’s true? The Spokesman-Review took a look.

Claim: Espinoza’s plans for a COVID-19 relief package for parents would drain $2.5 billion from public school funds.

Source: Inslee, Jayapal and other Democrats at a Monday news conference.

Truthfulness: Could be true, but Espinoza said she doesn’t have a specific plan for where the money would come from.

Analysis: Democrats claimed Monday that Espinoza would cut public school funding by $2.5 billion. The claim likely comes from Espinoza’s proposal early in the pandemic to give parents $2,500 per student, which she said would help with technology costs or supplies.

Inslee argued Monday the cut would result in a loss of funding of teachers and negatively affect class sizes. “This is inexcusable in our state,” he said.

Espinoza admitted she was not sure where the money for the stipends would come from and that it would ultimately be up to the Legislature. She did suggest school districts look at ways they are not spending money as students are not in school, such as on transportation or utilities.

The funding could look different in each district, she said.

“I firmly believe the dollars belong to the students, not the system,” Espinoza said.

Claim: Espinoza supports school choice and voucher programs.

Source: Inslee, Jayapal and other Democrats at a Monday news conference

Truthfulness: True.

Analysis: Espinoza has been open about supporting school choice, something she said would improve inequities in school districts. She hasn’t been clear, however, on what that would look like.

Democrats accused Espinoza of supporting what Jayapal called a “corrupt and very dangerous DeVos-Trump privatization agenda.”

Espinoza said she has no affiliation with what’s happening federally and does not have any support from DeVos or Trump. She said she does support school choice, however, adding she does not think giving parents options is bad.

She told the Associated Press she supports more funding for charter schools, as well as testing a broader private school voucher system statewide.

“Parents will always choose what is best for their kid,” she told The Spokesman-Review in June.

Claim: Espinoza has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

Source: Espinoza voters guide statement

Truthfulness: Mostly false, as of now.

Analysis: In her voters guide statement for both the primary and the general elections, Espinoza claimed to have a master’s degree from Western Governors University, an online program. She does not include the year she received it.

Espinoza has recently come out to say she is finishing up the degree now, after Reykdal repeatedly claimed she did not yet have it. In a Monday news conference, Espinoza said the term ends at the end of this month and her thesis has been turned in.

In a Washington State Wire virtual debate on Sept. 17, Espinoza said she had finished all of her classes and only needed to finish her thesis. At the time, she called it a “nonissue.”

At a League of Women Voters virtual debate from Oct. 6, Reykdal said he had concerns about Espinoza’s lack of transparency.

Claim: Espinoza’s organization, the Center for Latino Leadership, is a nonprofit with 501©3 tax exemption.

Source: Center for Latino Leadership website

Truthfulness: False.

Analysis: The Center for Latino Leadership, which Espinoza founded, claims on its website to be “an incorporated, nonprofit organization in Washington State operating under section 501©3 of the Internal Revenue Code.”

The organization does not actually have the federal tax-exempt status, according to the Associated Press.

The tax exemption allows public charities that serve the public interest to be exempt from paying federal income tax and to collect tax-deductible contributions from donors. Those organizations are then prohibited from making profits or participating in expressly political activities.

Espinoza told the Associated Press she never claimed donations were tax deductible and that the organization has been trying to apply for 501©3 status for years but had issues with its accounting firm.

“It’s been a process for sure, but we’ve been diligent in operating as a C3,” Espinoza said in an email to the Associated Press.

In a Monday news conference, she told reporters the 501©3 status is just a stricter form of a nonprofit but her organization has always acted as if they have the tax-exemption.

“This has nothing to do with the great work we’ve done,” she said. “In no way have I misrepresented.”

Claim: Espinoza is a teacher.

Source: Espinoza’s voters guide statement.

Truthfulness: Only if you use a broader definition of “teacher.”

Analysis: Espinoza, who states in her voters guide statement that she is a school teacher, is not a licensed teacher, but she did previously teach music at her daughter’s private school one day a week for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

When asked about her teaching experience in an Oct. 12 debate, Espinoza said she was a paid, hourly teacher.

“I really got to experience and appreciate the demands put on teachers,” Espinoza said.

Laurel Demkovich’s reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

Betsy DeVos spent her time as Secretary of Education attacking and demeaning public schools. Before she was selected as Secretary, she spent millions of dollars promoting privatization of public funds. As Secretary, she carried forward her lifelong goal to divert public funds to vouchers for religious schools.

This is how public parents, grandparents, and graduates will remember her.

Betsy DeVos traveled to Kentucky to sell her used goods (schmattes is the Yiddish term): charter schools and vouchers.

For DeVos, a pandemic is the perfect time to push school privatization. Day in, day out, for 30 years or so, DeVos has been promoting charters and vouchers.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – School choice supporters should “insist” that state and federal policymakers back measures like public charter schools and scholarship tax credits amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Monday…

“I know in all of the years that I have advocated for state-level policy empower parents, never before have we had an environment like we have today, and so I believe that now is the time to raise voices more loudly than ever before and to insist on policy changes that need to take place….”

David Patterson, communications director for the Kentucky Education Association, said DeVos should focus on helping public school districts weather the COVID-19 pandemic, which has “spiked to its highest peak ever” in the state.

“Instead, she drops in for a day to push a political agenda that has been proven disastrous in states and school systems all across the country,” Patterson said in a statement. “Betsy DeVos has a habit of visiting Kentucky and discussing education without ever actually meeting with the public educators who teach 88 percent of all K-12 students across the commonwealth.”

Never before has the United States had a Secretary of Education who despises public schools.

When Kentucky had a Republican Governor, Matt Bevin, DeVos showed up to sell privatization. Bevin got a charter law passed, but he couldn’t get funding. Vouchers went nowhere.

Now Kentucky has a Democratic Governor, Andy Beshear, who was elected by teachers and public school parents.

Sorry, Betsy, time is running out. Your merchandise is old. It’s not innovative. Its time stamp is dated and past due. Go back to Michigan.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the PAC called American Federation for Children, started by Betsy DeVos, is supporting pro-charter Republican candidates in Missouri. We frequently get comments from charter advocates who insist that charters are progressive but it is hard to sustain that idea when the money to expand them comes from plutocrats like DeVos and the Waltons.

JEFFERSON CITY — A political action committee supporting state Sen. Andrew Koenig accepted $50,000 last week from a Washington, D.C., group that supports expanding charter schools, according to state ethics commission records.

Including the contribution to Koenig, the American Federation for Children, formerly chaired by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has poured $670,000 into Missouri races this year after legislators have continued to block efforts to allow more charter school options in the state.

By comparison, the group spent $200,000 in Missouri in all of 2018, the year of the last general election.

While proponents view charters as innovative alternatives to public schools, critics say the operations drain money from local districts. The issue is one of the most hotly contested in the Legislature, with a coalition of Republicans and Democrats scuttling recent expansion efforts.

Koenig is locked in a tight reelection race against state Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, in a legislative district that includes all or parts of Ballwin, Chesterfield, Kirkwood, Sunset Hills, Valley Park and other municipalities.

The 15th Senate District also includes some of the highest-rated public school districts in the state, covering all or parts of the Kirkwood, Lindbergh, Valley Park, Rockwood, Parkway, Mehlville and Hancock Place school districts.

Currently, charter schools only operate in St. Louis and Kansas City. A proposal this year would have allowed the schools to operate in any charter county — St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Charles and Jackson counties — or in any city with more than 30,000 residents.

Nancy Bailey writes here about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ contempt for the time-honored tradition of separation of church and state. She has made clear her strong preference for religious schools and her low opinion of public schools. We have never in our history had a Secretary of Education (or before the Education Department was created in 1980, a Commissioner of Education) who was so flagrantly hostile to public schools. Reagan’s second Secretary of Education Bill Bennett was a cheerleader for “choice,” but in the early 1980s, he didn’t have the wind behind his back nor did he have Betsy’s billions to advance the cause.

The United States is a very diverse nation, where people are associated with scores of different religions or none at all. The Founders wrote the First Amendment to prohibit the establishment of any official religion and to protect the free exercise of religion. They knew the dangers of state-sponsored religion. In our time, rightwing libertarians and anti-government ideologues are using their political clout to support government funding for religious schools.

It’s worth noting that every state referendum on vouchers for religious schools has gone down to a decisive defeat, most recently in Arizona, where 65% said no to vouchers.

DeVos has taken advantage of the pandemic to divert billions of dollars to private and religious schools, usually at the expense of public schools, which enroll the students with the greatest needs.

One good reason to vote for Joe Biden is to send DeVos home to Michigan.

He can’t possibly appoint anyone worse than DeVos.

Chris Mann sings a song from “Les Miserables” for Betsy DeVos, who wants kids in school no matter how much disease surrounds them and their teachers, principals, and school staff.

In this article in the New York Daily News, constitutional lawyer Derek Black explains how Betsy DeVos used her authority as Secretary of Educatiin to send federal dollars intended for public schools to elite private schools and religious schools. Black’s new book, “School House Burning,” is an outstanding read.

He writes:

Betsy DeVos’ agenda to expand private education has floundered for three years. In 2017, public schools’ financial hole was too deep for either party in Congress to consider digging it deeper. But since March of this year, amidst a pandemic that has killed more than 170,000 Americans, cratered the economy and underlined the importance of public education, the U.S. secretary of education has made more headway than in the last three years combined.

Naively, Congress assumed that DeVos would put coronavirus response ahead of her ideological agenda. They were wrong, and now she is on the verge of turning the education policy world upside down.

In its first year, the administration proposed cutting and eliminating several public education programs and redirecting the money to school choice, including private schools. On top of that, it wanted a new tax credit program to fund private school tuition. Neither party took the proposal seriously. As Republican Sen. Roy Blunt remarked, “This is a difficult budget request to defend.” The story repeated itself each year since.

But in the rush to respond to COVID, DeVos saw an opening to exploit, and Congress gave her an unintentional assist. On its face, the CARES Act was all about the crisis. It doled out the biggest chunk of education money to public schools based on poverty. It put aside a smaller chunk for DeVos and states to spend on the evolving needs of distance learning and places hit the hardest by COVID.

Within days, DeVos was talking about spending her funds on “microgrants” that would operate like vouchers to fund private school tuition and services. Even if it flew in the face of congressional intent, the discretionary nature of the funds made it hard for anyone to stop her.

Next, DeVos threw 50 years of rules regarding how to allocate federal education dollars out the window. Normally, public schools share their federal poverty aid with private schools based on the number of low-income students that private schools enroll. The CARES Act said those same rules apply to COVID funds, but DeVos told public schools to share the money based on private schools’ total enrollment instead, which is overwhelmingly comprised of middle and upper-income students. And rather than back down in the face of overwhelming opposition, she doubled down, transforming her initial policy guidance into an actual federal rule.

For many school districts, that meant spending four, five and six times as much on private school students than ever before.

Unsurprisingly, states and individuals sued and a federal court blocked the rule last week.
As positive COVID cases continued to rise in July, DeVos then created the predicate to move even larger sums of money to private schools.

She demanded that public schools reopen fully and threatened to terminate their federal funding if they did not. While she lacked the authority to carry out the threat, she did begin shifting the narrative. The problem wasn’t COVID; the problem was public schools. And if they couldn’t do their job, private schools purportedly could.

A week after DeVos’ demand, friendly governors started following her lead. The CARES Act had given governors their own discretionary funds to respond to COVID. Like DeVos, they turned it into a slush fund to carry out the pre-existing agenda for private school vouchers. South Carolina’s governor announced that nearly three-quarters of his funds would go to vouchers.

The narrative shift was so effective that the Senate is reversing itself. The first version of its new COVID bill would condition two-thirds of public schools’ money on them physically reopening. A newer version also diverts 10% of the aid to private schools. Lamar Alexander, the chair of the Senate’s education committee, is also pushing a $5 billion tax credit bill similar to the one that DeVos proposed in her first year.

On the pretext of responding to a crisis, Betsy DeVos is trying to transform public education. If she gets what she wants, the effects will remain long after she’s gone — on American families and the nation itself.

Black is author of “Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy.”

Mercedes Schneider writes here about Betsy DeVos’s single-minded effort to divert public school funding to private and religious schools during the pandemic.

As Schneider documents, DeVos excoriates public schools as “static,” but her own brain is locked in concrete.

She has not allowed a fresh thought to enter her head in at least thirty years.

She wants public money for vouchers, she wants to reduce funding to public schools that desperately need it to reopen safely, she cares not a whit about the 85-90% of students in the nation’s public schools. Nothing new. Same old, same old. Her brain needs air.

She sees the pandemic as a grand opportunity to give choices to kids in public schools, chosen by their parents. She refuses to admit that the $5,000-$7,000 that might be available will not open the doors of elite private schools, but will provide access to subpar religious schools. Nor does she 3ver acknowledge the multiple studies showing that the religious schools she admires provide a lesser quality of education than the public schools she despises.

DeVos is a civic disaster. She threatens the public schools that are the heart of our nation’s communities. No wonder the Trump family did not invite her to speak at the Trump Convention. Even they know she is toxic to America’s parents.

John Merrow and I cling to a belief that once upon a time there was a Republican party that was reasonable and genuinely concerned about the future of the nation. We think of people like Eisenhower and McCain.

But Merrow identifies a day when he says the GOP as we once knew it actually died: The day that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. Actually, it was two days. The first was when the Senate Committee approved her nomination, with the assent of Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, despite her inability to answer the most basic questions about education law or practice. The second was when the Senate confirmed her.

The Republican Party fell in line behind the most unqualified person in the nation because Trump wanted her. That was reason enough, which mattered more than the fact that she had spent her entire life attacking public schools. Perhaps no less important was that most of the senators who voted to approve her, as Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out at the time, had received large campaign contributions from her. No principle was involved. Just votes for cash.

All the Senators on the committee fell into line and gave Trump the completely unqualified nominee he proposed.

Only one Republican vote on the Senate committee would have doomed DeVos’s nomination. Neither Susan Collins nor Lisa Murkowski was willing to vote no and kill the DeVos nomination. They voted yes in committee, then “No” on the Senate floor, when their votes could not stop her. Vice President Pence, as choreographed, broken the tie to approve this unqualified person.

Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Lamar Alexander were profiles in cowardice. They voted to approve clueless, incompetent Betsy DeVos, who was unleashed to wreak havoc on the nation’s public schools.

Merrow adds:

Fun fact: Trump’s first choice for Secretary of Education was the now-infamous Jerry Falwell, Jr, who told CBS he turned down the job because Trump wanted at least a 4-year commitment that Falwell said he couldn’t make because Liberty University needed him.

Trump also interviewed Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz. Any of them would have demonstrated his hostility to public schools and his determination to undermine them. Too bad Falwell said no. His exposure at this moment would have added to the circus atmosphere of the campaign.