Top 5 stories of Betsy DeVos’s first year

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by Félix Pérez

This Wednesday Betsy DeVos will mark her first year as President Trump’s education secretary. The first cabinet nominee in the nation’s history to require a tie-breaking vote by a vice president, DeVos remains steadfast in her advocacy for using public school funds for private school vouchers and charter schools, attacking public education, opening the door to predatory for-profit schools and rolling back student protections.

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We had an embarrassing number of choices from which to pick when compiling the top five DeVos stories, and we were forced to leave out several cringeworthy items. Here, then, in descending order, are our top 5 stories.

5. School visit ignored how vouchers fail students with disabilities

DeVos’s first visit to a school as education secretary was to a private voucher school in Florida. She and Trump ignored an inconvenient fact about the state’s voucher schools: Florida’s voucher program for special needs students, the McKay Scholarship, asks students with disabilities to waive their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA. The same limitation holds true in many other voucher states. DeVos’s oversight — or slight — came as no surprise given her admitted lack of awareness of the federal special education law at her confirmation hearing. To be clear: Under IDEA, states are required to ensure that all students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education in public schools and that parents are given a voice in their child’s education.

4. Refused to rule out federal funds for private schools that discriminate

At her confirmation hearing, DeVos refused to say whether she would deny federal funds to private schools that discriminate against students based on sexuality, race or special needs. In response to a question from Representative Katherine Clark whether an Indiana voucher school that denies access to students with LGBT parents would be disqualified from receiving education funds, DeVos answered, “For states who have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that.” Pressed by Clark after DeVos’s nonanswer, DeVos said, “The bottom line is that we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s school and education decisions.”

Click here to let Betsy DeVos know exactly how she’s failed our students.

3. Described historically Black colleges and universities as ‘pioneers of choice’

DeVos praised Historically Black Colleges and Universities as “pioneers of school choice,” a remark that bears no relationship to the truth of their origins. For many generations, HBCUs were the only choice for African American students facing racism and educational segregation. DeVos’s gross inaccuracy prompted educators and students at Bethune-Cookman University to ask the college to withdraw its invitation to DeVos to serve as as a commencement speaker. “The policies that DeVos pushes would have terrible consequences for future generations of Bethune-Cookman students — and for historically black colleges and universities themselves,” explained Fedrick Ingram, Florida Education Association vice president and a Bethune-Cookman alumnus. These policies included a proposed federal budget that cut millions of dollars for HBCUs and college access programs that help send low-income and first-generation students to HBCUs and other institutions, and $3.9 billion from Pell Grants, which a majority of HBCU students rely on to pay for tuition.

2. Slashed loan forgiveness to students defrauded by for-profit colleges

The Education Department’s plan to provide only partial loan forgiveness to some students defrauded by for-profit colleges could reduce overall payments by about 60 percent, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. DeVos approved a plan to discontinue fully wiping out the loans of students deceived by the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges. Student advocates say it’s wrong to hold students responsible for loans they took out to attend fradulent for-profit colleges that inflated their job-placement rates and engaged in predatory recruitment and marketing tactics. Eileen Connor, a litigator at Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which has represented hundreds of defrauded Corinthian students, criticized the policy. “I think that is terrible. It’s another example of the Department of Education picking the side of fraudulent schools and not doing right by those who have been hurt by them,” Connor told AP. Late last year, the state attorneys general of New York, Illinois and Massachusetts sued the Trump administration and DeVos for not granting loan relief to thousands of students defrauded by Corinthian and other for-profit schools that have closed. Their complaint alleges that DeVos’s Education Department unlawfully declared some of the student loans valid, leading to forced collections from students’ paychecks. California’s state attorney general filed a parallel complaint in the U.S. District of Northern California on behalf of 13,000 Corinthian students waiting for the federal government to forgive their loans.

1. DeVos spreads her influence — and money — in 2018 governor races

There will be 36 gubernatorial elections in 2018, and some candidates have received contributions from DeVos and her family, while others are unabashed supporters of her agenda to drain scarce funding from public schools to give to private and charter schools in the form of vouchers or education tax credits. DeVos, who is extremely wealthy, has used her wealth for decades to cultivate acolytes at every level of government. This year there are a number of candidates running for governor who are followers of DeVos’s anti-public schools agenda. They include:

Reader Comments

  1. At best, the Trump cabinet might be described as “a confederacy of dunces.” Why look for qualified people when you can surround yourself with cronies and wealthy contributors? “Money can’t buy me love,” and it also can’t buy intelligence, moral probity, expertise, or morality.

  2. DeVos is an Evangelist Libertarian lackey toting the Koch/AFP line. Gazillionheiress Betsy is utterly UNQUALIFIED….Trump needs to own up to this shameful appointment, along with Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke and Ben Carson who were all seated to destroy/eliminate the department that they head. This scheme was obvious from the get go…..all set in motion by an Extremely Wealthy Oligarchic Kleptocracy- bolstered by the #taxscam just passed. This administration is absolutely destroying our Democratic Republic.

    WHEN WILL WE OVERTURN CITIZENS UNITED AND REVISE OUR ELECTION CAMPAIGNS?

  3. It has sometimes been unclear whether she is more crony capitalist, religious extremist, or radical libertarian. But given Trump’s other appointees, it generally seems that corruption is the rule, so probably she hopes to profit from private schools. Maximizing profits naturally implies union-busting, killing regulations, eliminating students that require a lot of investment, and getting students as indebted as possible, so that they will be paying “forever”.

  4. “Fascist education is moral, physical, social, and military: it aims to create a complete and harmoniously developed human, a fascist one according to our views.” ― Benito Mussolini

  5. Her lack of knowledge and choices are horrible. We must remember who put her into this position and use our vote in all future elections, including primaries, to bring back order and sanity to America.

  6. As a fellow Michiganian from Holland, I am ashamed that anyone as unqualified as Mrs. DeVos holds such an important position in the Trump Administration. I guess money is more important than talent. Shame!Richard McFall

  7. Betsy DeVos is not qualified for her position.She has no idea what public education is all about.How tragic for our country.===Odette Feltman

  8. Sorry, I teach at a charter school in county with a great division between our “good” schools and our suffering schools. Children must attend the school closest to their home, which in many cases isn’t the right school for that family, so we allow them to make the choice of a different (better) school. If they don’t like us, they are free to return to their local schools at any time. Being the first charter in our county, we have been raising our own funds to give the students what we feel they deserve, and/or spending out personal money for 4 years since opening. The county school board has, until recently, brushed us under the rug and just hoped we would fail, but we are going strong and achieving higher than most schools around us. So, for one, I thank Betsy for her support of charter schools and allowing more choices for families. Now, thanks to the passing of Florida’s Education Bill HB 7069, the county we operate under will be obligated to share a minimal amount of their funding with us and the other charters who came after us. This funding is dedicated for the improvement of our facilities, which allows us to finally cover the parking lot we’ve been using for a PE field, pave a sidewalk to the back door, grade the land behind the building so it won’t flood during rainy season and breed mosquitoes, and just keep up with general maintenance that has come second to providing our students with the best we can afford. THANKS Betsy!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Wasn’t Mr. Trump accused of defrauding a large group of students at Trump University? Now DeVos wants to slash loan forgiveness for students defrauded by for-profit colleges. Interesting.
    Works cited:
    https://www.newyorker.com/news/john…/trump-university-its-worse-than-you-think,
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/…trump…trump-university-fraud…/8dc047c0-ada0-…,
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/11/…trump…trump-u-fraud…/94068946/,
    money.cnn.com/2017/03/23/news/trump-university-settlement-claims/index.html,
    https://www.npr.org/…/judge-approves-25-million-settlement-of-trump-university-lawsu…,
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/19/us/politics/trump-university.html

  10. Like every trump cabinet member, she is the antithesis of what a good public education secretary should be, and is an example of why we need to get money out of our politics.

  11. She needs to be expelled, she’s too stupid to serve in this position. I am appalled that she allow guns in schools and didn’t know about the IDEA!

    1. “I am appalled that she allow guns in schools….”

      But, but, but…… It’s all those damned grizzlies hanging around the schools.

      “I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said.
      -https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/betsy-devos-schools-might-need-guns-due-potential-grizzlies-n708261

  12. It must be great to be able to buy a position, however it would be to your credit to buy one that you knew something about.
    You are so removed from the education system that you just can’t get it.
    Most of our schools are filled with wonderful middle class kids who need the best teachers and the best books. That is the kind of support you should be spreading.
    You’ve had a year to prove yourself and our education system is in really bad shape, especially in the spec Ed realm.
    Please step down and let a real educator step in to that role.

  13. DeVos’ shameful record in her first year as education secretary reinforces the need to protect public education from the education secretary. I fought against her attacks on public education in Michigan and will continue as long as she holds the position of education secretary.

  14. Ms. DeVos’ record in her first year has shown that she is Anti-Public Education. She has proven herself to be an advocate for private education at the expense of the public schools. Her schemes to divert public tax money from public schools to private ones must be stopped.

  15. I’m from PA and a very proud educator. Wagner is an idiot, paid for by DeVos money an is simply a minion of our dictator and chief. He should be soundly removed from office. Devis’ appointment is a testament to how one can achieve if they have the money to pay for it. Simply take a look at who has benefitted from this past year

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