Education News

DeVos (again) shows her agenda puts students at the end of the line

by Félix Pérez

It’s been more than two weeks since Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ widely panned appearance before a U.S. House committee in which she sought to defend President Trump’s education budget. And if her testimony before a U.S. Senate committee this week is any indication, DeVos hasn’t learned from her mistakes.

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DeVos, a longtime funder and advocate for taking scarce funding from public schools to give to private schools in the form of vouchers or tax credits, again refused to say if federally funded voucher and charter schools would be banned from discriminating against students based on their sexual orientation or religion. “On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees,” said DeVos in one of her multiple variations of the same evasive answer.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon, grew exasperated at DeVos’ noncommittal response:

I think it’s important for the public to know that today the secretary of education, before this committee, refused to affirm that she would put forward a program that would ban discrimination based on LGBTQ status of students or ban discrimination based on religion.

DeVos’ refusal to say that private schools that discriminate would be barred from receiving federal funds echoes her responses at the House hearing last month, when she declined to offer a direct response. US Rep. Katherine Clark of Connecticut, frustrated, pressed DeVos. “So if I understand your testimony — I want to make sure I get this right. There is no situation of discrimination or exclusion that if a state approved it for its voucher program that you would step in and say that’s not how we are going to use our federal dollars?”

DeVos’ nonresponse: “I go back to the bottom line — is we believe parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions.”

Similarly, DeVos would not say that private voucher schools should be obligated to honor the rights of students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the American with Disabilities Act. Fourteen times when asked, she trotted out the same response: “Any institution receiving federal funding is required to follow federal law.” Despite questions from several senators, DeVos steadfastly refused to state the rights of all students would be safeguarded.

DeVos drew pointed remarks and questions from both Democrats and Republicans during her painful Senate hearing. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the Republican chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, told her that Trump-DeVos’ $9 billion in cuts to multiple education programs and services were unlikely to pass. Said Blunt:

This is a difficult budget request to defend. I think it’s likely that the kinds of cuts that are proposed in this budget will not occur, so we need to fully understand your priorities and why they are your priorities.

Sen. Blunt later added that “the outright elimination of several large formula grant programs — like the 21st Century Learning Centers — I think will be all but impossible to get through this committee.”

The hearing was not without its bizarre moment. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) said choosing a school should be like choosing mayonnaise. “Now I can go down to my overpriced Capitol Hill grocery this afternoon and choose among about six different types of mayonnaise. How come I can’t do that for my kid?”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) took exception to the remark:

With all due respect to my colleague from Louisiana — education is not mayonnaise. And frankly, the day we start treating the education of our children like the marketing of a condiment is the day we have given up on our kids.

See the Kennedy-Murphy exchange here:

The comparison of a school to a consumer good is not unfamiliar to DeVos. She has likened neighborhood pubic schools to outdated flip phones. She also has said a parent selecting a school is akin to choosing between a taxi and Uber or Lyft, car-sharing services.

It’s been more than four months since DeVos assumed her position overseeing policy for the nation’s public education system. Alarmingly, in that time, she has not shown much change from when, two years ago, she called public schools “a dead end.”

9 responses to “DeVos (again) shows her agenda puts students at the end of the line

  1. Amazing how those supposedly supporting education can create quite the spin here, which i believe is what needs to be removed from education. First, that the focus is on the rights of the students and ‘ states of belief about what one is”, from an education system that by design is out dated, and the cause of so much confusion to the child in flip flopping around with how they should define themselves without any real opportunity to understand any real practical application! No wonder, so many in education are a consequence of studying theory without application that they have no real discipline and say things such as ” they have talent’ which is in itself a separation from how we really learn, because, despite educational propaganda as theory , in the system, about how we learn, we all learn the same way! We place our presence into the space of the thing- unless one is stuck in a mind consciousness of limited information, evident in a loss of real critical and creative thinking skills, AND THIS IS WHO IS TEACHING OUR CHILDREN! For me, the point is to get the feds out of education, and to hand this back to the communities and the parents. Then maybe, we will not have children busily focused on their gender to the degree that they learn no real self discipline and practical ability to be happy with who and what they are! After all, sexual activity in our lives, an intimate and what-should-be-respected- thing, is but a part of our lives, where most of our lives are spent in communicating with others, learning about this practical and physical world, understanding the environment to greater degrees, and learning how to take care of our bodies so that we do not move through puberty with ever increasing younger ages, that end up bringing up all the hormones that distract us from really developing ourselves within our real and full potential. Perhaps we would rejoice in what we naturally are, and not spend so much time focusing on an idea that we should be different. A child that does not know who they are and are confused, end up wandering into ideas, as they are incredibly vulnerable, to ideas which only reflects a system out of whack with building a real sense of self. I am not against someone deciding they want to be a sex other than what they are, I am saying that if it has become a fad, where there are those who may not have ever thought about it, but from peer pressure, then what we are doing with this very limited focus, and justification in this article, is the problem, and it is time that such ideologues were removed from educating our children. It is time to stop asking irrelevant questions and get with the program of ending an outdated system that is not working because by design, it cannot work. You cannot know a tiger in a zoo, and memorizing how to play an instrument is not real learning, it, by design, is and cannot be, really knowing something. Wake up!

  2. I’ve always wondered why the liberal side of this issue which provokes argument for its own sake yet does not understand that more and more money and programs have not and will not improve the education of public school students AND that trying to listen to the opposing party with a more open mind may be what is needed to 1) help your side and 2) improve public education… which despite your attitude needs help beyond the problems you try to foist on the opposing views. Butwhat do I know? I’ve only been teaching since 1958,

    1. You are quite correct. You should know better after all of that time as a teacher. I saw the Republican effort to privatize public schools with the phony 1983 “A Nation at Risk” report issued by the Reagan administration’s so-called Commission on Excellence in Education. I spent 33 years in a high school classroom and 5 years as a high school principal. I also spent 20 years as president of my local teachers association and served on the Massachusetts Teachers Association Board of Directors and Executive Committee. It seems to me that you are not very well informed on the evolution of the privatization movement. Are you a delegate to the NEA-RA in Boston? Hope to see you there.

  3. Why are we putting in charge, someone who has almost no clue what is happening in classrooms across the country? High ranking positions in the field of education in all 50 states are occupied by people who know almost nothing about our classrooms because they do not enter those rooms. DeVoss is not the only one

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