Education News

Rollbacks, attacks and tumult mark DeVos’s first year

by Félix Pérez

Today marks Betsy DeVos’s first anniversary 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. She has not backed away from her mission to tear down public schools and the teachers and education support professionals who work in them, while she has removed protections against predatory for-profit schools and rolled back student rights.

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Lily Eskelsen García, an elementary teacher from Utah and president of the National Education Association, said DeVos has “betrayed and undermined the fundamental mission of public schools to provide opportunity for every student who walks through the door. . . To say that 2017 was a tumultuous year at the federal agency that oversees education policy affecting more than 50 million students is an understatement.”

Eskelsen García, who announced a petition calling for DeVos to resign, added, “We can do better then DeVos. We have to.” She continued:

Over the last few weeks, more than 40,000 members and activists continued to voice their objections about the numerous ways Betsy DeVos has failed students and public schools in the last year. They confirmed what educators already knew: she is the most unqualified education secretary the nation has ever had.

Sign the petition calling on Betsy DeVos to resign.

DeVos’s influence is not limited to the federal government. Below you will find governors races where she and her family have made contributions to candidates who ascribe to her philosophy. Here, in descending order, are our top 5 DeVos 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.”

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:

6 responses to “Rollbacks, attacks and tumult mark DeVos’s first year

  1. Betsy DeVos’ idea of taking much- needed Title 4 Mental Health and STEM, Arts and education money to fund gun-
    purchases and gun-education for teachers is so insane that perhaps some of the money should be used to educate her in reality! Only someone totally out of touch and ignorant of what transpires in schools would suggest something to take away separately needed funds. What’s the matter with her?

  2. I have said this before…Shame on the teachers who vote for politicians who seek only to undermine the very nature of our profession. We have done this to ourselves. Stop pointing fingers at politicians who are killing middle class families and public education. We the teachers are supposed to be educated to the facts behind the agendas of these politicians. Instead we vote as if we knew not what the package contained. Standup. Quit waiting for someone else to stop the disaster that is happening in education. I have taught for twenty five years. These young kids think that we have always enjoyed these benefits. Well you kids will have to teach for nearly forty years. Along this path you’ll reap loss of healthcare. Loss of seniority. Loss of union protection. Taxing your benefits as income. This is just a few things your voting is doing. Congratulations. Call your parents. Tell them to save the basement bedroom for you. In just a few short years you’ll be back home with them.

  3. She is a shocking reminder of how autocratic governments can take over a democracy by not supporting a free public education system that encourages questioning and humanitarian values. She would support extreme religious ideologies with our tax money. Very scary.

  4. Devos is a huge mistake. She needs to be ousted or resign. Bribes to rid us of public schools and support private schools, as well as vouchers is so blatantly wrong. Wake up my fellow Repuclicans and replace her‼️

  5. Betsy DeVos stands for the wealthy. She does not care about those who need education. To take away benefits from teachers is beyond belief. These people have worked hard for their students and many chose to teach even though they could have gone into many other fields with better benefits and more money. Anyone serving in a position where they are charged to be responsible to all students and uses this for own agenda to ruin public education thereby creating greater division between the rich and poor should be fired.

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