Education News

DeVos is using COVID-19 to push her radical agenda

By Amanda Menas

As schools districts deal with the ramifications of the COVID pandemic, students and educators need more support than ever. Without a single educator on the task force focused on reopening the economy, 51 million public school students do not have an advocate in the White House fighting for the resources needed to keep them safe. Betsy DeVos has refused to stand up for school communities during this crisis. Instead, she is using the pandemic to push her failed privatization agenda to defund public schools and threaten educator jobs, even if it means putting students in harm’s way.

“It is shameful that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would use a pandemic like the coronavirus to, once again, push her failed privatization agenda to defund public schools,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “DeVos shamefully would steal away these scarce funds to pay for her vouchers, further hurting our most vulnerable students. Her political agenda is irresponsible and hurtful to students.”

DeVos’ actions confirm what educators already know about where her priorities lie–with big businesses and the privatization movement, not with students and educators. Despite the urgent need for funding among public schools for things like improved technology to ensure all students have access to distance learning and personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep educators and education support professionals safe, DeVos’ Department of Education has been slow in disbursing tens of billions of dollars approved by Congress from getting into the hands of schools, educators and students. She would rather divert funding from public schools to pay for vouchers, hurting our most vulnerable students. 

Here are six ways Secretary DeVos is undermining public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic:

She stole money from public schools for vouchers

On March 27, DeVos spoke at the Coronavirus Task Force Press Conference to lay out a proposal for “microgrants” that sound eerily similar to private school vouchers. During the briefing, she said she needed additional authority from Congress to enact the program, but later moved forward with her “microgrant” proposal anyways. Funding for the vouchers would be taken from emergency funding set aside by Congress to meet the educational needs of states most impacted by COVID-19. 

She is undercutting Title IX protections for victims

DeVos issued new rules for public and private colleges and universities that will force victims of sexual assault to again face their abusers during hearings, receive increased scrutiny regarding the severity of the assault or harassment, and limited assistance in school investigations. Victims rights groups say these rules silence survivors and roll back civil rights, making campuses more dangerous for everyone.

She ignores the law and prioritizes private schools over public schools

Under the CARES Act, local education agencies that receive funding during the pandemic to provide services to public schools are told to distribute the funds to non-public schools in the same manner. However, DeVos’s guidance directs the agencies to determine funding for private schools based on total enrollments, versus the previous year’s Title I dollars as public schools do. This guidance, opposed by the NEA, creates an inequitable environment where wealthy children in private schools are counted at the direct expense of low-income children remaining in public schools.

She pushes vouchers on Native Americans

DeVos proposed a new Department of Education rule that aims to expand vouchers under the Bureau of Indian Education’s Demonstration Grants for Indian Children and Youth Program. Her rule would create a new priority for private school option grant proposals that undermine the public schools that serve the majority of American Indian students, by redirecting resources to fund the education of a few, select students in alternative settings.

She plans to bail out religious schools at the expense of public schools

Secretary DeVos recently participated on a call with Catholic leaders where President Trump expressed support for additional assistance for select private schools and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Catholic leaders urged the Administration for direct tuition assistance for Catholic families to attend Catholic schools, which would come at the direct expense of public school students.

She targets immigrant students

DeVos was at the center of a heartless decision to discriminate against undocumented college students by restricting who can access federal emergency assistance for food, childcare, and housing during this pandemic. DeVos and the Department of Education specifically chose to bar students who cannot apply for federal financial aid, even though the law itself does not restrict any group. NEA told Telemundo that DeVos’ decision showed “an astonishing level of cruelty.”

Tell Congress to reject Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ “microgrants” and other voucher schemes that siphon funding from public schools and undermine accountability.

5 responses to “DeVos is using COVID-19 to push her radical agenda

  1. As a student who wants to go into Education Reform, this is sad, and mark my words when I say I’m going to do something about it in the future.

  2. Sec DeVos,
    You are in the position of advocating for a competitive education for ALL OUR CHILDREN! How can you discriminate against the most vulnerable of our children? How can you do your job by not visiting public schools? You disregard the work of so many talented, hard-working educators in this country. Shame on you!

  3. While Ms. DeVos may definitely be in the wrong, my greatest concern is related to the level of “public” education the writer of this article actually attained. Please refrain from utilizing informal language when writing to the general public; we aren’t all ill-educated.

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