When Donald Trump announced that Betsy DeVos was his pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education, we reported that putting “the four-star general of the voucher movement” in charge of federal education policy was a declaration of war against public schools.
A new report from People For the American Way highlights in greater depth DeVos’ role in the big-money, hardball political warfare that has been waged against public education by the Religious Right, anti-government conservatives, and profiteers looking to cash in on government education spending:
Betsy DeVos and her extraordinarily wealthy family have helped to build the Religious Right’s political and policy infrastructure; lobbied for legislation to expand charter schools programs and protect them from regulation and oversight; promoted vouchers and related tax schemes to steer money away from public schools; and poured money into political attacks on elected officials, including Republicans, who resist their plans for the privatization of education. Putting DeVos in charge of the Department of Education is not just having the fox guard the henhouse, says writer Jay Michaelson, it is giving the job to the slaughterer.
The report notes that advocates for “school choice” promote a marketplace fundamentalism that assumes competition and limited government oversight will always produce better results, even though the data don’t back them up. That is especially true in DeVos’ home state of Michigan, where the school choice experiments she pushed have led to “chaos,” making the state what a New York Times story called “among the worst places to argue that choice has made schools better.”
The DeVos nomination, in conjunction with Trump’s announced plan to divert billions in education funding into vouchers, could lead, according to education reporters cited in the report, to an erosion of programs that serve the country’s most vulnerable children, and to a worst-case scenario in which “bad private schools proliferate, and public schools get worse.”
The report quotes Tulane University’s Douglas Harris saying “The DeVos nomination is a triumph of ideology over evidence that should worry anyone who wants to improve results for children.”
People For the American Way has urged senators to reject the DeVos nomination.