In recent months, as schools closed to limit the spread of COVID-19, millions of students, teachers, and administrators have been forced to flip a switch and embrace distance learning. Many states have hinted that this situation could continue well into the next school year. Now, panic is spreading among public school advocates as key proponents of “disruptive” education models scramble to capitalize on the chaos. First came the news, in late April, that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has long been a political and financial supporter of school choice schemes, has been authorized by Congress to hand out $307 million in grant money to state departments of education—provided they use the funds to “reimagine” (read: privatize) K-12 schooling.
Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education are facing allegations of possible union busting. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) recently filed a complaint against the education secretary’s department accusing the department of unfair labor practices and failing to negotiate “in good faith” with the union. “Secretary Betsy DeVos and her management team are attempting to strip employees of their collective bargaining rights and kill the union,” Claudette Young, AFGE Council 252 president, said.
"People are universally appalled, universally aghast by a year of failures." Teachers' groups, parents, and students were barred from entering the Department of Education on Thursday, the anniversary of Betsy DeVos's confirmation as Education Secretary, to present her with a "Failing" report card alongside tens of thousands of comments from teachers who disapprove of her performance leading the nation's public education system. "This is a remarkable moment...this is the first time that I have ever been to this building where we were not let in."—Randi Weingarten, AFT President. After assembling protesters who wanted to express dissatisfaction over DeVos's record on protecting civil rights and supporting funding for low-income schools, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association head Lily Eskelsen García found the doors to the Department locked.
Betsy DeVos delivered a commencement speech at the University of Baltimore on Monday, sparking protests from students and members of the community. Her speech focused on the topics of thoughtfulness, selflessness, and perseverance. She also stressed multiple paths to professional success, including certificate programs, micro-degrees, and apprenticeships, and waded into debates about free speech on campus. Students booed loudly as she was announced to speak, but remained mostly silent throughout her speech. When the university first announced DeVos would be the fall commencement speaker in September, student government leaders spoke out against the choice.
By Staff of Badass Teacher's Association - The Badass Teachers Association, a grassroots national education activist organization with over 200,000 teachers and education activists in their network, strongly condemn Sec. DeVos for rescinding special education guidance documents. Guidance documents are the federal interpretation of regulations that make it easier for states and districts to understand, and to help them draft policy. BATs has stated before and will reiterate, that federal guidance is needed to ensure that all children receive a free and appropriate education. Federal guidance is needed so that education is rooted in equity, equality, and fairness for all children regardless of zip code or capability. “Knowledge is power- DeVos has chosen to keep parents in the dark about the educational and legal rights of their children with disabilities. In rescinding USDOE guidelines, she is allowing states and local districts to interpret the law in their interest without consistency, thus abandoning a commitment to equity of protection for all children. This decision sets us back to the days when parents were on their own in securing a free, appropriate public education for their disabled children.” ~ Terry Kalb, Co-Director BATs Special Education Committee, and Special Education Advocate
By Karen Wolfe for The Progressive - Silicon Valley-based Rocketship is a charter school chain with a bevy of star backers that’s reported sky-high student achievement and recently landed a $12.6 million grant from Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education. But beyond the hype is a galaxy of problems, including plummeting test scores, litigation and allegations of student mistreatment. Co-founded by the brain behind Yahoo’s first advertising platform, John Danner and Teach For America alum, Preston Smith, Rocketship has attracted the support of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists whose fortunes were made disrupting industries with tech: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and early Apple investor Arthur Rock, among others. Rocketship has grown over the last decade into a network of thirteen schools around the country, serving nearly 8,000 kindergarten through fifth-grade students who are overwhelmingly poor and Latino. The venture proclaims it is “dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap” with a business model which, Education Week explains, “replace[s] one credentialed teacher per grade with software and an hourly-wage aide, freeing up $500,000 yearly per school.”
By Staff of Diane Ravitch - My name is Jesse Hagopian and I teach ethnic studies at Seattle’s Garfield High School. I hope you didn’t just stop reading this letter after you heard the subject I am teaching—I urge you to keep reading. I am writing in regards to the Washington Policy Center’s $350-a-person fundraising dinner you will be addressing on October 13 at the Hyatt Regency in the nearby city of Bellevue. Thousands of my colleagues and I will surround the building to make sure the world knows your message of division is not welcome here. Given the recent protests of your speeches at Harvard, at historically black Bethune-Cookman University, and many other places, you must be getting used to this by now. But just so there are no surprises, let me tell you what to expect. There will be bull horns, signs, speeches, and I bet some of the more creative teachers—perhaps the few art teachers your proposed budget hasn’t cut yet—will show up in grizzly bear costumes, referencing the asinine comment you made defending the use of guns in schools to “protect from potential grizzlies.” There will be students there questioning your qualifications to serve as Secretary of Education, given that they have more experience with the public schools than you. They might point out that you never attended public schools and neither did any of your four children.
By Spencer Buell for Boston Daily - Protesters, some standing with their fists in the air and waving signs that included the words “white supremacist,” swarmed to greet Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Thursday night at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. DeVos, despised by advocates for public schools and victims of on-campus sexual assault, was there to give a talk about her pro-“school choice” views on education. As she has done since her appointment to the position by the Trump administration, DeVos in her speech argued for the promotion of alternatives to public schools, advocating for policies that would give parents the option to send their kids to privately-run charter schools, diverting funding from public schools pay for it. “I came into office with a core belief: it is the inalienable right and responsibility of parents to choose the learning environment that best meets their child’s unique, individual needs,” she said, according to prepared remarks provided by the Department of the Education. “Now, I’ve been called the ‘school choice Secretary’ by some,” she continued, “I think it’s meant as an insult, but I wear it as a badge of honor!” During the speech, video taken at the event shows a pair of students standing up silently in their chairs and unfurling a pair of signs. One read “white supremacist” in all-caps. The other read “Our students are not 4 sale.” Dozens more students stood silently in the hall, also brandishing signs.
By Elizabeth Janney for Baltimore Batch - Students last week were also protesting against DeVos at another campus, this time in Arlington, Virginia, where the education secretary announced plans to roll back Title IX guidelines regarding sexual assault. Under the Obama administration guidelines, schools were told to use the lowest standard of proof, called “preponderance of the evidence,” in prosecuting sexual assault cases. In an address at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School last week, DeVos said colleges must raise the burden of proof in order to protect the rights of both victims and those that they accuse because “the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students.” Said DeVos: “Any perceived offense can become a full-blown Title IX investigation, but if everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment." Her statement drew criticism for equating the harm done to falsely accused students with the suffering of assault survivors. The University of Baltimore stood by its decision to invite DeVos to speak at the fall commencement, issuing this statement on Facebook...
By David Halperin for Republic Report - Betsy DeVos, whose interest in education prior to the Trump administration seemed mostly focused on K-12 schools, has made her mark as Secretary of Education instead with a remarkably blatant embrace of the worst demands of the for-profit college industry. The reputation of that industry, which at its peak a few years ago had 10 percent of U.S. college students and was getting as much as $32 billion a year from taxpayers in student grants and loans, was in tatters after a decade of government and media investigations exposing abusive practices by many for-profit schools: deceptive and coercive student recruiting, sky-high prices, low spending on instruction, and terrible job placement outcomes, leaving former students across America with crushing loan debt and often without the jobs they sought. But instead of continuing the Obama Administration’s increasingly determined efforts to protect students and taxpayers by holding predatory for-profit schools accountable, which was beginning to push schools to improve their ethics and quality...
By Alexandra Rosenmann for AlterNet - The ALEC meeting comes just a week after the education secretary's talks with men's rights activists. Hundreds of protesters descended on the Colorado Statehouse on Wednesday, one day ahead of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' speech at the annual American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Denver. The meeting comes just a week after the education secretary's controversial talks on Title IX guidelines with so-called men's rights activists and other skeptics of the federal law that has consistently protected victims of campus sexual assault. “My primary concern is DeVos’ commitment to protecting sexual assault perpetrators and those accused of sexual assault,” University of Denver doctoral student Alicia Mountain told the Denver Post at the rally. Meanwhile, Suzanne Ethredge, president of the local teacher's union, remained wary of the secretary's long-term preference for school choice.
By Jennifer Berkshire for Alternet - Here, two decades of the policies that the Trump/DeVos education budget now wants to take national, have resulted in white flight and school closures, leaving Holland’s poor and minority students segregated in the few schools that remain open. I traveled to Holland last week for the annual Tulip Time festival, a celebration of the city’s Dutch heritage. But along with Dutch shoes and swagger, the legacy of Michigan’s now two-decade experiment with school choice was on vivid display as well, and it wasn’t pretty. First, some background. During the endless runup to DeVos’ confirmation hearing last year, it was the Wild West-style school choice she’d pushed in Detroit that garnered most of the attention. But DeVos was also behind Michigan’s inter-district choice policies that, starting in 2000, disrupted neighborhood attendance zones, just as the Trump administration’s proposed budget seeks to do. In Michigan, school choice has become the new white flight as white families have fled their resident districts for schools that are less diverse. The most dramatic example of this may be in DeVos’ own hometown of Holland.
By Brad Poling for Occupy - The Washington Post last week revealed a draft of the Education Department’s proposed budget, which it described as a “near final version of the bill.” The proposal, now confirmed, includes $10.6 billion in cuts to federal education spending, including $3.1 billion for teacher trainer, class-size reduction, and after-school programs for students. It’s not all cuts, though. Plans include $500 million to invest in charter schools, $250 million in voucher program expansion funding, and $1 billion to “push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies.” Just one day after the Post’s report, additional details emerged to complete the bleak picture of the Trump administration’s plans. On Friday, the Education Department outlined plans to contract a single student-loan servicer to collect on its behalf. The announcement also hinted that the contract will go to one of three companies: GreatNet, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), or Navient. In a prepared statement, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended the change, stating that “the federal student loan servicing solicitation we inherited was cumbersome and confusing...
By Jacob Sugarman for AlterNet - $9.2 billion—that's the amount the Trump administration plans to slice from the Department of Education, according to its latest budget proposal. The carnage includes deep cuts to teacher training, mental health, school arts, anti-bullying initiatives and countless other services, as well as the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which affects as many as 400,000 college graduates. Manning the guillotine is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has emerged as one of the Trump administration's most reviled figures among Democrats; all 48 senators voted against her confirmation in February. What few are willing to acknowledge, however, is that their party's embrace of the education reform movement helped make DeVos' political career possible. Indeed her proposed voucher system, allowing parents to use public funding for private and religious schools, builds upon a school choice model introduced by Governor Bill Clinton and later championed by President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In an essay for the New Republic, academic and educational policy analyst Diane Ravitch traces how the Democrats went so horribly astray on education
By Andrew Emett for Nation of Change - During a university commencement speech on Wednesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received a cold reception as hundreds of graduating students stood up and turned their backs to her while booing throughout her speech. Trump adviser and former contestant on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Omarosa Manigault also received boos from the students in protest against the Trump administration. While attending the graduation ceremony at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault briefly stood up on stage when hundreds of students began booing and shouting in disgust. In Omarosa’s defense, university President Edison Jackson rebutted, “You don’t know her. And nor do you know her story.” As Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos approached the podium to deliver her commencement address, approximately half of the graduating class immediately stood up to turn their backs to her while booing her speech. The crowd could also be heard cheering at one point after a man reportedly pumped his fist in the air as security escorted him out of the building.