And a couple of additional items.
In the lead-up to billionaire Republican megadonor and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, numerous media outlets published deep-dive investigations into DeVos’ background, significant political contributions, potential conflicts of interest, far-right ideology, and negative influence on Michigan policies.
But since she formally took over at the Department of Education, the investigative work seems to have mostly dropped off; coverage of DeVos has focused more on her public gaffes than the inner workings of the agency she now runs. It certainly doesn’t help that DeVos and her department have struggled with media transparency. As education media writer Alexander Russo wrote, “DeVos takes press questions at events only occasionally, has yet to grant a formal interview with a major national education reporter, and heads a department that only intermittently provides answers in a timely manner – through a spokesperson whose name reporters are forbidden to use. The agency has even struggled to put out her weekly schedule in advance of public events.”
It’s time for investigative journalists to dig deeper and shine light on DeVos’ priorities, such as early staffing decisions at the Education Department. There’s certainly plenty to explore — many of the temporary staffers in the Education Department are veterans of the right-wing think tank echo chamber on “education reform,” and some have anti-LGBTQ and anti-black track records. Like DeVos, almost none have spent significant time as educators.
In the world we’re in:
Student loan companies will be free to charge thousands of dollars in fees to borrowers who miss payments, even if they immediately attempt to catch up, the Trump administration said (March 16), reversing Obama-era guidance that banned the charges.
The reversal was the first visible move on student loan policy by Trump’s Education Department, and suggests the administration may ultimately take a more industry-friendly approach to student lending…
USA Funds, then the country’s largest guarantor of indirect federal loans, sued the Education Department in 2015 for the right to charge a fee as high as 16% to people who had started to repay their loans within 60 days of defaulting. The woman at the center of the case had tried to repay her loans just 18 days after she was told she had gone into default — and then was hit with $4,500 in fees on a loan of $18,000.
– “The number of hungry and homeless students rises along with college costs” (MPR)
In a potential, better one:
The election of 2016 forced us, like so many Americans, to reconsider much of what we imagined we knew about our country and our society. For example, only a few months ago there was a growing, nation-wide movement for tuition-free higher education. At the time, we proposed debt forgiveness for the many Americans – the figure now stands at 43 million – who carry the burden of student loans.
Now, all three branches of government are under the control of ideologues who espouse a harsh and individualistic brand of conservatism. That forces us to ask ourselves: How can we pursue such an ambitious and visionary goal when we are confronted with a direct challenge to the communitarian ideals that have guided this nation to its best achievements?
And yet, individually and together, we have reached the same conclusion: this is a more important time than ever to reaffirm our bravest and highest values. Jubilee – the ancient concept of debt forgiveness as an affirmation of community – reflects those values. We can reject the reactionary principles that the right wing represents by embracing the concept of a student debt jubilee as the symbol of our long-held community values.
Though it’s certainly possible, we probably can’t count on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos getting caught up in this Russia thing.
Levy’s observations are confirmed by my report on how the “school choice” issue, so beloved by big-money Republicans, is hitting opposition from red state rural Americans. Rural schools across the country face formidable problems including high dropout rates, low academic performance, and lousy funding. None of these problems will be solved by creating more charter schools and using vouchers to siphon off even more students and resources. In fact, that option will only make things worse.
So the unprecedented opposition to DeVos is more about a struggle over the soul—at least an education soul—of America. And regardless of how the vote turns out, this fight is not about to end.
Public school teachers scared s*itless by the prospect of Betsy DeVos becoming Secretary of Education filled the Internet with bear memes and rallied in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Park, and Eyota on Thursday as part of the national “Reclaim our Schools” protests.
DeVos is seen as a threat to public education because she’s a billionaire lobbyist whose career was built on expanding charter schools (typically underachieving and union busting) and routing taxpayer money to private schools (not subject to uniform standards of student performance). She has never attended or worked in a public school.
Two significant points:
– The committee vote on DeVos has been postponed.
– Much more often than not, voters rejected the deformer agenda last November. Even in Georgia.
I’ll have more in-depth stuff about Trump and education, but for now I’m just noting this huge red flag regarding his cabinet pick. It’s an aspect of her agenda that I don’t think has been getting the attention that it should, what with the wretched, and disturbing, reality of Trump’s planned Cabinet of Deplorables on the whole.
Why did (Betsy DeVos) and her husband choose to get involved in the political battles over public education even though they did not send their kids to public schools and they financially support private Christian schools?
In a joint interview for “The Gathering,” a group focused on advancing Christian ideology through philanthropy, she and her husband said they decided to focus on reforming public education and funding for private education because the “Lord led us there” and “God led us.”
At that meeting, they were asked if it would not have been simpler to fund Christian schools directly rather than fund political efforts like vouchers to get more tax dollars to fund Christian schools, and she replied: “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education versus what is spent every year on education in this country… So, our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s Kingdom,” adding that they want “to impact our culture [in ways] that may have great Kingdom gain in the long-run by changing the way we approach things.”
(Center for Media and Democracy)
I’m not a religion-basher. I am strongly against efforts to destroy public education, on right-wing religious grounds or otherwise.