Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation Hearing –A Critique

A Critique of Betsy DeVos


Betsy DeVos’s Education Hearing Erupts Into Partisan Debate

By Kate Zernike and Yamiche Alcindor

JAN. 17, 2017

DeVos Endorses ‘Choice’ in Education


The authors stated, “Betsy DeVos, in her hearing to be education secretary, said parents should be allowed to choose where their children attend school.”

Perhaps, when and if viable alternatives can be found. Here are the statistics: 17% of charter schools do better than normal high schools, maybe as low as 15%, 48% do about the same, and 35% do worse. More than double do worse than do better. So, overall charter schools are a bad choice. Of those 17% that supposedly do better, they do so because they go to school about 50% more each school year, and some send bad students back to public schools.

On the practical side, not everyone can go to this same 15-17%. Some will argue that these schools can be duplicated. I say not. First of all, if we did then we’d be right back at where reformers want to get away from and that is one size fits all. Secondly, if a charter actually works and I do say if, then it is because of the particular students and not the methods used. There is no guarantee that it will work elsewhere. A lot of kids are bored and how much more so if they had to go to classes 50% more?

So, there are no viable alternatives. What’s more they use our kids and teachers as guinea pigs to experiment with a new charter school. This is using the kids as a means to an end (to justify their methods). This is unethical.

WASHINGTON —  “At her confirmation hearing on Tuesday to be education secretary, Betsy DeVos vigorously defended her work steering taxpayer dollars from traditional public schools, arguing that it was time to move away from a “one size fits all” system and toward newer models for students from preschool to college.”, so wrote the authors.

This “one size fits all” model has done well for over 100 years. It has done well enough for the vast majority of kids. Most of the reformers themselves went through it, except for DeVos herself and her kids.

Tax dollars (Federal Tax dollars) should not go to education at all. Education is local thing, not even a state thing. But even assuming that the federal government has the ability to give the states money then the money should not be spent on even worse alternatives.

The authors affirmed, “The hearing quickly became a heated and partisan debate that reflected the nation’s political divide on how best to spend public money in education.”

The authors declared, “Republicans applauded Ms. DeVos’s work to expand charter schools and school vouchers, which give families public funds to help pay tuition at private schools. Democrats criticized her for wanting to “privatize” public education and pushed her, unsuccessfully, to support making public colleges and universities tuition-free.”

Nothing is free. Who is going to pay for all of this college — the taxpayers? This is not the first time that free college was proposed. It may have been proposed as early as the 1880s and it definitely was a part of the 1947 Truman Commission Report on Higher Education for Democracy! History truly does tend to repeat itself!!

The authors maintained, “Ms. DeVos, a billionaire with a complex web of investments, including in companies that stand to win or lose from federal education policy, was the first nominee of President-elect Donald J. Trump to have a Senate hearing without completing an ethics review on how she planned to avoid conflicts of interest. Democrats pointed out that in the past, Republicans had insisted that no hearings be conducted before those reviews were complete.”

This is a valid point. But it was being done, anyway. They should have refused to do it until she had passed Ethics muster.

With time limited [artificially set by the committee’s chairman], Democrats confronted Ms. DeVos with rapid-fire questions, demanding that she explain her family’s contributions to groups that support so-called conversion therapy for gay people; her donations to Republicans and their causes, which she agreed totaled about $200 million over the years; her past statements that government “sucks” and that public schools are a “dead end”; and the poor performance of charter schools in Detroit, where she resisted legislation that would have blocked chronically failing charter schools from expanding.

She would appear to push charter schools over public schools, to an extreme. But more than that—she failed to see the both the public schools and charter schools failed the kids of Detroit. Could it be the kids and not the schools? I do not place blame on anyone, including the kids. But some kids are not as smart as others. If you get a bunch of not-so-good students in one spot then the schools will look bad.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts pressed Ms. DeVos on how she could oversee the Education Department, the largest provider of student loans, given that she had no experience running a large bureaucracy and that neither she nor her children had ever taken out a student loan.

The authors stated, ““So you have no personal experience with college financial aid?” Ms. Warren asked.”

The authors avowed, “Ms. DeVos, who did not attend public schools or send her children to public schools, argued that vouchers and charter schools were simply a way of offering poor parents the kind of school choice that wealthy parents have long been able to afford.”

There is a major problem here—limited space for these private schools. Again, here is another illusion of choice. We did not have these schools when I grew up and we did just fine. We did have a few college prep schools but public high schools graduated enough scholars to go to college. I am fairly certain that those few college prep schools were not even necessary.

I am not sure that she needs experience in running a financial aid office. Others there will have that experience. My biggest question I have is fact that no Secretary of Education was an Educator, that is, had a college degree in K-12 education. Secretary Bell did have a PhD in Higher Education but then again he was chiefly responsible for the bogus April 1983 report, A Nation at Risk. Most people in the private sector get a job based on their college degree, when they can. Most Secretaries of Education have been Sociologists, Business, Lawyers, or Political Scientists (Governmental Management).

The authors assured, “She described a visit she and her husband, an heir to the Amway fortune, made to a Christian school in her hometown, Grand Rapids, Mich., as a turning point in her career as a school choice advocate. “We saw the struggles and sacrifices many of these families faced when trying to choose the best educational option for their children,” she said. “For me, this was not just an issue of public policy but of national injustice.””

OMG! One visit to any school will NOT give you a very good impression of what it is really like to be a student or teacher there!!!! Why is there all of a sudden a big need to choose? The local schools are good enough, for most – a very large percentage. We’ve all grown up with our local public schools and they served us well enough. It sounds like you’d prefer to have every kid going to their own school!

She has no idea what most parents go through, for their kids, to go to their local schools. It would be even more convoluted to go farther away to another school.

The authors stated, “But Democrats said research showed that voucher programs had done little to raise achievement among poor students.”

It is because they can’t and because the charter/magnate schools do worse than public schools on average. There is 111 and approaching 112 years of IQ data that says as much. I feel that around 25% will have a hard time graduating high school even though recently 84% did graduate. There is almost 10% that probably should not graduate that are graduating. Obama wants us to graduate 90% from our high schools by 2020. This is not the first time that 90% high school graduation rates were set as a goal. In 1989-1990, President Bush I and the 50 US Governors set it as one of its Goals 2000. They did not make it and neither will Obama’s goal for 2020. Of course he will not be in office when that goal fails to make it.

The authors wrote, “Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked Ms. DeVos, “Can you commit to us that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public education?””

I would say that she probably cannot say that. She is such a staunch supporter of charter schools, even one that fail!

The authors expressed, “Ms. DeVos said, “not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them” and that she would work to find “common ground” to give parents “options.””

In other words, not all kids can learn as well as some others. This is not a revolutionary idea. It is just a fact of life that cannot be changed. Reformers need to learn to accept this simple tautology.

Nearly all schools are working for the majority of the kids. That is no reason to trash the public education system. In fact it is a reason to keep the public education system. Even so-called dropout factories are graduating about 60% of its kids. This is still a majority.

People who come up with unachievable goals are unethical. Having more than 75% high school graduation rates is too high and having 90% high school is most assuredly unachievable. One of the tenants of a good ethical theory is ‘Practicability’, i.e., the ability to put it into practice. It must be practical. An unachievable goal is not practical, therefore, it is unethical.

Many kids in high school today are bored. This may very well be because we’ve dumbed down the education so much to allow more kids to graduate high school, to try to make these unachievable/unethical goals. Some have said that college graduates of today know about as much as the high school graduate of the 1950s. This is what they call progress?

The authors stated, “Mr. Alexander [Case in point he has a Law degree], himself a former education secretary, argued that Ms. DeVos’s support of charter schools and vouchers put her in the “mainstream” of public opinion, and that her critics were outside it. He noted that charter schools, which are publicly funded but typically run independently of local school districts and teachers’ unions, have been supported by Republican and Democratic presidents going back to Bill Clinton.”

Main steam thought much like MSM (Main Stream Media) is wrong! Most people go with the flow and the flow says vouchers, etc. Choice is good but only if the choice(s) is/are better. They are worse; therefore, they aren’t really viable choices.

Again, an ineffective choice is no real choice at all, just an illusion of choice. This whole renewed push maybe because of the, A Nation at Risk Report. It put a false sense of panic into the educational system. See the Sandia Report, 1990. It shoots holes in the, A Nation at Risk Report.

The authors stated, ““Charter schools are not the issue here,” said Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, where Democrats pushed the nation’s first law allowing charter schools nearly three decades ago. He noted that 37 states prohibit the use of public dollars for religious schools.”

Minnesota has got to be one state where school choice is not needed. They do very well with most still going to their neighborhood schools. I went to junior high and high school in the 1970s in Plymouth (Minneapolis), Minnesota.

If 37 (74%) states do not allow public dollars going for religious schools then 13 (26%) states do allow that, or about a 3:1 margin. What states do and what ones do not? This is the same ratio of normal and below normal IQs to higher IQs – 3:1. Ironic isn’t it? I am not saying that there is a connection but it is one heck of a coincidence.

Of course the same can be said for normal and higher IQ to lower IQs – 3:1. So, take your pick. Ironic a bit is it not?

The authors asserted, “One Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, expressed concern about Ms. DeVos’s enthusiasm for school choice — a moot point for many of her constituents, given the vastness of her state.”

Isn’t most of the population of Alaska in just a handful of major cities? Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks have more than ½ of the state’s population. I mean it is the biggest state by area but 48th in terms of population, at almost 750, 000, it is smaller than the 17 largest US cities. Senator Murkowski is right, as Alaska is the most sparsely populated state, so having school choice would be next to impossible except for the 3 cities I named above.

The authors concluded, ““When there is no way to get to an alternative option for your child, the best parent is left relying on a public school system that they demand to be there for their kids,” she said, asking Ms. DeVos to ensure that her commitment to traditional public education was as “strong and robust” as her passion for school choice.”

School choice really is no choice. It is a dichotomy.  It is an oxymoron to be more precise. This whole darn line of questioning is a moot point. It is much ado about nothing, a la Shakespeare.

For Alaska in particular they can’t have very many students at all. The state’s population is less than the population of Austin, Texas.

This whole school choice concept is more aesthetics. It appears to be viable option but it is not. It is appearance over reality. This is backwards and not as it should be.

Reformers just love to stir up trouble. They just want change, any change. They cannot stand anything that is the status quo. They must thrive on chaos.

Finally, school choice sounds good but it is not. DeVos probably will be confirmed but probably should not be. But it is the idea of pushing school choice at all costs, at any costs, which is wrong.


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