Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education And America’s Public Schools

People nominated and confirmed to be in the President’s cabinet are supposed to represent ALL of the people in the country, not just those with vested interests. This has not been the case with Betsy DeVos. Ms. DeVos has every right as a private citizen to lobby for her views on public education. She does not have the right to serve as a lobbyist for charter schools at the expense of public schools.

There are numerous examples of this:

  • DeVos recently made headlines when she attempted to cut the Department of Education’s funding for Special Olympics only to have the decision reversed by the White House. President Trump countermanded Ms. DeVos recommendation of eliminating funding for the Special Olympics which provides 272,000 students with disabilities with athletic opportunities at school. Her proposal would eliminate $17 million.
  • Neither Ms. DeVos, her husband or her children attended public schools. Ms. DeVos has literally spent millions of dollars lobbying for charter schools. While she has recommended huge cuts in overall education spending, she has requested a $517 million increase in funding for charter as well as private-school vouchers and an additional $1 billion for local districts to implement “open enrollment” programs allowing student to attend any area public school, as well as charters and to take state and federal funds with them.
  • The Democrats has requested spending $100 billion to fix up crumbling schools. DeVos has prioritized charter and private-school vouchers at the expense of traditional public schools while cutting over $7 billion for the Department of Education overall.
  • For the third straight year, the Trump administration has proposed a cut in funding for the U.S. Department of Education.
  • She has expanded on her ideas of budget cuts in the US Department of Education while at the same time requesting additional funds for charter schools.
  • She has made misstatements that increased school spending hasn’t helped students, but there is substantial research that indicates increased spending has resulted in better academic outcomes.
  • Educational spending in inflation adjusted dollars has remained relatively flat. While federal spending has increased, Some states have cut spending.
  • She suggested that American education has gotten worse since 1979. But nationally fourth-and eighth grade test scores as well as high school graduation rates have generally risen.
  • She says we need better prepared teachers, but her Fiscal Year 2020 budget requested a cut of more than $4 billion K-12 education programs that support education professional development. At the same time, she has requested more than $5 billion for school vouchers.
  • According to an article in the New York Times Magazine: ““The DeVos family, owners of the largest charters lobbying organization has showered Michigan Republican candidates and organizations with impressive and near-unprecedented amounts of money this campaign cycle: 1.45 million in June and July alone- over a seven-week period.”
  • There isn’t any oversight to Michigan’s spending. By 2000, Michigan had 184 charter schools, third after Arizona and California. According to a NY Times Magazine article, “Michigan has gone from being fairly average state in elementary and math achievement to the bottom 10 states. A 2017 Stanford University study found that increasing charter school enrollment in a school district has done little to improve achievement gaps.
  • The Detroit Free Press (January 18, 2017) conducted a yearlong investigation and published in June 2014 which showed that Michigan taxpayers invested nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools. The newspaper viewed two decades of charter school records and found wasteful spending and double dipping by school board members, school founder and employees steering lucrative contracts to themselves.
  • Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn highlighted an inspector general study that stated that closed charter schools stated that $1 billion in federal funding was wasted on charter schools that never opened or were closed to mismanagement.
  • A 2016 review commissioned by the National Education Policy Center found that Michigan’s per-pupil spending has fallen in Midwestern states from the middle to near the bottom.

Our education budget is a reflection of our values. In an era where we need to have globally competitive schools, safe schools, schools where the ceilings do not leak, where floor titles are not cracked, where paint is not cracking, where water is fit to drink and where teachers are paid a living wage, money should not be siphoned off from public funds into private pockets.

For more of Franklin’s thoughts, see