The Red Queen

The ultimate target of Betsy DeVos’ agenda isn’t teachers unions, or even the *education establishment.* It’s the Democratic Party…

Image result for vintage playing cards red queenBy the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

This story goes back a long ways, so settle in. We could start in the 1840’s, when the first Dutch settlers began to arrive in Western Michigan, or in 1970, when the DeVoses made their first attempt to amend the state constitution so as to allow for public funding for private, religious schools. Another obvious starting point is 1993, when then Governor John Engler called the public schools in Michigan an *educational gulag* and a *monopoly of mediocrity,* lobbing the first fusillade in a war against the state’s teachers that has never ceased. For the sake of brevity, though, I’ll fast forward to the mid-oughts, when Betsy’s husband Dick DeVos ran for governor. It was the fourth time that the DeVoses had brought their crusade to give the market and the Maker more sway over the state’s schools to the voters, and each time Mitten staters had delivered a resounding *no thanks* in response. And so the DeVoses pivoted. If they couldn’t convince voters to enact their favored policies, they’d purchase the legislature instead. Continue reading →

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Michigan, Here I Come!

Wow—a huge thanks to everyone who chipped in and made my *send EduShyster to the Mitten State* fundraising campaign such a success. In seven days, I raised $5,000 from 100 donors. Make that $5,025 from 101 donors. And while I did get a few three figure gifts (thanks Dad!), most of my contributions were small—$10 here, $18 there—from readers who want to know more about a would-be Secretary of Education and what the hell is going on in Michigan. So in just over three weeks, I’ll be hitting the road. Here’s where I’m headed, who I’ll be talking to and what I’m up to… Continue reading →

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Culture Warrior Princess

Betsy DeVos’ support for anti-gay groups goes far beyond what she admitted in her confirmation hearing.

Image result for family research councilIs there anything left to say about the awfulness of Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education? Alas, there is… Not nearly enough has been made of DeVos’ extreme closeness to the extreme fringes of the Christian right. She and her family have spent decades and millions upon millions to help further the reach of organizations like the Family Research Council, known for its *research* into homosexuality, which, by the way, is not a civil right. While media reports have referred in passing to DeVos’s support for Christian causes, they’ve largely glossed over what these causes are and how deeply enmeshed she is in a world that views homosexuality as immoral and abhorrent. Since her position comes with some responsibilities of the civil rights variety, should we maybe be concerned about this? Continue reading →

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The Long Game of Betsy DeVos

To understand Betsy DeVos’ vision for education, you have to know where she comes from…

devos1I first laid eyes upon Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, at Campbell Brown’s forum for GOP presidential contenders. It was the summer of 2015, back when Trump was little more than a punchline, and Jeb Bush, despite drooping in the August heat that day, still seemed like the real contender. Because the event wasn’t an official debate, Bush, Walker, Vindal, Fiorina et al couldn’t appear on stage together—which meant that Brown asked the same questions of each, and got similar pablum-esque non-answers, in an endless *conversational* format. And then suddenly there was Betsy DeVos, a Brown chum, holding forth about an education *moonshot.* It wasn’t what she said that interested me so much as what she represented. Could the education reform coalition’s major selling point, its bipartisan-ness, really stretch to incorporate the extreme right-wing views of DeVos? Mightn’t it be better for her to remain in the favored domain of the DeVos family, the shadows, or at least in Michigan? Continue reading →

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Awful Silence

School choice advocates have been largely silent on Trump’s awfulness—and that speaks volumes, says early childhood educator Jamila Carter

PHILADELPHIA EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATOR JAMILA CARTER.

By Jamila Carter
I recently read an opinion piece that was written by a school choice advocate who attempted to justify why so many white people voted for an openly racist, misogynist, xenophobe. The author pointed to class and the disenfranchisement of poor whites as the main drivers of the outcome, minimizing the role that racism played in the election results. But what was missing from this analysis was the fact that, of Trump’s voters, 45% were white, college educated women and 54% were white college educated.

Downplaying the fact that the foundation of Trump’s campaign was rooted firmly in fear and hatred of the *other* displays willful ignorance. And explaining the voting pattern of White America by class rather than race ignores history. Trump’s divide and conquer methods are nothing new. While those of us who are people of color, immigrants, Muslims or LGBTQ are still stunned, grieving and fearful of what a Trump Administration will mean for us, this writer and far too many others are insisting that we consider why so many white people opted to throw us under the bus.

Since America’s inception, we’ve seen elites and politicians pit working class whites against people of color in order to protect their own interests and acquire political gain. This is the very strategy that laid the foundation for a race based system of oppression. This is precisely the strategy that was used to win the election. People who voted for Trump transcend gender and class, and in some cases, race. But however deeply disillusioned Trump voters are with our economy and political system, it does not erase the fact that people voted for him despite his awful rhetoric, knowing that his proposed policies will not affect their lives.

It is hard for me to comprehend how those who paint themselves as champions for poor Black and Brown families, claiming to work tirelessly to ensure that these children have access to quality educational options, can somehow ignore the fact that Trump’s campaign othered and dehumanized, and in some cases, jeopardized the safety of these very families.

It is hard for me to comprehend how those who paint themselves as champions for poor Black and Brown families, claiming to work tirelessly to ensure that these children have access to quality educational options, can somehow ignore the fact that Trump’s campaign othered and dehumanized, and in some cases, jeopardized the safety of these very families. It’s incredibly hypocritical that education reformers see fit to appropriate the language of the civil rights movement and its most notable leaders to further their agenda, but somehow excuse Donald Trump supporters for their violent and racist attacks against anyone who doesn’t look like, pray like or love like them. There is no excuse. I’m not sure if these school choice advocates slept through the campaign, but the rest of America heard all too loudly Trump’s dog whistle uniting his supporters by invoking two emotions: hate and fear. It was at the very heart of his campaign.

Image result for trump protestsPerhaps some folks in the corporate education reform movement empathize with Trump supporters because the movement and the Trump campaign aren’t so different.  Both use disingenuous language that we have heard time and time again, never veering from the *message,* no matter how redundant or condescending. The difference is that the rhetoric spewed by the former, appeals to people who have been affected by systemic racism and disinvestment in the schools in their communities, while Trump’s rhetoric played on the fears of white people who felt that the America that they were entitled to had somehow slipped away. Hence the rallying cry: *Make America Great Again.* Unfortunately, this great America* doesn’t seem to include the children that these self-proclaimed advocates claim to want to *save.*

Trump insults us by pledging to clean up the *inner cities* through stop-and-frisk and a return to *law and order,* recycling the racist rhetoric of politicians of the past. The favored phrases of education reformers, meanwhile—grit, no excuses and accountability—may appear harmless at first, but pull back the veil and we realize that they lead to higher expulsion and suspension rates for  black and brown children, education that centers on standardized testing, and the implication that  poor children of color lack character and the ability to persevere when faced with hardship. Trump and education reformers also share an intolerance for criticism. Raise your voice against any aspect of the corporate education reform movement and you are *aiding in keeping poor black and brown children trapped in failing schools.*

I wonder how the *movement* that cloaks itself in the language of racial justice and civil rights will reconcile the fact that the President elect has thrown his full support behind school choice? Will they abandon their talking points to further the agenda? Will they in turn throw their full support behind a man who has stoked the fires of hate and fear? Or will they stand up for the families that have been systematically denied the same opportunities as their white counterparts?

No matter what the intent, the impact of this election will be devastating for our children. It’s time that privileged reform advocates acknowledge our children’s humanity and replace talking points, catchphrases and empty rhetoric with the real work of educational equity and social justice in our schools.

Jamila Carter is a mother of three and an early childhood educator in Philadelphia, PA. Follow her on Twitter at @jubimom.

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