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Betsy DeVos Offers No Guarantee That She Will Enforce Fed Ed Law– Or That She Even Knows the Law

On Thursday, January 17, 2017, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos had her first job interview– as US secretary of education.

DeVos, who turned 59 on January 08, 2017, has never held a job; however, given the current Republican majority in Congress, that doesn’t really matter; DeVos has a solid history as a Republican Party leader and financial booster.

Plus, she eats and breathes school choice, especially in the form of vouchers– school choice that takes public money from traditional public schools and hands it over to private schools.

President Donald Trump has indicated that he wants to voucherize American public education, and DeVos, though Trump’s second choice for US ed sec, is a perfect fit for the job of destroying the very public education system she is supposed to oversee.

“Portability of funding” is the technical name for such destruction, and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Chair, Lamar Alexander, is overjoyed that DeVos is willing to dole out the federal, “portability funding” vouchers to states that will undoubtedly follow the breadcrumbs of federal money for vouchers right into the trap of state-level public ed voucherization.

Thus, it should come as little surprise that DeVos apparently felt no need to prepare for a confirmation hearing in which she would be expected to demonstrate knowledge of the very federal ed law that she would be expected to enforce as chief fed ed public servant.

As far as DeVos was concerned, the Republican majority votes were already cast. Why do the homework when the final grade has already been entered in the proverbial grade book?

No reason– except that the grilling by Democratic members of the Senate HELP Committee unquestionably revealed DeVos’ profound ignorance of fed ed law and reinforced the idea that she has lived her entire almost-60 years in a Michigan-Republican-Reformed-Church bubble.

As the January 18, 2017, New York Times reporter Kate Zernike reports:

[DeVos’] confirmation hearing that night (January 17) opened her up to new criticism: that her long battle for school choice, controversial as it has been, is the sum total of her experience and understanding of education policy. In questioning by senators, she seemed either unaware or unsupportive of the longstanding policies and functions of the department she is in line to lead… [Emphasis added.]

Zernike continues with what has been broadcast all over the news since the 3 1/2-hour DeVos confirmation hearing:

  • DeVos had no clue that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was federal law. She could have easily found it on Wikipedia.
  • What is additionally astounding is that she said it was up to the states to decide to follow this federal law put in place so that America’s most vulnerable citizens might not be slighted or even abused when it comes to their “free, appropriate public educations.”

In other words, not only did DeVos know that IDEA enforcement would be a part of her job as chief fed ed public servant; she outright stated that she did not plan to require states to follow the federal law.

Indeed, DeVos would not commit to guaranteeing that voucher schools would be allowed to require students to sign away their federal rights to (as Senator Maggie Hassan notes) “a high-quality education with their peers,” as noted in this 8-minute video clip:

More DeVos surprises:

  • DeVos also did not know the difference between growth and proficiency– basic student assessment ideas.
  • DeVos said that she would support Trump’s no-guns ban, which could bring guns into schools– which the entire world now knows could be useful in fighting grizzlies.

Below are 19 more minutes’ worth of clips from the DeVos hearing:

No matter how evasive or clueless DeVos’ responses were, she held onto her plastic smile and defaulted that she supported accountability” (not equal accountability for all schools receiving public money, though); and that she would either have to further look into an issue or defer to the states.

A commenter to the above Youtube video captured DeVos’ responses to Democratic Senate HELP members as follows:

“Mrs. DeVos, How will you eat a sandwich?”

“I look forward to looking at the bread and I’m looking forward to seeing what could be in between them, and then hopefully, making the sandwich. I look forward to working with others and discussing how to make the sandwich, looking forward.”

No problem. Final US ed sec grade is already in the grade book.

Even so, as James Hohmann notes in Washington Post’s “Daily 202,” Alexander is doing all that he can to ensure DeVos crosses the ed sec finish line, including scheduling her hearing at 5 p.m. to ensure limited news coverage. Too, he limited questioning to a single, 5-minute round and would not guarantee that committee members’ follow-up questions submitted to DeVos in writing would all be answered before the vote was to be held.

But her performance was so poor that Alexander’s obviously biased attempts to shield and rescue DeVos could haunt both her and him, as Hohmann states:

What’s so crazy about last night’s (Jan 17th’s) donnybrook is that it was wholly unnecessary. DeVos will get confirmed either way. All she had to do was not give any Republican member a reason to vote against her. Now, however, it appears that the Republicans think she’s in over her head and that they’re scared of what she might say if she was allowed to keep talking.

Because the committee is stocked with liberal celebrities like Sanders, Warren and Franken, the GOP stonewalling will go viral on YouTube. This will make it harder for DeVos to build bipartisan support for any of her initiatives after she’s sworn in.

In the long term, though, Alexander might have hurt his own reputation more than he helped DeVos’s confirmation prospects. He has always prided himself on being one of the adults in the room. He put the kibosh on an effort by his GOP colleagues a few years back to invoke the nuclear option, for example. Democratic members of the committee said last night after the hearing that they’ve begun to lose respect for Alexander. That could come back to haunt the chairman during future negotiations, markups, etc.

As it is, the Senate HELP Committee vote on DeVos has been postponed a week, from January 24, 2017, to January 31, 2017, to give committee members time to review DeVos’ ethics report.

DeVos has already agreed to divest in 102 companies and resign from 12 organizations.

Of course, this does not redeem her ignorance of federal education law and the unwillingness to agree to uphold it.

Lamar Alexander is behaving as though the DeVos grade is already in the grade book. He approves of her voucher-adulating agenda, and that is what matters to him and to the Republicans falling in line behind him.

Of course, the DeVos history of donating to Republicans sweetens an obedient lineup.

DeVos is behaving as though she just needs to bide her time a little while longer in order to land her first job ever–

US Secretary of Education Privatization.

devos-hearing

We’ll see if public concern is enough to chip away at that for-sure DeVos vote.

_____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Pearson Stock Falls 30 Percent; Worst Day Since 1986

Three years ago, in 2014, education and publishing mammoth Pearson expected to make a killing on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

I wrote about Pearson’s CCSS profit expectations in this post based upon Pearson’s February 2014 earnings call.

I noted that when one market analyst pressed for an alternative plan of action in case CCSS did not work, Pearson CEO John Fallon had nothing to offer.

Fallon seemed to believe that Pearson’s profits from CCSS were a sure thing.

Cut to the Financial Times on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, which stated that Pearson’s shares dropped “as much as 30 percent” on that day– hitting their lowest since 1986.

The market price per share at the close of 01-18-17 was $7.13.

The next lowest price for Pearson stock was $7.72 per share in February 2003– 14 years ago.

Fallon described the Pearson drop (plunge?) in stock as “deterioration.”

But wait– there’s more:

Fallon apparently told investors that he expected US profits “to fall by a further 6 to 7 percent” in 2017.

There is no mention of CCSS in the January 18, 2017, Financial Times article; instead, the focus is on unexpected drops in student enrollment in college coupled with “a surge in the textbook rental market.” The January 18, 2017, Telegraph notes that Pearson’s unanticipated profit loss to textbook rentals is to textbook rentals to Amazon.

One year ago, in January 2016, Pearson announced it would be cutting 4,000 jobs.

The Financial Times reports that Fallon says that he is not yet ready to resign as Pearson’s CEO. I wonder how long Pearson’s board will allow him to call the shots on his own employment.

Not long, perhaps: According to the January 18, 2017, Telegraph, stockholders are pressuring the board to cut Fallon loose.

Fallon has been CEO since 2014– the same year of the earnings call in which he offered no Plan B for a faltering CCSS.

On December 23, 2013, Pearson stock closed at $22.20 per share.

Under Fallon, Pearson’s stock price has not reached $22.20 per share, though it came close on one day, March 15, 2015, at $22.16 per share. (Click images to enlarge.)

pearson-stock-2

pearson-stock

(To see a graph of Pearson stock prices from 1997 to 2017, click here.)

Beyond March 2015, we see (among other unfulfilled paydays) evidence of the CCSS payoff for Pearson.

Down, down, down.

john fallon 2  John Fallon, Pearson CEO (for now)

___________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Betsy DeVos’ Opening Statement at Her Nomination Hearing– and a Question Asked by Bernie Sanders

Below is the text of US ed sec nominee Betsy DeVos’ opening remarks at her January 17, 2017, hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

First, a few observations:

Notice that DeVos cannot help but identify “a mix of publicly-funded and private schools that is today’s public education.”

Private schools are not public schools. But to DeVos, they should be the principal recipients of public funding in the form of vouchers.

DeVos tries to connect to public school by identifying her mother, Elsa Prince, as a public school teacher. However, the Prince-DeVos alma mater, Calvin College, identifies Elsa Prince as “known for” being a “conservative financier.”

DeVos does not note where her mother taught, or for how long. However, given that DeVos identifies private schools as public schools, and given the Prince-DeVos family history is inextricably intertwined with the Reformed Church in America (RCA), it is not likely that Elsa Prince’s history as a “public school teacher” involves being a teacher outside of the RCA.

Betsy DeVos will continue to operate as an activist for the redirecting of public funding to private schools.

Here’s her speech:

Opening Statement of Betsy DeVos Nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education

U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions January 17, 2017

Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, Senators, thank you for the opportunity to be with you this afternoon.

Thank you, Senators Scott and Lieberman for those kind words. I am humbled by your public service and applaud your lifelong dedication to the success of our nation’s students.

I want to begin by thanking my family for their support: my husband, Dick, my sons, and daughters, and sons-in-law — as well as the rest of my family, including five grandchildren, who could not join us today.

I am honored that President-elect Trump asked me to join his team and am grateful for his dedication to education. If confirmed, I look forward to working with him, Vice President-elect Pence and all of you to bring educational opportunity to every family in this great nation.

While we may have differences, I think we can all agree that learning as a lifelong pursuit is a fundamental American virtue.

We are blessed beyond measure with educators who pour themselves into students.

The schools in which they work are as diverse as the students they educate. In fact, all of us here – and our children – have attended a mix of traditional publicly-funded and private schools. This is a reflection of the diversity that is today’s American public education.

Growing up in Holland, Michigan, I attended local Christian schools and then Calvin College. My greatest educational influence in life was a public school teacher named Elsa Prince.

While her students called her Mrs. Prince, to this day, I just call her “mom.”

When Dick and I became parents, education took on a whole new meaning. We recognized that other parents were not able to make similar decisions about their children’s education, based on their income or the zip code in which they lived.

When our oldest reached school age, we visited The Potter’s House, a Christian school which serves many low income families in my hometown. We saw the struggles and sacrifices many of these families faced when trying to choose the best educational option for their children. For me this was not just an issue of public policy but of national injustice.

I committed to do something about it, and it’s become my life’s work. I applaud the great work of The Potter’s House and its founder John Booy – who is here with us today – he and his team of teachers are doing a great job. But here’s the sad reality: in the past 28 years, the need and demand for these other options have grown, unabated.

I share President-elect Trump’s view that it’s time to shift the debate from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve.

Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child, and they know other options exist, whether magnet, virtual, charter, home, religious, or any combination thereof. Yet, too many parents are denied access to the full range of options… choices that many of us — here in this room — have exercised for our own children.

Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children? I am a firm believer that parents should be empowered to choose the learning environment that’s best for their individual children.

The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools. If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools. But, if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child – perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high quality alternative.

It’s really pretty simple.

Every child in America deserves to be in a safe environment that is free from discrimination.

Every student in America dreams of developing his or her unique talents and gifts.

Every parent in America dreams of a future when their children have access to schools with the rigor, challenges, and safe environments that successfully prepare them for a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow.

And every teacher in America dreams of breaking free from standardization, so that they can deploy their unique creativity and innovate with their students.

Our nation’s schools are filled with talented, devoted professionals, who successfully meet the needs of many, many children. But even our best schools don’t work for all. This isn’t the fault of teachers, but a reality that all students are unique, learn differently, and excel at their own pace.

Students also face new challenges today. In particular, our high school graduates are having increasing difficulty accessing affordable higher education.

Escalating tuition is pricing aspiring and talented students out of college. Others are burdened with debts that will take years – or even decades — to pay off.

There is no magic wand to make the debt go away, but we do need to take action. It would be a mistake to shift that burden to struggling taxpayers without first addressing why tuition has gotten so high.

For starters, we need to embrace new pathways of learning. For too long a college degree has been pushed as the only avenue for a better life. The old and expensive brick-mortar-and-ivy model is not the only one that will lead to a prosperous future. Craftsmanship is not a fallback – but a noble pursuit.

Students should make informed choices about what type of education they want to pursue post high school and have access to high quality options. President-elect Trump and I agree we need to support all post-secondary avenues, including trade and vocational schools, and community colleges.

Of course, on every one of these issues, Congress will play a vital role.

If confirmed, I look forward to working with you to enact solutions that empower parents and students, provide high quality options and spend tax dollars wisely.

We will work together to ensure the Every Student Succeeds Act is implemented as Congress intended — with local communities freed from burdensome regulations from Washington. And I look forward to working with Congress and all stakeholders to reauthorize the Higher Education Act to meet the needs of today’s college students.

President-elect Trump and I know it won’t be Washington, D.C. that unlocks our nation’s potential, nor a bigger bureaucracy, tougher mandates or a federal agency. The answer is local control and listening to parents, students and teachers.

For nearly three decades, I’ve been involved in education, as a volunteer, an advocate for children, and a voice for parents.

I’ve worked as an in-school mentor for students in the Grand Rapids Public Schools, and have had the privilege of interacting with students and their families and teachers in ways that have changed my life and my perspective about education forever.

I’ve worked with Governors, legislators, and business and community leaders to expand educational opportunity through options that are making a lifetime of difference for hundreds of thousands of kids this year alone.

And, I’ve worked with many dedicated teachers who strive every day to help students achieve, fulfill their potential, and prepare them for the global challenges that they will face.

For me, it’s simple: I trust parents, and I believe in our children.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you. I look forward to answering your questions.

As for those questions: In her hearing, Senator Bernie Sanders opened his questioning by asking DeVos about political donations.

An excerpt as captured in Mother Jones:

Sanders: Would you be so kind as to tell us how much money your family has contributed to the Republican Party over the years?

DeVos: …I wish I could give you that number. I don’t know.

Sanders: I have heard the number was $200 million. Does that sound in the ball park?

DeVos: Collectively, between my entire family, that’s possible.

There’s more to the Mother Jones video excerpts. Click here to watch.

And you might want to read Jennifer Berkshire’s excellent product of her recent trip to DeVos country, Michigan: The Red Queen.

betsy-devos-8  Betsy DeVos, with a pursed smile while enduring the Senate HELP hot seat.

____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

BREAKING: Post-Katrina New Orleans Schools Costs More, Admin Salaries a Main Reason

On January 17, 2017, the Education Research Alliance of New Orleans (ERA) released a report entitled, “Does School Reform Equal Spending Reform?”

The short answer is no, and those who push to decentralize a school district in the name of “choice” should be prepared to spend more if for no other reason that a loss of economy of scale– in other words, of paying for the loss of centralized operations.

Then there are issues related to those running the decentralized schools– the administrators.

In the ERA report, these individuals were the principal reason (pun intended) for the finding that post-Katrina New Orleans publicly funded education (which is now chiefly done by charter schools with their own charter management orgs.) costs 13 percent more ($1,358) per pupil than it does in comparable Louisiana school districts– districts with comparable per-pupil spending pre-Katrina.

The greatest increase for New Orleans schools goes to its administrators, as ERA reports:

Spending on administration in New Orleans’ publicly funded schools increased by 66% ($699 per student) relative to the comparison group, far more than the overall spending increase. Of this increase, 52% ($363 per student) is due to a rise in total administrative salaries. Roughly one-third of the increase in administrative salaries is due to hiring more administrators, and the remainder is due to higher average salaries per administrator.

In an attempt to explain the possible reasons for the astounding administrative costs in New Orleans’ post-Katrina *publicly funded schools* (I love that term; it’s so politically disarming), ERA offers the following, for starters:

One possible reaction to the higher salaries for administrators is that charter school educators are using the reforms to enrich themselves. However, it is worth noting that charter schools are more likely to hire educators with degrees from elite colleges and school leaders with business backgrounds, people who typically earn high salaries outside of education. The higher salaries may partly reflect the other professional opportunities available to the new educator workforce.

Comprehensive audits examining the degree to which those administrators might just be “enriching themselves” via the public coffer are long overdue. However, I’ll set that aside for now and focus on the draw of the elite-educated, business-backgrounded admin who is paid more, well, because business people have greater professional opportunity than those who might lack such ambitious reach and settle for state-school degrees in education.

The problem with paying juicy admin salaries in “publicly funded” schools is that doing so is not sustainable. Indeed, no school can survive without teachers, and ERA has discovered that even as post-Katrina admin costs rose notably, instructional costs declined by $706 per student in New Orleans– which includes drops in staff benefits ($353 per student) and staff salaries ($233 per student).

Another noteworthy issue is that New Orleans schools have become dependent upon a supply of less-experienced teachers– which ERA posits might explain those ballooning admin costs:

The hiring of additional managers might be related to the reliance on younger teachers who no doubt need more active leadership and professional development. The substantive issue is whether this alternative model—trading off more managers for lower teacher experience—is good for students. From what we know so far, the system is working to improve measureable student outcomes.

Even if the New Orleans reforms are judged positively, however, it is not clear whether this model is sustainable financially. There are signs that interest in New Orleans is abating among younger teachers and growing concern about the constant churn of teachers who do not plan to stay or make teaching a career here. The state government is also in dire financial straits and may eventually have to either reduce spending or force charter schools to pay into the state pension system. Something will have to give.

ERA’s point about New Orleans schools improving “based upon measurable student outcomes” is a loaded statement. If nothing else, there are no “measurable” outcomes on students who disappear and who cannot be traced because a decentralized system has no means of effectively accounting for all of its students.

As of 2016, the New Orleans Miracle continues to be a mixed bag. Most New Orleans publicly-funded schools are charter schools, and the school grades are heavily C, D, and F. (School performance scores can be accessed here.)

The high schools taken over by the state in 2005 have yet to break a 17 composite ACT score.

But these *successes* aside, not only is the fiscal sustainability of charter-portfolio New Orleans in question; according to ERA, the young, churning teacher population is showing a waning interest in investing a couple years of their lives in New Orleans’ publicly-funded classrooms. Indeed, Teach for America (TFA), a primary supplier of temporary teachers, is itself facing recruiting problems.

Temp teachers are becoming scarce in miraculous New Orleans.

And when it comes to the Louisiana state budget woes— forget about it.

New Orleans schools might just have to bow to economy of scale and return to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), not as a “portfolio district” of separate charter schools, but reunited as a traditional school system for the sake of survival.

The ERA report offers more info than noted in this post. It is worth the read.

shocked-dollar

__________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From the Betsy DeVos Archives: Letters to the Editor and Much More

As a part of her response to “Common Questions for Executive Branch Nominees,” US ed sec nominee Betsy DeVos listed the following 19 entries as her “publications”:

  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, July 31, 1994
  • Letter to the Editor, Detroit News, August 26, 1997
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, September 05, 1997
  • Opinion Column, Roll Call, September 06, 1997
  • Letter to the Editor, Detroit Free Press, September 21, 1998
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, May 13, 2001
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, June 23, 2001
  • Opinion Column, Traverse City Record Eagle, September 01, 2001
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, December 21, 20011 (typo in list)
  • Opinion Column, Macomb Daily, August 07, 2002
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, July 22, 2003
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, February 08, 2004
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, March 20, 2004
  • Opinion Column, Grand Rapids Press, May 02, 2004
  • Opinion Column, Detroit News, May 20, 2004
  • Letter to the Editor, Port Huron Times Herald, August 05, 2012
  • “Competition, Creativity and Choice in the Classroom,” SxSWedu, March 11, 2015
  • Press release, American Federation for Children, December 17, 2015
  • Letter to the Editor, Detroit Free Press, September 11, 2016

What one sees above supposedly constitutes the publications of a person nominated for the highly visible, highly influential position of US secretary of education.

I thought I might read DeVos’ dossier of opinion pieces. So, I went in search of them. The ones I located I have linked to in this post.

I have also linked to a number of additional news articles about DeVos and her activities. My search chiefly centered on 1994 to 2004; however, there are a few more recent articles, as well.

Regarding the 19 entries DeVos included as her publications: I located five.

I also located two additional opinion pieces that DeVos did not include on her “publications” list.

About Those 19 “Publications”

DeVos’ March 2015 SxSW paper was the easiest of the 19 to locate. In it, DeVos notes that “government sucks” and that “we don’t fire teachers enough,” which prompted me on the spot to write this January 14, 2016, post.

Next, DeVos’s American Federation for Children (AFC) press release (dated December 16, 2015, not December 17). The subject: vouchers in Washington, DC, and federal school choice, with no mention of traditional public ed. An excerpt:

There was some good news for charter schools in both the FY 2016 omnibus bill and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) – and we applaud these positive steps forward. But for families in Washington, D.C. and across the country, there is much, much more that needs to be done. Federal education dollars should be leveraged to empower parents with greater educational choice. Families want and deserve access to all educational options, including charter schools, private schools and virtual schools. States are well ahead of Congress on this and their efforts should be encouraged and supported. Twenty-three states plus DC have 48 publicly funded private school choice programs; 43 states have charter school laws; and virtual schools are growing across the country. Greater innovation and choice will contribute to better K-12 educational outcomes for our children.

That makes 2 out of 19. As for the rest:

Using the search engine, newspapers.com, I located the following from DeVos’ Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press listings:

detroit_free_press_sun__jul_31__1994 (Campaigning for Spence Abraham for US Senate)

Letter to the editor: “Fieger is a bigot” and some additional Democratic gubernatorial candidate Geoff Fieger-related commentary:

detroit_free_press_mon__sep_21__1998

detroit_free_press_thu__jul_2__1998 (related)

And the Port Huron Times Herald entry:

the_times_herald_sun__aug_5__2012 “Eick will serve us well in Michigan House” (signed DeVos, board member, GLEP)

Five out of 19.

For the following Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press entries, the newspapers.com search engine “found no matches”:

August 26, 1997

September 05, 1997

May 13, 2001

February 08, 2004

May 20, 2004

As for 2004: newspapers.com does not seem to have any Detroit Free Press/Detroit News issues for 2004. Not sure why. Also, a search for a May 13, 2001, Detroit Free Press/Detroit News issue also yielded no result. Thus, I could not verify whether DeVos actually published the three Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press opinion pieces dated 2001 and 2004.

Too, the Grand Rapids Press allows for archived searches, but not all issues (not 2001 or 2004); so, I could not search for the Grand Rapids Press entries that DeVos listed. Finally, it seems that the Macomb Daily archives only go back to 2009; so, that search, too, was a bust.

Still, I was able to verify that some of the publication entries on DeVos’ US ed sec application are in error. For the August 26, 1997, and September 05, 1997, Detroit News/ Detroit Free Press issues, I examined the papers manually in search of opinion pieces written by DeVos and found none.

A search of the Traverse City Record-Eagle archives yielded no result for “betsy devos” on September 01, 2001. (I expanded the search to include 2001 and 2002 inclusive; no results.)

Furthermore, Betsy DeVos is in the September 11, 2016, Detroit Free Press editorials, but not as an author. An article on page 16A details Michigan State House candidates who raised the most money; the DeVoses contributed to 5 out of the 10 who raised the most money.

Finally, a search of the Capitol City Roll Call archives only produced entries related to “betsy devos” as far back as 2014. However, a July 14, 1998, Detroit Free Press article refers to an October 07, 1997, comment DeVos made in Roll Call regarding her opinion on “soft money”– money not restricted by state or federal contribution limits (whether this is an interview or opinion piece is unclear).

And with this, I move beyond my search for DeVos’ 19 “publications” into providing a number of articles archiving DeVos’ positions and actions in the Michigan political sphere.

Beyond the 19 “Publications”: More on the DeVos Influence

What DeVos has to say about that “soft money”:

detroit_free_press_tue__jul_14__1998

Soft money is good: Hard-earned American dollars that Big Brother has yet to find a way to control.

The writer of the article, Hugh McDiarmid, notes that the context for DeVos’ comment involves “soft money at the federal level where, despite loopholes, disclosure requirements are stricter.” He continues by noting that there are “hurdles ahead” if Michigan tries to place restrictions on the usage of soft money in Michigan’s elections:

For openers, lots of serious political players, including [Betsy] DeVos, who preaches that “in politics, money is speech; you don’t have free speech without it” (and who readily concedes that her Amway Corp.-related family is one of the biggest soft-money contributors to the national GOP), are wary of such rules.

The DeVos comment about money being “free speech” is apparently also a part of her 1997 Roll Call commentary that “soft money is good,” as noted in another Hugh McDiarmid column: detroit_free_press_tue__mar_24__1998 DeVos’ “free speech” also referenced here: lansing_state_journal_mon__mar_31__1997 Too, another discussion of the DeVos “soft money” influence is in this article about Engler: the_times_herald_fri__dec_19__1997

The remaining articles I have grouped by subject. I quote from some, but not all. This post was labor- and time-intensive, so forgive me if I cut discussion short at some points. My goal is to offer these archived news links to readers to peruse at leisure– so that we all might get to know Betsy better.

To assist with organization, I bold each section topic.

Criticism of DeVos’ “soft money”:

detroit_free_press_sat__feb_14__1998

detroit_free_press_sat__nov_13__1999

Two opinion pieces DeVos did not include on her “publications” list:

Another letter to the editor: “Levin should be consistent on scandals”: detroit_free_press_tue__nov_18__1997

And an opinion piece: DeVos refers to public schools as “government schools”: lansing_state_journal_sun__dec_16__2001

I wonder why DeVos– a billionaire with as much manpower at her disposal as she could possibly need– cannot accurately compose a comprehensive listing of her opinion pieces.

The errors and omissions sure make it appear as if DeVos rushed through her homework as the first period bell was ringing because she believed no one would bother to try to verify what she or some paid assistant put on that “publications” list.

So much for that approach.

Devos as Choices for Children director. Some discussion of school letter grades in some of these links:

lansing_state_journal_fri__may_11__2001

lansing_state_journal_tue__dec_11__2001 part A

lansing_state_journal_tue__dec_11__2001 part B

the_times_herald_fri__feb_15__2002 part A

the_times_herald_fri__feb_15__2002 part B

the_times_herald_fri__jun_28__2002

Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), founded by Betsy DeVos, notably funded by DeVoses, and with money to spend on preferred candidates:

lansing_state_journal_mon__mar_18__2002

the_times_herald_mon__mar_18__2002

battle_creek_enquirer_sat__jul_27__2002

the_times_herald_sat__jul_27__2002

traverse-city-record-08-02-2002

traverse-city-record-09-15-2002

lansing_state_journal_tue__nov_5__2002

A sampling of GLEP:

lansing_state_journal_mon__feb_4__2002

The [GLEP] PAC notched a victory Tuesday, when Macomb County Republican Brian Palmer won a special state House primary against seven opponents. Palmer received a $5,000 contribution from the PAC and is now favored to win the general election.

With a few victories, DeVos hopes to shift the balance of power in the legislature toward issues she deems critical: expanded public charter schools, a limit on the number of local school elections and opposition to any change in the school funding formula.

“Anything we can do which turns the tide in favor of Republican officeholders who embrace various measures of education reform, we would consider that effective,” DeVos said.

Critics say PACs like this afford the rich undue influence over electoral policies. But DeVos says her work is just a start in response to more powerful PACs.

One campaign finance analyst sees the Great Lakes Education Project as “the new wave” of independent PACs, dedicated to one issue and built on the money of a few wealthy contributors.

“The underlying idea of a PAC was supposed to be thousands of people banding together…. Now it’s a front for people who have a whole bunch of money.”

DeVos reelected Michigan Republican Party chair:

battle_creek_enquirer_sun__feb_2__1997

DeVos’ “return on investment” quote:

detroit_free_press_thu__oct_29__1998

Betsy DeVos recently said, ” I have decided… to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. We do expect something in return.”

detroit_free_press_fri__oct_30__1998

The Free Press corrects all errors of fact….  In some Thursday editions of the Local News section, an item from the Associated Press about the Richard DeVos family’s large contributions to the Michigan Republican Party was misleading. The article carried a quote from Mother Jones magazine saying Betsy DeVos, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said, “We do expect some things in return.”

The Mother Jones article omitted the rest of the quote, which came from an article DeVos wrote: “We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies and, yes to win elections.”

DeVos opposing Republican Party funding ban based upon candidate position on abortion:

detroit_free_press_mon__jan_12__1998

detroit_free_press_wed__jan_7__1998

tallahassee_democrat_sat__jan_17__1998

the_galveston_daily_news_sun__jan_18__1998

Later in 1998, DeVos was pressuring Republicans to oppose assisted suicide:

lansing_state_journal_fri__jun_26__1998

…A former Republican lawmaker observed that this push by DeVos to force members to fight assisted suicide was sending a mixed message. The party boasts about getting government out of the lives of individuals, but here is the chair plopping government right into the death bed of those very same citizens who don’t want a death partner. …

On the assisted suicide question, DeVos says the debate is about life and you should not keep a person alive for the sake of prolonging life, but she does not agree that the individual has the right to choose when and how to die.

“That is God’s to determine,” she suggests. Some of her detractors might retort God’s role is exactly what her party is trying to usurp.

 

On partisanship related to the Michigan Supreme Court:

detroit_free_press_tue__dec_1__1998

 

Donations to DeVos alma mater, Calvin College:

detroit_free_press_sun__oct_18__1998

There were whispers of a 30-year rift with Calvin College, which both Amway founders [Jay Van Andel and Richard DeVos] attended. It was over professors’ classroom remarks, in the 1900’s, that were critical of the partners’ apparent materialism.

The estimated $500,000 given to Calvin in recent years didn’t match nearly $5.5 million donated to Grand Valley State University or more than $3.5 million donated to Northwoods Institute.

The rumored rift was patched up in July; $10 million apiece was donated to Calvin by the Richard and helen DeVos Foundation and Elsa Prince, mother-in-law of current Amway President Dick DeVos and mother of Michigan Republican Party leader Betsy DeVos.

That $20 million gift to the private college, which is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church of North America, was the largest single donation ever made to a Grand Rapids-area institution.

Betsy DeVos’ promoting term limits for Michigan legislators:

detroit_free_press_thu__aug_21__1997

The DeVoses underwriting Michigan voucher program:

detroit_free_press_tue__sep_29__1998

Two sentences of note:

…chairman of the scholarship fund said… the scholarship fund… allows for the kind of competition that could prompt the public schools to do a better job. …

Plans to put the tax credit or voucher issue on the November ballot fell through last winter, many said because Gov. John Engler didn’t want the divisive issue on the same ballot as his re-election attempt.

DeVos rails against a Democratic congressman Bonoir over his having two residences:

detroit_free_press_wed__oct_14__1998

DeVos had a copy of a paper from the Mt. Clemens City Treasurer’s Office showing Bonoir has a homestead exemption of $17,400 on his condo. She also had copies of legal papers where Bonior called his home in Port Republic, Md., his principal residence.

But she didn’t have anything showing he got a tax exemption for his Maryland house.

DeVos said she’s asking the House Ethics Committee to investigate. She never mentioned Brian Palmer, the Republican who is running against Bonoir on Nov. 3.

DeVos’ charges outraged Macomb County Commissioner Bobby Hill, a Democrat.

“I live about three blocks south of here,” he said. “Bonoir helped us with a Habitat for Humanity house about a block from here, and I mean hands-on…

“Don’t you think that it’s a little bit ironic that we have a woman from Grand Rapids coming here to tell us he’s not our neighbor?”

(It seems that Bonoir did not take a tax break for his Maryland home: the_times_herald_sun__nov_1__1998)

Finally, DeVos “in exile” as official GOP leader but operating an unofficial GOP via her money. This is an intriguing article. An excerpt:

lansing_state_journal_fri__jan_18__2002

First there was one. Now there are two.  Republican parties in our state. The official one in Lansing and the not-so-official one in exile.

The party in exile operates out of West Michigan and is run by the former chair of the state GOP, Betsy DeVos. Surely you remember her. She’s the one who resigned in protest after she and Gov. John Engler agreed to disagree on vouchers. She was for ’em. He was agin ’em.

Not one to merely fade into the woodwork, Mrs. DeVos, like the Pied Piper, lured many from the state party staff to join her new effort– a crusade to elect like-minded and conservative Republicans to the Michigan Legislature.

She tackles this task with her usual religious-like fervor. And she has a stash of cash, pegged at half a mil, in her own political action committee. …

To receive the DeVos warm embrace, candidates must favor lifting the cap on charter schools, support the consolidation of elections to four a year, and leave alone the school funding scheme called Proposal A. School vouchers reportedly aren’t part of the litmus test, but candidates are asked for their position just to get a feel for the person’s thinking….

DeVos detractors… figure the whole movement is all about vouchers. However, Rep. Alan Sanborn… opposes vouchers, but when he got off the fence and supported removing the charter cap, a $500 DeVos check was soon in the mail.

DeVos’ hearing for her US ed sec nomination is supposed to be Tuesday, January 17th, 2016.

After reading and studying these archived articles, I know that my perspective on Betsy DeVos has been *enriched.*

Pun intended from this governmental school teacher.

betsy-devos-7  Betsy DeVos, boating.

_____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Betsy DeVos: “Government Sucks” and “We Don’t Fire Teachers Enough”

In March 2015, US secretary of education nominee gave this 9-page speech at the SxSW conference in Texas.

The title of DeVos’ speech is “Competition, Creativity and Choice in the Classroom.”

Below are some excerpts:

As a kid I grew up middle class, but my father was a great innovator with an entrepreneurial spirit, and it wasn’t long before my family became part of the infamous 1%.

My husband’s family has a similar story, and together my husband and I have also been successful in innovative and entrepreneurial ventures.

So, I am not only a Republican, even worse, I’m a well off Republican. …

I won’t waste your time with lofty rhetoric. I’ll be blunt, and since I got out of politics, I have the freedom to be politically incorrect too.

Let’s start by being brutally honest about the status of K-12 education in America today. Not what we wish the status was, not what we want it to be, but what it really is.

I’m going to throw six “inconvenient truths” at you.

The reason for this approach is because we will never solve a problem if we refuse to admit it. …

Inconvenient Truth # 4. Government really sucks. And it doesn’t matter which party is in power. Having been around politics and government my entire adult life, I have five observations about government for you:

  • Government tends to believe in top down solutions and government fears of bottom up solutions.
  • Government tends to stifle innovation and it abhors improvisation. Any good military strategist will tell you that a battle plan rarely survives past the first engagement. After that, you have to improvise to survive and to win.
  • Government tends to favor one size fits all solutions handed down from central command.
  • Government likes committees…a lot. Committees kill all the really good ideas and generally all the really bad ideas. They produce middle ground mush.
  • Government prefers control and tightly-defined systems. It fears entrepreneurs, open systems, and crowd sourcing. All of which they find threatening.

Inconvenient Truth #5 — We don’t pay teachers enough, and we don’t fire teachers enough.

In that one sentence, I have raised the ire of both the Republican and Democrat political establishments.

The Republicans don’t want to pay our best teachers enough, and the Democrats don’t want to reform tenure laws. It’s another partisan standoff.

But I am willing to bet that every one of you had one or more teachers who made a big difference in your life, who opened your eyes to possibilities and to opportunities. You probably recall them in your mind’s eye right now.

And likewise, I am pretty sure that every one of you had one or more teachers who should not have been teaching. That doesn’t mean they were bad people, or maybe they were, but regardless, they weren’t any good at teaching. You are probably thinking of those teachers right now.

And by the way, teaching is hard. It takes a lot of skill. Not everyone who tries can do it well. We need to admit that and act accordingly.

We should reward and respect great teachers by paying them more, and we should stop rewarding seniority over effectiveness.

Some observations:

DeVos is in line to be fed-ed “government in education.” Furthermore, she has spent much of her adult life manipulating government via her “infamous 1%” perch, a perch glaringly in place as she has contributed to 10 out of 12 Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee— who will decide upon her US ed secretary nomination.

As for her wanting to “act accordingly” to “fire” more teachers: Ed reform test-and-punish is unable to distinguish between the teachers individuals might deem to be the best and the worst. Test-and-punish fires teachers, that is true; however, the testing farce encourages system gaming, and the gamers are not necessarily good teachers, just good gamers.

Notice also that DeVos assumes that all in the audience have had good and bad teachers– whether in public ed or private school. Private school educated all the way, DeVos herself has stated that she was “bored” throughout high school.

Surely not every teacher DeVos had in her private high school was failing her. Should they all have been fired for letting her down?

Was Betsy DeVos’ high school education only the responsibility of her private school teachers? Is it possible that those teachers were good despite her boredom? Is it also possible that not all private school teachers are good simply because they are private school teachers?

Of course. But I doubt that there was any “infamous 1%” crusade to fire those private school teachers.

DeVos states that teaching is “hard” and “takes skill.”

I wonder if she could write 9 pages detailing just how hard and how much skill it takes to teach everybody, no matter who comes through the door, and no matter when (i.e., two weeks before the end of a grading period). That’s how it works in public school– the public school that is often hamstrung by regulations from agencies such as, oh, the US Department of Education and a series of presidents, US ed secretaries, and Congresses that have sold out to ed privatization and test-and-punish policies.

But DeVos has zero firsthand experience regarding what it takes to teach– and no clue what it takes to teach whoever walks through the door.

I doubt that Betsy DeVos has any inkling of a schema to understand my career as a public school teacher. She would have to start by putting her wallet down, and I’m not sure Betsy DeVos can do life without her substantial wallet.

Private schools do not have to take “whoever.” Sure, they might allow “whoever” to enroll, but they reserve the right to kick “whoever” to the educational curb if “whoever” becomes inconvenient to educate.

It is a given that many among the public will be inconvenient to educate. They wouldn’t last under a private school voucher system. They would be dismissed– and they would need a public school to take them in.

That is reality if the United States is to continue supporting compulsory education.

As for not “rewarding seniority over effectiveness”: If by “effectiveness,” DeVos means high test scores (which she apparently does based upon her previous points in these 9 pages– read for yourself), then I would have lost my job years ago, not because I am not a skilled teacher (and largely a product of my years in the classroom), but because I don’t game the test score system.

I am not in the “infamous 1%.” Far from it. And I am tired of people of privilege like DeVos believing that her view from the soft seats means that she understands American public ed.

DeVos needs to write those 9 pages about how “hard” it is to teach and how much “skill” it takes. But to do so, she would actually need to have the firsthand experience of a classroom teacher– a traditional public school teacher.

All DeVos knows is life by her billionaire checkbook, and she is in line for US ed secretary.

Another clueless, ed reform-wielding, anti-public-school ed sec.

Now that sucks.

betsy-devos-4  Betsy DeVos, who lives life first and foremost by her wallet.

___________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

Why the Office of Government Ethics Needs Weeks to Investigate Betsy DeVos

I do not often agree with the New York Times (NYT) editorial opinions on education. However, even they are worried about the financial entanglements of Michigan billionaire and US ed secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos.

An excerpt from the January 10, 2017, NYT editorial board opinion piece on DeVos:

As the Senate races forward with confirmation hearings this week, the spottiest disclosures have come from wealthy private-sector nominees with no governing experience and many potential conflicts. In other words, the people most in need of a complete ethics review.

Exhibit A is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and education lobbyist who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. Ms. DeVos’s finances are a tangle that could take weeks to investigate. Despite that, Republicans had set her confirmation hearing for Wednesday. But late Monday night, they pushed it back to next Tuesday. …

[DeVos and her hisband Dick] have investments in some 250 companies registered to a single Grand Rapids, Mich., address…. [The DeVos] investments could take weeks for the ethics office to research. Already, though, there are reports that the DeVoses are indirect investors in Social Finance Inc., a private company that refinances student loans. Private lenders like Social Finance are banned from most of the direct student lending market; their lobbyists have already written to the Trump transition team pitching to change that.

The NYT editorial board then questions whether DeVos also has a financial stake in for-profit colleges or ed tech operations. Such information should be clear– and in the public eye– prior to a Senate vote on her confirmation.

And, as the NYT editorial board continues, there’s the damaging DeVos influence on public education in Michigan:

…She has poured money into charter schools advocacy, winning legislative changes that have reduced oversight and accountability. About 80 percent of the charter schools in Michigan are operated by for-profit companies, far higher than anywhere else. She has also argued for shutting down Detroit public schools, with the system turned over to charters or taxpayer money given out as vouchers for private schools. In that city, charter schools often perform no better than traditional schools, and sometimes worse.

The NYT editorial board wonders what the rush is to bring to a vote nominees whose backgrounds remain incompletely examined.

It’s a critical question.

The NYT ed board thinks the speedy confirmations are to catch Republican Senators before a handful express their doubts and think for themselves when voting.

That surely is how it seems– which means it is up to the public to apply continued pressure for a fully-informed Senate prior to the DeVos vote.

betsy_devos_trump

_____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.