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Truthout: “The Great Unwinding of Public Education: DeVos and Detroit”

December 25, 2016

Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos is President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for US secretary of education.

America would do well to learn all it can about her and about the DeVos influence in the privatization of public education in Michigan, particularly the ed privatization Petri dish of Detroit.

The following are excerpts from a rather extensive, December 23, 2016, Truthout article, “The Great Unwinding of Public Education: Detroit and DeVos,” by retired professor and writer, Joseph Natoli, about the effects of “gentrifying investors seek[ing] to put price tags on what was previously public domain.” DeVos is a key player in such privatization games.

The excerpts illustrate how the games work. America needs to pay attention.

Bankruptcy following the collapse of the jobs that fueled the “Motor City” has exposed Detroit to the dynamics described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. A crisis, either arranged or accidental, precipitates a rush to recuperation. Lobbyists of wealthy investors petition a government that wealthy investors have put in place. A much-quoted “checks and balances” security shield for democratic governance is thus so easily disarmed.

The more startling, dire and urgent the crisis, the greater the rush to a “saving” privatization. … When statistics do not show charter schools to be better spaces for learning than public schools, privatizers instead focus on appearances. …Coats and ties or uniforms in classrooms shiny with new computers make the case for achievement and success. …

Weakening public education to the point that privatization looks like rescue is accomplished by funding that is decreased when tax funds are siphoned off to for-profit charter schools. It is also inequitably allocated…. When you allocate based on property ownership, you are at once solidifying the gap between rich and poor and, most grievously, extending that gap into the future.

Alongside this economic strategy, we have a deft mind game aimed at parents that pushes them toward charters “if they want the best for their kids.” This framing, however, erroneously implies that privatized schools result in a higher level of learning than public schools. In truth, these profit-seeking schools specialize in marketing and branding strategies, as well as the aura of new millennial innovation. …

We have internalized the mantra that all human endeavors that are placed in the hands of private enterprise succeed, whereas those run by the government not only do poorly but also rob freedom-loving people in the US of their freedom.

Privatization as the savior here is not a “Detroit” thing. Giving everything public over to market “forces,” i.e., market rule, is a faith spread across the whole US. And profit-making on education — like profit-making in health care, prisons and warfare — is normalized by many in society. …

This smearing of a profession that is both shabbily compensated and appreciated in the US goes by without notice, as does the undervaluation of firefighters, postal and sanitation workers, bound as they are in a salaried service to the community and not in making money through the mere possession of money itself. …

[DeVos] has all the required affiliations: ties to the religious right, hedge funds and free market think-tanks; an embrace of the sacred memes of “free to choose” and “privatize;” a profit-driven missionary zeal; a powerful Michigan family’s hold on the legislature; and the gift of never having entered a public school. So successful has DeVos been in sucking funding out of public schools and passing it on to charter schools that — to repeat this mind-boggling statistic — 80 percent of the Detroit schools are now for-profit enterprises. The funding either comes from a re-routing of tax dollars from public to charter, or as government payments — vouchers — paid to parents who then pass that money to the charters. …

Betsy DeVos is now positioned to do to the entire US public school system what she has done to Detroit. …

Unless we deconstruct the narrative that privatized schools somehow have uncovered the secret to how humans learn and have a monopoly on the most effective ways to implement that knowledge, we are allowing false assertions to stand. Believing the marketing line that charter schools challenge the public schools to do better is like believing that parasitic fungal spores will make wheat and oak trees stronger.

Natoli’s entire article is worth the read.

Also, the Network for Public Education (NPE) offers this tool kit for those wishing to take action against Senate approval of the DeVos ed secretary nomination.

Let’s work to make public education stronger.

Let’s do what we can to prevent its demise at the hands of the fungal spore “choice” espoused by billionaire Betsy DeVos.

detroit-school-closed A closed Detroit public school.


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.

  1. Charles Bachmann permalink


  2. Monty Thornburg permalink

    Yes, worth reading and yes, the narative that undervalues “community service” through work attached to gov’t enterprise is part of the “branding” that goes on. Public enterprise, schools are now having to compete in this “brave new world.”

    • It is sad to look back and actually see this “branding” unravel. I taught inside inner-city schools for years and felt both appreciated and honored by society — and then one day, I became the “problem.” Honor and appreciation for those willing to work with “low-scoring” kids suddenly turned into scorn and denigration for those willing to work with “low-scoring” kids.

      • Monty Thornburg permalink

        Yes, sad for sure. Those of us, in whatever part of the country, but, especially in the South and the inner cities across America. Places where so many African American citizens were forced to move to or from and do so from impoverished circumstances. Multitudes lost their homes and livelyhoods because of their brave fight for Civil Rights. This battle, for now, has been lost to the Nixonian RACIST “Southern Strategy” and policies and then was later made into law by the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush policies; 44 years of growth in this narrative, that has destroyed valued anti-poverty and education programs. The “privatization” narratives were at first adopted by the left and the right, and normalized. Very sad indeed! There’s been a WAR on the “War on Poverty” since the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act! A huge part of this conservatives “meme” or war has been about negatively “branding” nearly everything in GOVERNMENT as being bad and inefficient. Those who, as you say, “were willing to work with “low scoring kids” became negatively branded too. Now Conservative and Republican brand is exposed by THEIR partners: The Alt-Right, KKK type affiliates!

  3. Today’s Acronym —
    GROPE • GOP Rape Of Public Education

    • Abigail Shure permalink

      Democrats are entitled to their fair share of the blame.

      • dolphin permalink

        Agreed. There is no difference between the two.

  4. Detroit education died before it went charter owing to personal corruption at all levels of local government in Detroit, not just the school system.

  5. dolphin permalink

    Reblogged this on Dolphin.

  6. I am finding that most people, even in Michigan, don’t realize how differently education is funded in Michigan from all other states.

    Here’s a bit of history on the way it’s been in Michigan for the last quarter century.

    In effect, the Governor and Legislature now control where the School Aid money goes and if they decide to raid the education fund to give their Big Bizness Buddies a windfall tax break or buy a new hockey arena for a multi-billionaire who could just as easily build a couple out of his own petty cash, well, they will and have done so several times already.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Crivella e Doria: na rota de Detroit | AVALIAÇÃO EDUCACIONAL – Blog do Freitas
  2. Graham Keegan is “Very Pleased” With DeVos…What a Shock! | Restore Reason
  3. VIDEO: Betsy DeVos’ “Conversation” at Harvard | deutsch29

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