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