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Betsy DeVos: Still Hoping to Divert CARES Act $$ to Private Schools

August 29, 2020

US ed sec Betsy DeVos’ first love is private school choice, and her second love is trying to slice off funding intendend for public education in favor of her first love.

Keep that in mind as you read.

On August 28, 2020, US ed sec Betsy DeVos did an interview with the Wharton Business Daily. Only 90 seconds of the interview is available for listening free of charge, which Wharton introduces thus:

During a special edition of SiriusXM Business Radio’s “Wharton Business Daily”, United States Secretary Of Education, Betsy DeVos, talks to Show Host, Dan Loney, about the positive changes to America’s education system that the COVID-19 pandemic will force.

Below are DeVos’ words in those 90 seconds, trascribed as follows:

We highly value education as a nation, and, again, I think the last six months have really revealed the fact that the system that most students have been a part of has been a very static, one-size-fits-all system that is unable in way too many cases to pivot, to be nimble and flexible and to adjust to new and different circumstances. And, I think this [the pandemic] is a good thing because I think its going to really force changes that should have happened many years ago, and most of that’s going to happen when families themselves are empowered to make those choices and those changes and those decisions.

And I think about a really important bill that’s been introduced now in both houses of Congress, called “School Choice Now,” which would help families who are more vulnerable and don’t have the resources that many better-off families have had to go and make these decisions on what’s best for their child. This would empower many other families to be able to do the same thing, and it was just introduced this week in the House, and there was bipartisan support in introducing the bill [here DeVos almost chokes up with joy]. And yet, there hasn’t been any mainstream media attention paid to it.

Parents are demanding that they have choices, and whether the system wants to acknowledge it or not is becoming less and less relevant because the demand is contiuing to increase.

A few observations.

First of all, a pandemic is not “a good thing” for schools. Teachers are preparing wills. Classrooms are being stripped bare for sanitation reasons, and the learning environment is stifled by requisite social distancing. Presenting this crisis as “good” is callous and ignorant.

Moving on.

Second, DeVos speaks of “the system that most students have been a part of,” but not by name. What she means is the public school system. However, she quickly contradicts herself in stating that the “system,” which she also calls “static,” is unable in way too many cases to pivot.” So, “THE system” is actually a number of smaller systems, some of which were “nimble” and “pivoted” in adequate fashion (according to DeVos) when slapped with a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Not one system. Not one-size-fits-all.

Third, even not “pivoting” to DeVos’ liking does not make a system “static.” No school system ended the 2019-20 school year following plans set at the beginning of that school year. Once March turned into April, schools and school systems nationwide (public and private) were forced to abandon “business as usual” for impromptu courses of action.

In the face of a pandemic, adjusting “to new and different circumstances” is an understatement. Although stasis might have been desired, it was *not an option.*

And here is the best part: DeVos herself does not adjust. She is not “nimble” but instead stays on her private-school-choice message as the solution for all situations related to K12 education. However, sometimes calling her private-school preference for what it is might not be expedient. Doing so might upset the charter school crowd (still choice, thought not DeVos’ favorite), so let’s not call that “School Choice Now” bill what is actually is: A PRIVATE or HOME school choice bill, not a CHARTER school choice bill.

Better to keep the language vague in that Wharton interview.

Next, as concerns the bill DeVos laments not receiving enough press:

On July 27, 2020, the School Choice Now Act (S. 4284), sponsored by Senator Tim Scott (R) was introduced to the Senate Committee on Finance. The bill is currently co-sponsored by seven other Republican senators. No other action has been taken to date.

In the House version of the bill, HR 8100 (sponsored by Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne), the name, School Choice Now Act, has apparently been dropped. On August 25, 2020, the bill was introduced in two House Committees (Ways and Means, and Education and Labor) It has two cosponsors, Reps. Mark Walker (R) and Daniel Lipinsky (D). A long time supporter of private school choice, Lipinsky apparently comprises the entirety of Democratic support to date for the unnamed School Choice Now bill in the House.

Maybe there was no media attention because there is no real story here. It is not as though this chiefly-Republican, private school choice idea has found fresh Democratic support, and it is not as though private school vouchers is a novel idea. In fact, the day before DeVos’ Wharton interview, a second federal judge nixed DeVos’ plans to send a hefty slice of CARES Act money intended for public schools to private schools, as Peter Greene of Forbes reports:

On Thursday, a U.S. District judge in San Francisco ruled that the Department of Education used “interpretive jiggery pokery” to make its case, and placed a preliminary junction against the rule.

The department has argued that CARES Act relief money should be sent to private schools based on their total enrollment, not, as Congress directed, on the number of students from low-income families (thereby directing millions of dollars away from public schools). Judge James Donato (an Obama appointee confirmed with a 90-5 vote) was unimpressed by their argument.

But DeVos et al. will continue to send CARES Act money to private schools.

Perhaps there is a story here, after all: The legislation DeVos features in her Wharton interview is yet another attempt to take CARES Act money intended for public education and divert part of it to private school voucher programs.

From the “grants” subheading of the School Choice Now Act:

From any amounts appropriated for section 18003 of division B of the CARES Act on or after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall, notwithstanding any other provision of title XVIII of division B of the CARES Act (Public Law 116–136), use 10 percent of such amounts to… award emergency education freedom grants to States with approved applications, in order to enable the States to award subgrants to eligible scholarship-granting organizations…..

As to the “section 18003 of division B” referenced above: That is the CARES Act money intended for state education agencies (to be awarded in proportion with most recent Title I amounts) (see page 285/385 of Public Law 116-136).

And there we have it: The point of the School Choice Now Act (and its unnamed House version) is to direct states with voucher programs to use 10 percent of that Title I-proportional, CARES Act amount specifically for funding private-school vouchers.

DeVos wants to shave off CARES Act money intendend for public schools (and for charter schools) and give it to private schools.

DeVos did not say that part out loud. But she meant it.

DeVos

Betsy DeVos

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11 Comments
  1. Laura H.Chapman permalink

    And she said: I think this [the pandemic] is a good thing ! ! ! ! ! Wishing death and serious illiness to the nation’s school age students and all education staff. And she once claimed to be doing God’s work????
    Mercedes I hope you and your family in Louisiana have escaped from the worst of the hurricane. I am sure I am not alone in thinking of you during the last week. If has also been strange to see my name on so many weather reports.

    • Laura, I am fine. Both Marco and Laura missed my city.

      • Laura H.Chapman permalink

        Thanks for the reply. We all need your voice and research

  2. Christine Langhoff permalink

    It occurs to me that Heavens-to-Betsy and her family have more than a little money. She could just give it away to all those deserving (not of course, *the undeserving*) students from families without means to pay for private schools. No laws necessary!

    Instead, she wants to take money not her own, (certainly she doesn’t pay her fair share of taxes) but that of others to pay for her choices. #Theft

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: Betsy DeVos Hasn’t Had a New Idea in Thirty Years! | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. DeVos Slammed for Arguing Pandemic Ultimately a 'Good Thing' for US Public Education – Radio Free
  3. Betsy DeVos is now arguing COVID-19 pandemic is ultimately a “good thing” for U.S. public education – Investor Newsletter
  4. Betsy DeVos is now arguing COVID-19 pandemic is ultimately a “good thing” for U.S. public education – Uromi Voice
  5. Open Letter to Joe Biden: Ed Sec “That Has Been in Public Schools” is Not Enough | deutsch29
  6. Betsy DeVos is now arguing COVID-19 pandemic is ultimately a "good thing" for U.S. public education | Salon.com | Todays News and Updates

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