Thursday, November 24, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 24: Thanksgiving Special Edition - Trump Flips the Bird at American Public Education

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PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 24, 2016: Thanksgiving Special Edition - Trump Flips the Bird at American Public Education

Billionaire Betsy DeVos may be the most ideological and anti-public education nominee ever to be put forward to run the nearly 40-year-old department.

In 2012 Betsy & Dick DeVos' American Federation for Children spent $1.25 million in Pennsylvania supporting vouchers through the Students First PA PAC.

The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation is also one of three conservative foundations responsible for funding the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling that created the current Super PAC system for campaign financing that allows for unlimited political contributions--like those made by Students First PA PAC.

They have fought to prevent charter schools, including for-profit charter schools, from being more tightly regulated.  For-profit companies now operate about 80 percent of charters in Michigan, far more than in any other state.  DeVos Family spent $25K/day for 7 weeks to defeat legislation that would have added oversight to Michigan charters

Trump Chooses Betsy DeVos For Education Secretary
NPR by ERIC WESTERVELT November 23, 2016 2:51 PM ET
President-elect Donald Trump has picked billionaire Betsy DeVos, a Michigan Republican activist and philanthropist who is a strong supporter of school choice but has little experience with public education, as his secretary of education.  DeVos, 58, is a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and helped push a failed 2000 ballot proposal to amend the Michigan state Constitution to create a voucher system for students to attend nonpublic schools.
DeVos is chairman of The Windquest Group, a Michigan-based investment management company. She is married to billionaire Richard DeVos Jr., the son of Richard DeVos, who co-founded the home care products company Amway.
Trump, in a statement, called DeVos "a brilliant and passionate education advocate." He added that she would have the leadership ability to "break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back."  Largely unknown outside of Michigan political and philanthropic circles, her appointment signals that Trump intends to make school choice and a voucher plan for low-income families a centerpiece of his education agenda.  School choice plans are controversial because in some cases they can allow families to use public funding for private schools. Critics say choice plans are often underregulated and can amount to profiteering.

“DeVos is deeply involved with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which churns out far-right legislation for states around the country, including bills to promote vouchers and the Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, under which corporations get tax credits for donating to organizations that provide scholarships for students to attend private schools -- what some call “vouchers lite.”
ALEC is funded by donations from corporate members and conservative billionaires such as the Koch, Walton and DeVos families, not to mention Pennsylvania's own Richard Mellon Scaife --himself a co-founder of ALEC.
DeVos is a major contributor to ALEC’s Education Task Force, which authors the sample legislation before it’s distributed to state politicians, and her AFC is a member of the task force.
In other words, DeVos is both responsible for authoring pro-privatization legislation and funding the campaigns of local politicians who present that legislation in their own states, and whose committees pass it through the state legislature.”
“…The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation is also one of three conservative foundations responsible for funding the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling that created the current Super PAC system for campaign financing that allows for unlimited political contributions--like those made by Students First PA.”
Trump taps billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary
Unions appalled, school choice advocates heartened. Helen Gym calls her "uniquely unsuited" for the job. Her organizations have run afoul of campaign finance laws.
The notebook by Greg Windle, Dale Mezzacappa and Darryl Murphy November 23, 2016 — 5:15pm
The debate over privatizing public schools is about to heat up -- fueled by Donald Trump’s controversial pick for secretary of education.  Betsy DeVos is the biggest billionaire donor behind the largely right-wing effort to promote charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers over traditional public education. And she’s been at it a long time.  Pennsylvanians may be more familiar with the local super PAC Students First PA. It is funded  by the national organization Americans for Children (AFC), founded and chaired by DeVos. Students First PA is supported by four local millionaires:  Jeffrey and Janine Yass, Arthur Dantchik and Joel Greenberg--all principal investors in the Susquehanna Real Estate Group. Greenberg is also on the board of AFC.
The PAC spent $7.6 million on political contributions in the state just in the 2014 election cycle, and has donated to the campaigns of eight state senators on the 11-member senate education committee, and seven on the house education committee.  But DeVos’s primary role is on the national stage. The AFC and its precursor organizations founded and fund super PACS in over a dozen states that contribute to the campaigns of local politicians who sponsors bills for things such as vouchers and the expansion of charter schools.

Trump Picks School-Choice Advocate Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary
The former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman would be the second woman named to join the administration
Wall Street Journal By MICHAEL C. BENDER Updated Nov. 23, 2016 2:53 p.m. ET
President-elect Donald Trump selected Betsy DeVos to be his secretary of education, putting a well-known Michigan philanthropist and school-choice advocate in charge of the agency tasked with promoting student achievement.  Ms. DeVos, 58 years old, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman, would be the second woman named to join the Trump administration. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was announced earlier on Wednesday as Mr. Trump’s choice to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.  “Together, we can work to make transformational change to ensure every student has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential,” Ms. DeVos wrote Wednesday on Twitter, adding that the “status quo” in education is “not acceptable.”
The post is subject to Senate confirmation.  She is chairwoman of American Federation for Children, a Washington-based group that advocates for the use of school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs. Ms. DeVos’s husband, Dick DeVos, was the Republican nominee for Michigan governor in 2006. The DeVos family, heirs to the Amway Corp. fortune, are major donors to Republican Party candidates and conservative causes.

Trump terrifies public school advocates with education secretary pick
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss November 23 at 6:39 PM 
Advocates of public education in the United States have worried that President-elect Donald Trump would tap an education secretary who would speed up the privatization of public schools, a move that many fear could destroy America’s public education system, the country’s most important civic institution. Well, they were right about the appointment — and then some.
After Democrats Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz said they weren’t interested in the job, Trump tapped Betsy DeVos, a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan and chair of the pro-choice advocacy group American Federation of Children.  Seen by her supporters as a tireless, driven supporter of school choice, opponents say she is the most ideological and anti-public education nominee ever to be put forward to run the the nearly 40-year-old department. They fear that Trump, along with DeVos, will push “choice” programs that many see as draining resources from the traditional public school districts that educate most American schoolchildren.

Trump picks billionaire Betsy DeVos, school voucher advocate, as education secretary
Washington Post By Emma Brown November 23 at 9:17 PM 
Betsy DeVos is hardly a household name, but the Michigan billionaire and conservative activist has quietly helped change the education landscape in many states, spending millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.  Now DeVos is poised to spread her preference for vouchers nationwide. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday named her as his nominee for education secretary, a pick that suggests he aims to follow through with campaign promises to expand the movement toward “school choice” — including vouchers and charter schools — in an effort to break up a public education system that he has called “a government-run monopoly.”
Trump’s pick has intensified what already was a polarized debate about school choice. Advocates for such choice see in the Trump administration an extraordinary opportunity to advance their cause on a national scale, whereas teachers unions and many Democrats fear an unprecedented and catastrophic attack on public schools, which they see as one of the nation’s bedrock civic institutions.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Has Steered Money From Public Schools
New York Times By KATE ZERNIKE NOV. 23, 2016
It is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos, Donald J. Trump’s pick as the cabinet secretary overseeing the nation’s education system.  For nearly 30 years, as a philanthropist, activist and Republican fund-raiser, she has pushed to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and tried to strip teacher unions of their influence.  A daughter of privilege, she also married into it; her husband, Dick, who ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan a decade ago, is heir to the Amway fortune. Like many education philanthropists, she argues that children’s ZIP codes should not confine them to failing schools.

Betsy DeVos: Five Things to Know About Trump's Pick for Education Secretary
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on November 23, 2016 1:03 PM
President-elect Donald Trump has picked national school choice advocate Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary, according to the Associated Press, after meeting with DeVos on Nov. 19. DeVos must still be confirmed by the Senate, but here are five things to know about the potential next leader of the U.S. Department of Education under Trump.

Trump selects DeVos as Education secretary
Politico By CAITLIN EMMA and MICHAEL STRATFORD 11/23/16 12:48 PM EST
President-elect Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he plans to nominate school-choice activist, philanthropist and Republican mega-donor Betsy DeVos to lead the Education Department.  DeVos, 58, chairs the American Federation for Children, an advocacy group that has aggressively pushed to expand charter schools and school voucher programs that provide families with public money to spend on private school tuition.  “Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said in a statement. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families."  In the same statement, DeVos said she’s honored to work with Trump. “The status quo in education is not acceptable. Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential,” she said.

NSBA Statement on Education Secretary Nominee
NSBA Press Release November 23, 2016
Statement by Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director and CEO National School Boards Association on the Appointment of Betsy DeVos, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Nominee:
Alexandria, Va. (November 23, 2016) – Education is a civil right and is necessary to the dignity and freedom of the American people. It is our legal and moral responsibility to provide a high-quality and equitable education to all students regardless of their circumstances, background, means, or place of birth.   The investment we make in our public schools determines the future of our children and our nation. While there are a number of important issues, we can’t let education fall off the public policy radar and risk shortchanging our nation’s 50 million public schoolchildren. Education is the foundation of our society as our public schools provide the educated, innovative, and prepared workforce of tomorrow.  Education is a key part of the solution to every challenge facing the country and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the more than 90,000 school board members are ready to work with Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education to ensure every child has an opportunity to realize their potential.  NSBA looks forward to working with Ms. DeVos and the staff at the Education Department to get the ESSA regulatory effort back on the right track.

“ESSA’s existence—and legislative history—makes it extremely unlikely that Congress will agree to launch any large new school-choice program or to make portable the funds that flow through existing programs to states and districts. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, tried but failed to muster the votes for a lesser such initiative—and that was with a larger Republican majority in both houses than Trump will face. Yes, choice could likely clear the House of Representatives in some form, but its prospects in the Senate are bleak—and the appetite for even trying to amend ESSA will be faint-to-nonexistent.”
Should Trump Bother with an Education Agenda?
Education Next By Chester E. Finn, Jr. 11/22/2016
As of Thanksgiving 2016, nobody can forecast what the Trump administration will do—or even try to do—in K–12 education. Practically all he proposed during the campaign was a whopping new federal program to promote school choice. There was also loose talk about “cutting” the Department of Education and about the Common Core State Standards being “a total disaster.” It’s also no secret that, as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence was strongly pro-school choice and allergic to the Common Core (though the Hoosier State wound up with a close facsimile).
There’s not much more to go on today, save to note that able individuals such as Gerard Robinson and Bill Evers are working on the “transition team” for the Education Department and speculation is rife—and absurdly variegated—as to who may get tapped for the Secretary’s post there. To my knowledge, the three possibles interviewed by Trump so far are highly accomplished, take-no-prisoners women, namely Michelle Rhee, Betsy DeVos and Eva Moskowitz, though the first is no Republican and the third (also no Republican) has taken herself out of the running.  So let’s focus instead on some unsolicited advice to the President-elect as to what his administration’s policy priorities in this domain should (and shouldn’t) be.

20 questions for Betsy DeVos
Flypaper Blog by Michael J. Petrilli November 23, 2016
Reading the tea leaves of presidential appointments is always a fun spectator sport in the swamp that is Washington, DC, but more so this year, with a President-Elect whose campaign was light on policy details, and especially on education, where Donald Trump uttered hardly more than a slogan or two.  So—after a well-earned and much-deserved hearty congratulations to her—let the speed-reading begin, now that Betsy DeVos has accepted the position as Trump’s Secretary of Education.  One thing seems clear from this pick: Trump is serious about doing something on school choice. That’s been DeVos’s passion for years, most recently in her role as Chairman of the American Federation for Children. But that won’t make Republican lawmakers as happy as you might think, because of the GOP’s longstanding internal conflict between pursuing reform from Washington and abiding by its federalist, small-government principles. No less a school choice fan than Cato’s Neal McCluskey wrote just yesterday that “the feds have no constitutional authority to promote school choice. Nor should we want them to.”

“The DeVos family, owners of the largest charter lobbying organization, has showered Michigan Republican candidates and organizations with impressive and near-unprecedented amounts of money this campaign cycle: $1.45 million in June and July alone — over a seven-week period, an average of $25,000 a day.”
DeVos family showers GOP with contributions after DPS vote
 Stephen Henderson , Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor September 3, 2016
Bought and paid for.  Back in June, that’s how I described the Detroit school legislation that passed in Lansing — a filthy, moneyed kiss to the charter school industry at the expense of the kids who’ve been victimized by those schools' unaccountable inconsistency.  And now, through the wonder of campaign finance reports, we are beginning to see what it took to buy the GOP majority in Lansing, just how much lawmakers required to sell out Detroit students’ interests.

What a Betsy DeVos appointment would tell us about Trump’s education plans
Michelle Rhee, the former D.C. schools chief and StudentsFirst founder, has been a household name ever since she appeared on the cover of Time magazine with a broom, highlighting her efforts to sweep out teachers deemed ineffective.  Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos is less well known outside her home state. She has chaired the Michigan Republican party and played a key role in some major education policy decisions there in recent years. But unlike Rhee and charter-school leader Eva Moskowitz, another person Trump considered for the education secretary position, DeVos has kept a low national profile. She has neither worked in public education nor chosen public schools for her own children, who attended private Christian schools.
If Trump ends up tapping DeVos as his education secretary, here are a few things we could reasonably surmise:

“For-profit companies seized on the opportunity; they now operate about 80 percent of charters in Michigan, far more than in any other state. The companies and those who grant the charters became major lobbying forces for unfettered growth of the schools, as did some of the state’s biggest Republican donors.
Sometimes, they were one and the same, as with J. C. Huizenga, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur who founded Michigan’s largest charter school operator, the for-profit National Heritage Academies. Two of the biggest players in Michigan politics, Betsy and Dick DeVos — she the former head of the state Republican Party, he the heir to the Amway fortune and a 2006 candidate for governor — established the Great Lakes Education Project, which became the state’s most pugnacious protector of the charter school prerogative.”
A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift
New York Times By KATE ZERNIKE JUNE 28, 2016
DETROIT — On the face of it, Ana Rivera could have had almost any choice when it came to educating her two sons. For all the abandoned buildings and burned-down houses in her neighborhood in the southwest part of this city, national charter school companies had seen a market and were setting up shop within blocks of each other, making it easier to find a charter school than to buy a carton of milk.  But hers became the story of public education in a city grasping for its comeback: lots of choice, with no good choice.
She enrolled her older son, Damian, at the charter school across from her house, where she could watch him walk into the building. He got all A’s and said he wanted to be an engineer. But the summer before seventh grade, he found himself in the back of a classroom at a science program at the University of Michigan, struggling to keep up with students from Detroit Public Schools, known as the worst urban district in the nation. They knew the human body is made up of many cells; he had never learned that.  When his school stopped assigning homework, Ms. Rivera tried enrolling Damian at other charters, but the deadlines were past, the applications onerous. Finally, she found him a scholarship at a Catholic school, where he struggled to rise above D’s all year. “He doesn’t want to hear the word engineering,” she said.
Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos.
Detroit schools have long been in decline academically and financially. But over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produced a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.

How Trump Could Gut Public Education
He wants to redirect federal funds toward school vouchers—and his choice of education secretary shows he’s serious. By Dana Goldstein November 23, 2016
School-choice philanthropist Betsy DeVos is set to become Donald Trump’s secretary of education. The school choice movement that Trump has embraced is bipartisan; centrist Democrats and Republicans both tend to support public charter schools. But DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, represents the most conservative corner of the movement. She and her husband have funded a series of efforts to turn public school funding into vouchers for students to attend private schools. They have also fought to prevent charter schools, including for-profit charter schools, from being more tightly regulated.  The DeVos appointment signals that Trump is serious about the $20 billion school voucher plan he rolled out on the campaign trail. The proposal would redirect huge swaths of the federal education budget away from school districts and toward low-income parents, allowing them to spend a voucher at a public or private school of their choice, potentially including for-profit, virtual, and religious schools.

Michigan spends $1B on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable
Jennifer Dixon, Detroit Free Press 6:58 p.m. EDT August 24, 2016
Michigan taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools — but state laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest, and the state demands little accountability in how taxpayer dollars are spent and how well children are educated.  A yearlong investigation by the Detroit Free Press reveals that Michigan’s lax oversight has enabled a range of abuses in a system now responsible for more than 140,000 Michigan children. That figure is growing as more parents try charter schools as an alternative to traditional districts.  In reviewing two decades of charter school records, the Free Press found:
Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them.
And a record number of charter schools run by for-profit companies that rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it, saying they’re private and not subject to disclosure laws. Michigan leads the nation in schools run by for-profits.

Trump's new ed chief is a disaster for Philly
Attytood by Will Bunch, Daily News Columnist  @will_bunch Updated: NOVEMBER 23, 2016 — 4:30 PM EST
Betsy DeVos, the right-wing billionaire school choice advocate tapped today by President-elect Donald Trump to run the U.S. Education Department, is definitely good at some things. Arguably, she's displayed great skill in practicing the dark arts of big-money politics, using her family's vast Amway fortune to woo state legislatures through lobbying and obscure political-action committees and impose a vast empire of charter schools from Michigan to Louisiana.
Her biggest failure, though, is a pretty huge one: Failing to do a damn thing to educate America's children, especially in the nation's poorest zip codes.  Take a look at Detroit -- Ground Zero for education reform in DeVos' home state of Michigan, where the heiress has pumped millions into the political system to boost what advocates call "school choice." The result is a broken urban school system where charter-school privateers have made big profits -- aided by the failure of an charter oversight bill that the DeVos family spent $1.45 million to fight -- and low student achievement has been locked in. Federal auditors discovered last year that an "unreasonably high" number of charters were among Michigan's worst 5 percent of schools.


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