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.From The Atlantic, Five Things to Know About Betsy DeVos, Trump's Pick for Education Secretary:
DeVos will push for school choice. DeVos, who heads up the pro-charter and pro-school-voucher nonprofit American Federation for Children, has said parents should have the ability to choose the best schools for their children, whether they are traditional public schools, charters, or private schools. Trump has proposed creating a $20 billion federal voucher program for families to use to send their kids to the school of their choice. But, as Education Week noted recently, making that program a reality could be difficult. It’s unclear exactly where the funding would come from, and even if Congress did manage to pass such a proposal, some states currently prohibit funds from going to schools with religious affiliations, which could complicate how those funds are used.
Critics of the Common Core standards may have reason to worry. While Trump repeatedly assailed the set of standards used in most states across the country, DeVos has been less clear about her stance on them.
Expect deregulation to be a priority. According to Chalkbeat, DeVos’s family poured $1.45 million into an effort to prevent Michigan from adding oversight for charter schools. That effort ultimately failed. DeVos and her husband have been supporters of charter schools for decades and longtime opponents of regulation.
She’s politically active, but she doesn’t have a lot of political experience.
DeVos, 58, is married to Dick DeVos, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the governorship in Michigan. He is the former president of Amway, which his father co-founded, and of the Orlando Magic NBA team. Her brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the controversial security firm. The family has given to a number of conservative and Christian organizations. While Betsy DeVos has served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, much of her work has been at the state level, and she will now have to, as Chalkbeat wrote, “operate within a complicated web of interests and priorities, including with education officials in states that did not support Trump.” Her ability to navigate Washington is largely untested.
The reaction to her nomination is mixed.
DeVos’s selection as education secretary will please Republicans like Senator Lamar Alexander, who heads up the Senate’s education committee.
But teachers’ unions see her support of charter schools and vouchers as an affront to public education, something Randi Weingarten, the head of one of the nation’s largest teachers’ unions, quickly made clear (in a tweet.)
.From Diane Ravitch's blog from Mitchell Robinson:
@randiweingarten calls DeVos the "most ideological, anti-public education nominee" since the start of the Ed Dpt.
Remember, Michigan is the state where the Governor poisoned the water in one of the city’s largest cities, and more than 400 days later has still refused to replace a single water pipe. And the state whose lawyers recently claimed–and I swear I’m not making this up–that the state’s children had no “fundamental right to literacy.”
I’m guessing that the leadership at Teach for America is practically salivating today.Speaking of TFA, here's their statement on the appointment which is fairly mild.
For the rest of us, welcome to the Hunger Games of public education.
From earlier this year in the New York Times, a story about charter schools in Michigan, A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift.
I want to interject here on two points that keep coming up about "choice."
One is the ed reform meme that zip code should not determine if your child attends a quality school. I would agree with that but saying that choice will solve that is not necessarily true. Choice does NOT equal quality.
Two is the very simple point that if you underfund schools, then have more money leave because of charters and vouchers, you will destroy public education as we know it. This is not "disruption" but a wholesale teardown of a vital institution. And what would replace it? A hodge-podge of "choices." And, you will STILL have people that may have no good choices.
On the plus side, families like having choices. In cities with strong regulations on who can open a public charter school and how it operates, such as New York and Boston, school choice has driven achievement gains for kids. Some private school voucher programs have even produced mild reductions in the racial and socio-economic segregation of poor students of color.
Still, the potential downsides are significant. Recent studies of voucher programs in Louisiana and Ohio found that students who use vouchers to attend a private school score, on average, lower on standardized tests than demographically similar students who do not use vouchers. In New Orleans, two years after winning a private school voucher, the average student had lost 13 points of learning in math.On vouchers:
The modest size of the voucher, about $5,500 in Louisiana, was not large enough to persuade the most exclusive private schools to accept a more challenging student population. Many of the private schools that did accept vouchers had experienced previous enrollment declines, indicating they were unpopular with parents who could afford to pay tuition on their own.
Trump’s voucher plan could be a windfall for companies hoping to make money from our public education system. To craft its education platform, the Trump campaign tapped Rob Goad, an aide to Republican Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana. Messer is a defender of the for-profit higher-education sector that President Obama fought to rein in.
On K-12 issues, Messer introduced legislation known as Title I portability, which seems to have inspired Team Trump. It would redirect funding away from Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, a piece of civil rights legislation championed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Currently, those billions flow exclusively to public schools that serve large percentages of poor children. The rationale, backed by decades of social science, is simple: It is most expensive and difficult to provide a quality education in environments of concentrated poverty, so schools that do so deserve extra federal support. The Messer plan would, instead, use Title I to provide individual families with vouchers. His proposal goes further than portability plans introduced by other Republicans, in that it would allow religious and private schools to participate, not just public charter schools.
Portability opens the door to for-profit schools, too, including the online-only virtual charter schools where, according to one large study, the average child learns far less than he or she would at a traditional brick-and-mortar school.
“Trump’s coalition is very much built around rural voters, and they don’t have charters or many private schools,” Harris says, because there are fewer school choices in regions with low population density. “So the online virtual piece is very likely to be part of this.”How to get states to do this?
In his Cleveland speech, Trump said he hoped that states would also choose to voucherize their education funding, giving families up to $12,000 to spend per child. To encourage states to do that, Trump could follow President Obama’s lead and create an incentive. Obama’s signature education program, Race to the Top, gave extra federal dollars to states that agreed to a variety of reforms, most prominently, holding teachers accountable for student test scores. Trump could use a similar program design to push states to accept vouchers.