Valerie Strauss: What Betsy DeVos Has Accomplished in Six Months

Diane Ravitch's blog

Valerie Strauss describes the accomplishments of Betsy DeVos in her short time as Education Secretary. Most would think that such a list would cover less than a page, because none of her priorities has been enacted into law. Fortunately.

But don’t be fooled. She has used the “bully pulpit” to send her message: Choice. Choice. Charters. Vouchers. Charters. Vouchers. Tax credits. Charters. Vouchers. Choice. Choice. Choice.

She has also intervened in telling states how to fix their schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is contrary to the letter and spirit of the law. Then there is the fact that she doesn’t have a clue about how to fix any school, other than closing it down and giving everyone a voucher to a private or religious school.

She has made clear that civil rights enforcement is not high on her list of priorities. In cases of rape, she and…

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The NAACP Report: Why Are Charter Supporters Complaining?

Diane Ravitch's blog

Please read the NAACP report on charter schools.

Ever since it was released, charter supporters have complained bitterly about the report and accused the NAACP of being paid off by the unions.

This is ridiculous. It is a sound and sober report.

Consider its recommendations.

1. There should be more equitable and adequate funding for schools serving children of color. The school finance system is extremely unfair and inequitable over states, districts, and schools. School funding in 36 states has not returned to its pre-2008 levels, when budgets were slashed. Federal funds in real dollar amounts have declined for Title I and special education over the same period.

Do charter supporters disagree?

2. School finance reform is needed to ensure that dollars go where the needs are greatest.

Do charter supporters disagree?

3. Invest in low-performing schools and in schools that have a significant opportunity to close achievement gaps. “Students…

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Kansas: Schools, Funding, Taxes, and Lies from the Koch Brothers’ Spokesman

Diane Ravitch's blog

While driving yesterday, I listened to a panel discussion on taxes led by correspondent Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC.

With the usual left-right line-up of guests, they debated whether the Trump tax plan would benefit the rich or everyone.

The man from the right was part of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. He insisted that massive tax cuts would be very beneficial for middle-income and poor Americans. The man from the left (center, really) disagreed and insisted that the big winners were the rich.

Then the center-left man said that the governor of Kentucky tried massive tax cuts and it backfired. He quickly was corrected (or corrected himself) and said it was Kansas, not Kentucky.

That’s where Governor Sam Brownback cut taxes, predicting an economic boom–that never happened. Instead, the state is facing a budget hole of nearly $900 million, and even Republicans recognize they must raise taxes.

But Mr…

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I don’t think teachers know what they’re doing.

Candice Curry - W3

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At my triplets 4th birthday party our middle triplet got a tummy ache. She was standing in the middle of our living room when she got “the look”. It was all coming up. As she began to throw up, her preschool teacher flew across the room (seriously, I think she had a super hero cape on) and actually caught my daughters vomit in her hands.

“Um, did you just catch my daughter’s vomit?”

“Yes, what was I else was I supposed to do?”

She then spent the next few minutes helping me clean up what made its way to the floor and what made its way on to my daughter.

Sacrifice.

That was my first experience with one of my children’s teachers going way beyond their job description.It wasn’t my last and I can bet that there will be many more.

A few weeks ago two of my teenaged daughter’s…

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Peter Greene: How to Identify the Real Reformers

Diane Ravitch's blog

Peter Greene here reviews an attempt by a Destroy Public Schools group to define “a real reformer.”

He writes:

“Real reformsters don’t admit poverty as any sort of excuse. RR believe that the only accountability is accountability based on test scores. Parents should have control of who gets the money attached to their child. And innovation should happen because the US education sky is falling.

“Big fakes talk accountability without explaining it, “banter on” about how poverty actually affects students, and try to claim pre-school as a growth for old, faily public ed instead of letting privatizers stake out that market unchallenged.

“You’ll note that the tune for the accountability polka has changed a bit since 2014– choice fans are less attached to the idea of test-based accountability now that it hasn’t worked out so well for choicey programs. In fact, CER just cranked out a whole book on the…

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Jose Luis Vilson: Betsy DeVos Is Not My Secretary of Education

Diane Ravitch's blog

Jose Luis Vilson, teacher and blogger in New York City, writes his view of the Secretary of Education here.

He writes:

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke to the American Legislative Exchange Council on July 20 about school choice and her vision for dismantling federal support for our public schools. In her speech, DeVos praised the drive to privatize education through charter schools, voucher programs, and tax credit scholarships that cover private-school tuition. She hailed “new waves of legislation” that brought charter schools to Kentucky, education savings accounts to North Carolina for special needs students, and a similar savings-account program in Arizona for every student.

She went after the American Federation of Teachers, for being “defenders of the status quo” who don’t have “kids’ interests at heart.”

She criticized the AFT because “They have made clear that they care more about a system—one that was created in the 1800s—than about…

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The New Republic: DeVos Is Making “School Choice” Toxic for Democrats

Diane Ravitch's blog

Graham Vyse, an editor at The New Republic, shows how Betsy DeVos has created a fissure within the Democratic party over school choice.

By her passionate advocacy for charters, vouchers, and every other alternative to public schools, she has put pro-school choice Democrats like Cory Booker into a bind. Booker has vociferously supported both charters and vouchers, yet as a Democrat with hopes for the future, felt compelled to vote against DeVos. It is somewhat amusing to watch him and others try to put distance between themselves and DeVos when she is carrying out the same ideas they have publicly espoused. Any Democrat who is aligned with DeVos on any part of her repugnant agenda should change parties.

“The ground definitely is more fertile,” said Preston Green, an education professor at the University of Connecticut. “I think President Trump’s support of choice does make it difficult. It might make people…

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Gail Collins at Her Best, Again

Diane Ravitch's blog

Gail Collins writes a column about politics in the New York Times. She used to be the chief editorial writer, so she knows more than most pundits.

But what sets her apart is that she is really funny.

This column today has some good laughs.

She begins like this:

Pick your favorite irony:

1) Donald Trump turns out to be terrible at firing people.

2) The White House celebrates its “American Heroes Week” by banning transgender volunteers from serving in the military.

3) Thanks to the president’s harangues, we are actually starting to feel sympathy for Jeff Sessions.

I can definitely understand if you want to pick No. 2, especially since Trump just finished observing “Made in America Week” with an application to hire 70 foreign workers at Mar-a-Lago.

Those 70 foreign workers, by the way, are cooks, maids, and waiters. Apparently, Mar-a-Lago could not find any Americans who could…

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Betsy DeVos Invests More Money in Neurocore, Which Claims to “Cure” Autism with BioFeedback

Diane Ravitch's blog

Michael Stratford of Politico reported that Betsy DeVos has enlarged her stake in a controversial company called Neurocore, which claims that its biofeedback methods cure a range of ills, including ADD and autism.

I don’t have a link to share with you. I read the story but don’t have a subscription.

On her financial disclosure form, DeVos acknowledged that she has an investment in Neurocore worth between $5 million-$25 million. In her latest purchase, she added between $250,000-$500,000. She stepped down as a member of the board but was not required to sell her shares. According to the New York Times, she and her husband are the chief investors in the company.

It is bizarre that DeVos was not required to divest her holdings in this company, which is a direct conflict of interest with her role as Secretary of Education. She oversees the spending of billions of dollars for…

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Why the Empty Offices at the U.S. Department of Education?

Diane Ravitch's blog

Stephen Dyer writes here about the curious fact that Trump and DeVos have failed to appoint any assistant secretaries in the Department of Education. His post includes a list of the agencies that are currently leaderless.

There is no Deputy Secretary, there is no Undersecretary. DeVos has assembled a few aides, but none that require Senate confirmation.

Dyer says this gives her a free hand to do whatever she wants. Of course, as Secretary, she would have the same free hand to do whatever she wants even if all the assistant secretaries were in place.

But there may be another reason to leave positions at ED empty:

For years now Republicans have made the Department of Education their favorite bureaucratic elimination target.

Even Rick Perry remembered he wanted to eliminate the Department during his infamous “Oops” moment during the 2012 debate season.

It appears that Trump has decided to let…

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