In one of the most disturbing choices Trump has selected for his cabinet, the incoming administration announced that it had chosen Betsy Devos, a Christian fundamentalist who doesn’t believe in public schools to head the Department of Education, the agency that sets policy for America’s public schools. She will now have sweeping control over what the boys and girls of America learn and in what environment they do so.
I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed is not acceptable.
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVos) November 23, 2016
Who is Betsy DeVos? Well, she’s a wealthy Michigan politico who spends her days lobbying Congress to dismantle the public school system and install a “voucher system” in its place. Trump seems to agree. During his campaign he promised to divert federal funds to “school choice” so children could attend private schools, while systematically defunding public ones. Her lobbying group has devastated Michigan’s school system. As education news website Chalkbeat explains:
The DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country. Roughly 80 percent of charters in Michigan are run by private companies, far more than in any other state. And state authorities have done little up to now to ensure that charter schools are effectively serving students, eliciting concern from current federal authorities.
DeVos wants to do for schools what Republicans have done for prisons – go private, get profit.
DeVos’s fanatical quest to create a for-profit school system might be based in part in her desire to expose children to Christianity and avoid court-mandated science in the classroom. Private schools do not need to adhere to the same scientific standards that public ones do. Her own children, for example, do not attend public schools. They go to Christian private schools. Teaching things like climate change and the theory of evolution are not required.
One set of books popular in Christian schools calls evolution “a wicked and vain philosophy.” Another derides “modern math theorists” who fail to view mathematics as absolute laws ordained by God. The publisher notes that its textbooks shun “modern” breakthroughs — even those, like set theory, developed back in the 19th century. Math teachers often set aside time each week — even in geometry and algebra — to explore numbers in the Bible. Students learn vocabulary with sentences like, “Many scientists today are Creationists.”
DeVos is also woefully unprepared for the job she’s about to take over. Aside from deregulating Michigan schools, she has very little experience working in government or education. Outside of Michigan, hardly anyone even knows who she is. The DeVos family is, however, known for being vehemently anti-labor. The Koch family of the rust belt. (Betsy herself was once quoted as blaming Michigan’s economic woes on “high wages” for workers. A quote she later denied ever saying.) And then there is her brother – the guy who founded the infamous Blackwater military contractor company that was accused of war crimes.
DeVos’ brother is Erik Prince, the ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, founder of Blackwater, security firm banned from Iraq after fatal shootings. https://t.co/BDO2h4jszW
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) November 23, 2016
Quite a legacy for the person now charged with being the steward of America’s millions of school children.
UPDATE: Betsy and her husband are also, apparently, deeply opposed to homosexuality, gay rights, and same-sex marriage. LGBT kids are disproportionately at risk of bullying and suicide, so the message Trump is sending speaks volumes.
Betsy DeVos’s husband, Richard, gave $20,000 to the 2004 Michigan campaign to ban same-sex marriage. State disclosure record: pic.twitter.com/IIZJSNkSC2
— Dominic Holden (@dominicholden) November 23, 2016
UPDATE 2: New York Times writer points out that a group the DeVos family funded penned a piece arguing child labor is… good…
— Nick Baumann (@NickBaumann) November 24, 2016
Featured image via Wikipedia