Across Arizona and the political spectrum opposition to President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos, is strong. Parents, teachers and education activists alike share concerns about DeVos due to her support for the highly controversial “blended learning” as well as her allegiance to private education.
From the Badass Teachers Association to Mommy Lobby AZ, DeVos, a billionaire education activist, has united normally divided groups. Although they have their own reasons, the groups are united on the belief that currently school choice is a fallacy, and DeVos lacks the real-life experience to understand why that is the case.
She Might Not Like Common Core, But DeVos Loves The Elements
For conservative leaning groups like Mommy Lobby AZ, DeVos’ support for blended learning is a deal breaker. Despite her recent claim that she is not a fan of Common Core, DeVos has invested in the very elements that make Common Core as despised as it is.
Case in point, according to the Missouri Education Watchdog:
DeVos supports allowing big technology companies to data mine children, 50,000 data points per hour, without parents knowing about it or ever seeing how the data are shared, used and profiled.
DeVos is Chair of The Philanthropy Round Table, a group that focuses on Venture Capital Philanthropy (and making “serious money“) and also promotes computer-based data mining and as an added bonus, this group Chaired by Devos is also excited about Common Core.
DeVos may be a philanthropist, but the data mining she promotes serves industry far more than it will ever serve kids and teachers in classrooms.
Last year when parents sought protections against the data mining of their kids, Arizona Rep. Bob Thorpe (R) came up against the high priced lobbyists for Amazon and Google and the chambers of commerce. The groups weighed-in not because they care about the quality of education as much as they care about the data generated from programs like blended learning.
And while democrat lawmakers complained about the republicans’ invasion of women’s’ privacy, they refused to even consider protecting kids’ privacy. Some justified their refusal by claiming that longitudinal data is vital to improving the federal government’s education programs, and in some cases they are right, but there is no justification for the mining of personally identifiable information.
Related article: Charter Schools’ Administrative Costs At $128 Million
According to the Philanthropy Round Table’s Blended Learning Guidebook, “If computerized curricula that include constant student testing become widespread in classrooms, with daily reports showing how every student in a class is doing on various fronts, then accountability becomes much easier to enforce. Teachers, principals, and parents will know right away if students are learning and understanding. Good blended-learning software puts all final results in the context of where the student started out, so separating good instruction from bad instruction isn’t just a crude matter of who aces the end-of-year test.”
Currently good teachers use whatever data is available to constantly check their own methodology. They know through quizzes and the like which kids are, and are not, understanding a concept. One D.C. area charter teacher told me last year that she gets all kinds of data now; however, in its undecipherable form it has absolutely no value to her on a daily or even yearly basis.
After DeVos’ name was made public, NEA President Eskelsen García issued a statement that read in part: “The National Education Association advocates for investing in smart strategies that we know help to improve the success of all our students, including creating more opportunities and equity for students, classes small enough for one-on-one attention, modern textbooks and a well-rounded curriculum for every student. We also know that the voices of educators — those who know the names of the students they educate — should always be present at the table when making decisions that impact student success.”
Basics like well-supplied small-sized classrooms don’t make people like DeVos’ friends rich, as a result many of them have ignored the timeless truths of what a kid needs, and opted for high-tech choices …. and false school choice.
In her statement in opposition to DeVos, Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs, reminded us just what public education is supposed to be:
“Public education is not a business. Public education is not a competition. In competition and business there are winners and losers. Public education should be about nurturing our most valuable resource – our children. Our children deserve a Secretary of Education who is an advocate for public education not privatization.”
In her statement in opposition to DeVos, Kathleen Jeskey, Oregon BAT and BAT Co-Director of State Administrators explained the lie of school choice:
“Children whose parents lack the means or ability to select a school and provide transportation for a child to a school far away from their neighborhood are left with little “choice.” This will certainly be harmful to the most vulnerable children and families and will fall especially hard on those in poverty and those in isolated rural communities.”
In reality, we know that in places like Arizona, vouchers are used mostly by advantaged families for expensive private schools. Rather than pay for highly effective teachers and small class sizes, we are subsidizing the wants – not needs—of the wealthiest.
Common Core Does Not Discriminate
Kids in gated communities and private schools are not exempt from Common Core. The conservative, American Principles Project, also issued a scathing statement upon DeVos’ nomination. Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, called Trump’s DeVos choice “puzzling,” given the fact that Trump said he wanted to have a crony-free administration. Trump’s transition team, said Cannon, “is considering an establishment, pro-Common Core Secretary of Education – this would not qualify as ‘draining the swamp’ – and it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point.”
DeVos serves on the Bush Family’s Foundation for Excellence and donated huge sums to that organization. As much as Trump dumped on Jeb for supporting Common Core, it looks like Jeb got the upper hand in the “winning” department by having his pal recommended to replace Secretary King.
“President-elect Trump rightly slammed Governor Jeb Bush for his support of Common Core on the campaign trail. Betsy DeVos would be a very Jeb-like pick, and the idea that Trump would appoint a Common Core apologist as Secretary of Education seems unlikely,” continued Cannon. “We remain hopeful that Trump will pick a Secretary of Education who will return control over education to parents and local school districts – someone like Bill Evers, Sandra Stotsky, or Larry Arnn – and not someone who will simply rebrand and repackage the failed Common Core standards that were so thoroughly rejected by voters in both the GOP primary and in the November election.”
Rebranding is exactly what Trump’s vice-presidential pick, Governor Mike Pence did in Indiana. He claimed he was an opponent of Common Core, and like Scott Walker, Doug Ducey and other members of the Republican Governor’s Association, they slapped a new name and more lipstick on the very ugly Common Core pig.
Unfortunately for Republican Governor’s Association, parents weren’t raised on Common Core so they have yet to be completely dummified. They are onto the scam and will not give up the fight because they will not give up hope that, in this country, every kid has a fair shot at a great education.
Fair Just Might Be The Ticket
In his article for Salon magazine, Matthew Rozsa quotes DeVos: “Dick and I chose the best education for our children, realizing at the same time that there were many parents and children — there still are — who didn’t have the same opportunity. And I didn’t think that was fair. I still don’t think it’s fair.”
If DeVos has a finely tuned sense of fairness maybe – just maybe – activists can make her understand just how unfair it is to destroy neighborhood and rural schools. Maybe, she can understand that comparing charters to traditional schools is not fair. They both operate under vastly different rules and under vastly different levels of scrutiny.
If DeVos as Ed Head is inevitable, then it is imperative that she be shown the unfair advantage private and charter schools have over traditional public schools.
Lisa Hudson, a member of Mommy Lobby Az stated, “With respect to education, Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to do away with Common Core and return control of education to the states, seems to already have been forgotten. The nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is disappointing, to say the least. We would prefer to see a candidate who is strongly opposed to federalized education, understands the abuses of student privacy, and would genuinely work for a stronger public education system. Unfortunately, Mrs. DeVos’ is not that candidate. Additionally, she is singularly focused on privatizing public education and extending the reach of the federal government by providing vouchers for private education funded with federal tax dollars, neither of which address the real needs of students. The writing is on the wall. We have a lot of work to do.”
Hudson is right; there is a lot of work to do. For the people in states like Wisconsin, Indiana and Arizona, they should focus their efforts on their own governors first and foremost. Change begins at home. So when not calling Governor Ducey to tell him ‘enough is enough’ reach out to your congressional representatives and tell them to fight DeVos, or at least, ask them to look at what is, and what is not, fair to our kids.