Betsy DeVos, Trump and Education in the New Administration

Betsy DeVos, courtesy Wikipedia

Analysis Reporting San Diego

Nov 25, 2016 (San Diego) President Elect Donald Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos to be Secreatary of Eduction. She is a billionaire and has been in favor of Charter schools all her life. She is also the Chairperson of the Windquest Group, and her husband is Richard DeVos, the founder odf the Amway group.

Predictably Democratic leadership is screaming foul play and how she will proceed to dismantle education. Her appointment is clearly a signal that Trump intends to follow through in his campaign promise to give vouchers and school choice for poor people. This was a center piece of his campaign.

Yet, the same leaders who are now scared and angry, did not do the same when Arne Duncan was appointed secretary of education under President Barack Obama. Duncan’s Race to the Top program has led to the closure of failing public schools and the expansion of charter schools. He is also behind the standardized test phenomena that is at the center of neoliberal thought.

DeVos is more open about her goals to privatize schools in the name of improving schools. At the heart of the project, which will be pushed further, is that the market should determine the success or failure of schools. It places competition in the global economy at the heart of it, and it fails.

According to Noah De Lissovoy, of the Department of Curriculum Instruction at the University of Texas in Austin:

Within neoliberalism, social and human activity is thought to be most effectively and rationally organized when it is brought within the literal or figural structure of the capitalist market. Demanding a reconstruction of social relationships on the basis of competition and efficiency, neoliberalism expects public life generally, and education in particular, to understand its principal elements and activities either as inputs or products, whose value has to be demonstrated on the basis of quantitative and standardized measures. In the case of for-profit educational ventures, this subsumption of teaching and learning by the market is quite literal.

This is the context for this appointment. It is a continuation of policies that started in the 1990s. This goal of privatizing education has been ongoing, and it is a bipartisan effort. So while Democrats are screaming, it is important to understand the context. Both parties have been involved in this process, and it is almost finished.

We expect Secretary DeVos, assuming she is confirmed by the United States Senate, and there is no reason to think otherwise, to indirectly profit from her appointment. Moreover, the other candidate considered by the incoming administration was Michelle Rhee, who is also very much in favor of these neoliberal policies.

What effect this will have in San Diego? California is better able to resist any forced changes since we are a positive payer into the federal treasury, but these policies have been ongoing in San Diego as well. We have a rapidly expanding parallel system of charter schools in San Diego County. Some are very good, but most are not performing better than any of the public schools. Charters are also transferring public money to private coffers. Expect this to continue, and for children trapped in failing schools to remain in such.

While hyper partisans will be afraid of this appointment, and others to come, realize that at some fundamental level they agree. When you look at the policies it is clear that both parties are in favor of destroying public education. Universities incidentally, are also under attack.

We agree, some of her views, such as those pertaining to child labor, are quite regressive, most of her views regarding school choice are mainstream in both parties.

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