Saturday, November 26, 2016

What's the worst that could happen under New Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos? Some Scenarios - The Hechinger Report

What's the worst that could happen under New Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos? Some Scenarios - The Hechinger Report:

What’s the worst that could happen under New Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos? Some Scenarios

New York—Thanksgiving is, of course, about giving thanks, while being mindful of an America that has not always treated people fairly. This year, there is a lot to take stock of, as President-elect Donald Trump, in the midst of populating his cabinet, selected Elisabeth (Betsy) DeVos to be his Secretary of Education.
I’ve been joking that Ben Carson – Trump’s pick to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – primary qualification is that he grew up in a house. But Betsy DeVos attended private schools and sent her children to them.
Her qualification to be Secretary of Education? She doesn’t even have that going for her.
So what’s the worst that could happen? This question has two distinct connotations. On the one hand, asking “What’s the worst that could happen?” may be a way of sidestepping catastrophic thinking, a common feature of psychological anxiety in which people systematically and irrationally overstate the likelihood of a negative event.
Psychologists treating individuals with this kind of negative thought distortion will help them to challenge the distortions, and to substitute an alternative, rational thought. In this context, asking “What’s the worst that could happen?” is a way of sensitizing people to the fact that the worst-case scenario hasn’t happened to others they know, and is extremely unlikely to happen to them, too.
That’s why I decided to take a hard look at two distinctly possible scenarios of “What’s the worst that could happen?” under a federal Department of Education led by Betsy DeVos.
Scenario #1: DeVos moves quickly to implement President-Elect Trump’s plan to use $20 billion of federal funds for block grants to states to support vouchers for poor children to attend private schools. With support from the Republican majority in Congress, she zeroes out the $15 billion currently allocated to Title I, the federal program devoted to providing equal access to primary and secondary education, particularly for children in poverty. The new initiative has incentives for states to treat the block grants solely as a funding stream and to provide minimal oversight of the schools that students attend with the voucher funds.
As he did on the campaign trail, President-elect Trump calls on states to buttress this $20 billion with $110 billion from their own coffers. His powers of persuasion are great; early successes in the administration give states the confidence that this is a good investment, and they reallocate their budgets to create this larger pool of $130 billion to provide a voucher of approximately $12,000 for every school-aged child in poverty in the U.S. At the state level, funds that were targeted for local education agencies are diverted to vouchers for individual children, a sharp loss in the funding that states historically have provided to school districts.
Money is siphoned from traditional public schools and towards a diverse array of unregulated for-profit and private providers. School quality takes a back seat to marketing, as the only measure of success is a school’s ability to attract students who bring public dollars with them. Schools rely on ridiculous marketing ploys, advertising “themes” and practices designed to draw students.
For example, a private or charter school might advertise its behavioral practices. “The handshake represents the quintessential spirit of [our school],” one might read on a school’s website. “It’s the attribute that leaves an indelible impression upon the business leaders, dignitaries and visitors we’re privileged to host almost daily. But we don’t encourage our students to shake hands just to impress—it goes beyond the first impression to instill an attitude of respect when meeting. Giving students the opportunity to practice this important American cultural norm gives our students the edge in college and in life. In addition, showing respect to our guests models our core values and the more we practice it, the more ingrained into our nature it becomes.”
(This quote, by the way, is taken from the website of the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a charter school founded by Betsy DeVos’ husband Dick. Unlike many charter schools in Michigan, its students are doing pretty well academically.)
Across the country, millions of children enroll in schools whose primary mission is to sustain a flow of dollars, not provide an What's the worst that could happen under New Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos? Some Scenarios - The Hechinger Report:

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