Monday, December 5, 2016

Betsy DeVos: School Choice, the Establishment Clause, Religious Liberty, and Public Education | janresseger

Betsy DeVos: School Choice, the Establishment Clause, Religious Liberty, and Public Education | janresseger:

Betsy DeVos: School Choice, the Establishment Clause, Religious Liberty, and Public Education



According to Benjamin Wermund of POLITICO, the religious views of Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, are closely connected to her philosophy of school choice.  Wermund shares a transcript and video clips of a 15-year-old interview in which Dick and Betsy DeVos attribute their promotion of school choice and privatization through publicly funded school vouchers to their Christian values and their desire to “advance God’s Kingdom.”
Betsy DeVos explains: “We both believe that competition and choices make everyone better and that ultimately if the system that prevails in the United States today had more competition—there were more choices for people to make freely—that all of the schools would become better as a result.” Wermund continues: “However, the DeVoses also say public schools have ‘displaced’ the church in terms of importance.” Wermund quotes Dick DeVos, Betsy’s husband, who was also part of the interview: “The church—which ought to be in our view far more central to the life of the community—has been displaced by the school as the center for activity, the center for what goes on in the community.  It is certainly our hope that churches would continue, no matter what the environment—whether there’s government funding some day through tax credits, or vouchers, or some other mechanism or whatever it may be—that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education.”
In the interview, Betsy DeVos is asked why the DeVoses have not spent their philanthropic dollars to support religious schools themselves.  She replies that they, “want to reform the whole system to bring ‘greater Kingdom gain… We could give every single penny we have, everybody in this room could give every single penny they had and it wouldn’t begin to touch what is currently spent on education every year in this country and what is in many cases… not well spent.'”
Despite that in the 2002 decision in the case of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted the use of publicly funded vouchers at religious schools as long as the voucher is given to the family and not directly to the school, endorsement by government of religious institutions is prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.  Provisions in a number of state constitutions also explicitly reject the expenditure of public dollars for sectarian institutions, including for tuition vouchers and tuition tax credits.
Here is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to Betsy DeVos: School Choice, the Establishment Clause, Religious Liberty, and Public Education | janresseger:

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