Monday, February 6, 2017

Detroit Free Press Editorial Board: U.S. Senate must reject DeVos appointment

U.S. Senate must reject DeVos appointment:

U.S. Senate must reject DeVos appointment


Make no mistake: A vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education is a vote to end public education in this country as we know it.
This isn't conspiracy theory, or ideologically driven slander. Look at DeVos' own words and actions, over her long career advocating against traditional public schools; her funding of an ideologically driven pro-charter lobby; her willingness to spend whatever it takes to ensure her policy preferences become law.
DeVos is unqualified in every respect to serve as head of this critical department, and the U.S. Senate must vote Tuesday to reject her nomination.
West Michigan billionaire DeVos hasn't worked in public education, public administration, or even in mainstream education reform. She's demonstrated a refusal to value outcomes over ideology. But she's contributed millions to the Republican Party and Republican candidates, to the pro-school-choice lobby she essentially founded, and to like-minded candidates whose careers she has financed.
All at the expense of public school students, mostly black, mostly in Detroit -- children a world away from the Grand Rapids area where the DeVos family makes its home.
But nor has she spent her considerable wealth and influence advocating for better schools outside of Detroit; report after report shows Michigan schools are falling dangerously behind, that serious investment and course correction are required to stop this slow slide to the bottom.
DeVos has called traditional public schools a "dead end," a government "monopoly." Husband Dick DeVos said the couple bemoans the role public schools have played at the heart of American communities -- replacing, they believe, the church as the central institution of American life. She has advanced or lobbied for programs that draw taxpayer dollars from those schools, always to those schools' great detriment, to fund unregulated charter schools or to provide public-money vouchers for private education.
There's nothing inherently destructive about charter schools. Properly managed charters can be a viable alternative for parents with few options. But that's not the kind of charter school DeVos has championed -- and nor can an education secretary's educational advocacy be so one-sided. In Michigan, charter schools can be run by for-profit operators. Charter schools can siphon public money for decades, taking taxpayer dollars without making good on the promise of better results.
DeVos' defenders are quick to claim Detroit, where charter schools have proliferated at a record pace, as a victory for her pro-school-choice ideology. They're wrong. A Michigan State Reform Office plan to close failing schools may be stymied, in Detroit, by a dearth of high-quality educational options citywide. Look no further than a map of Detroit schools ranked by academic outcomes -- the same neighborhoods served by failing traditional public schools are also home to failing charters. The problem is not insufficient choice. It's an obstinate refusal on the part of DeVos and her lobby of ideologically driven reformers to acknowledge that school choice is meaningless if all choices are bad.
Last summer, DeVos and members of her family spent more than $1.45 million over seven weeks to reward Republican lawmakers for stripping an education commission -- a body that would coordinate school openings and closings in Detroit, ensuring that quality schools aren't geographically clustered, and ride herd on quality for all publicly funded schools, ensuring Detroit's kids aren't forced to choose between bad and worse -- from Detroit school reform legislation. It was a naked display of influence. But that's something that's long since ceased to trouble DeVos.
“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” DeVos wrote in 1997, in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment."
Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, have said they won't vote for DeVos.
For members of the Senate to vote against DeVos' confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education would be an act of courage -- billionaire DeVos may be the only cabinet nominee in recent history with both a penchant for buying legislative seats and the means to fund an ballot-box challenge to her elected foes.
But that's just another in the long list of reasons why DeVos is wrong for the job. Traditional conflict of interest restrictions don't apply; DeVos is unlikely to profit from high office, but her ability to hand-pick a sympathetic legislative branch is unprecedented.
In short: This is a really bad idea.
We hope the U.S. Senate will see that.U.S. Senate must reject DeVos appointment:

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