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1/19/2017 – Does Betsy DeVos Care About Racial Equity? We Still Don’t Know.

THIS WEEK: DeVos Flunks Her Hearing … Choice Increases Segregation … Pivotal Year For Schools … Tribal Schools In Crisis … School Choice Divide?


Does Betsy DeVos Care About Racial Equity? We Still Don’t Know.

By Jeff Bryant

“What are DeVos’ views on racial equity in education? … Race has historically played a much larger role in federal education policy than disputes over standardized testing … and what else tends to occupy education debates these days. It’s also an issue where DeVos has a very controversial track record … Much of what DeVos has worked for in her state of Michigan … is taking the state’s schools back to a segregationist past.”
Read more …


Betsy DeVos Just Flunked Her Senate Test

The Nation

“There were plenty of moments in Tuesday’s hearing that betrayed DeVos’s lack of preparation for the country’s top education post, but none more than her stumble over protections for disabled students … DeVos appeared unfamiliar with (or uncommitted to) the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, a major civil-rights law that requires publicly funded schools to accommodate disability … DeVos either could not or chose not to answer most serious policy questions, from inquiries about reporting standards for sexual assault on campus to regulations on for-profit colleges … When DeVos did speak specifically, it was to affirm her market-based vision for the education system. She included private schools in her description of what constitutes ‘today’s public education,’ and would not agree that private and charter schools receiving taxpayer money should face the same accountability standards as traditional public schools … Committee members could not fully evaluate any potential conflicts of interest, as an ethics review has not yet been completed for DeVos. And they had little time to dig into the religious motivations for her support of voucher systems.”
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Does Greater School Choice Lead To Less Segregation?

Christian Science Monitor

“Charter schools and vouchers … perpetuate the racial segregation of US schools … While minority parents are being given more choices … Choices for families in low-income, minority-dominated school districts are often between low-performing public schools and alternatives such as charters or voucher-dependent private schools with similar student bodies … Voucher programs rarely catapult low-income students into elite private schools with upper-income whites and Asians … More commonly they funnel students into less selective religious schools and spur the creation of new minority-dominated private schools.”
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K-12 Funding, ESSA Hot Topics As State Legislatures Convene

Education Week

“2017 could be a pivotal year for school funding formulas, accountability, teacher evaluations, and testing … Conservative lawmakers in many states have long been itching to make dramatic changes to how much money they provide to school districts and how districts spend that money … The Every Student Succeeds Act … goes into full effect … and fierce political tensions in a number of states … almost half the states are expected to have less money in their budgets this year due to shortfalls in sales tax revenue.”
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The Longstanding Crisis Facing Tribal Schools

The Atlantic

“Federal law requires that the Bureau of Indian Education provide education at least as good as that offered to non-Native students, but it’s well-established that that’s rarely the case. Graduation rates on reservations are among the lowest of all student subgroups … 8 in 10 Native students are not proficient in reading … and children at BIE schools perform significantly worse than their Native peers at regular public schools … Native Americans across the country are disciplined at disproportionate rates. Unsurprisingly, they’re also incarcerated at a rate 38% higher than the national average.”
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Will Betsy DeVos Divide The School Choice Movement?

Education Week

University professor Jeffrey Henig writes, “While voucher and charter school proponents have historically been allies linked by providing greater choice, the political alliance between them might be fraying … Voucher proponents have lost national debates about school choice in the past … Because of this resistance, voucher proponents jumped on the charter school bandwagon … to make inroads for market-based ideas in education … Charter proponents… welcomed the political and philanthropic support of the pro-voucher forces … but they may turn on one another if Trump and DeVos push to expand the voucher system.”
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Does Betsy DeVos Care About Racial Equity? We Still Don’t Know.

So Betsy DeVos doesn’t know much about education policy. Didn’t we already know that?

Nevertheless, the hot takes coming after her rocky confirmation hearing for the US Secretary of Education nominee read as if people are genuinely surprised that someone who has never been a teacher, never run a school, never served as a public official overseeing education, and never been engaged in scholarly work on education is not terribly well versed in education policy.

When peppered with questions about complicated policy issues like assessment methodology and federal enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, “DeVos’s inexperience in the realm of public education appeared at times to be a liability,” observes Emma Brown for the Washington Post.

Libby Nelson at Vox finds DeVos’ reaction to “questions about the basics of federal education policy suggested she knows little about what the department she hopes to lead actually does.”

Valerie Strauss, the education blogger for the Post, writes, “DeVos either displayed a lack of knowledge about education fundamentals or refused to answer questions that Democratic members of the Senate Education Committee believe are critical to her fitness for the job”

The senators’ questions were indeed about important matters and should have been asked, and certainly the queries from the Democratic side of the committee were more worthy than the softball questions and vapid compliments from the Republican side. (Memo to Republican senators: Saying someone really, really “cares about kids” doesn’t qualify her for office.)

But there were bigger, more philosophical education issues DeVos could have likely been more able to expound on had she ever been asked. One of those big-picture issues that was glaringly absent from the senators’ questioning was race.

Race has historically played a much larger role in federal education policy than disputes over standardized testing, “accountability,” charter schools, Common Core, and what else tends to occupy education debates these days. It’s also an issue where DeVos has a very controversial track record.

What largely defines the federal government’s role in education, at least at the K-12 level, is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which grew out the federal government’s War on Poverty and was a response to Brown v. Board of Education – the landmark Supreme Court case that called for racially integrated schools – and the Civil Rights Movement. The law has had different names over the years, but its focus on equal access and opportunity for students started with black children before expanding to other student populations.

So what are DeVos’ views on racial equity in education? Does she support racial integration? What would she do to assert the federal government’s historic role in ensuring racial equity in schools?

Unfortunately, much of what DeVos has worked for in her state of Michigan – the “schools of choice program,” vouchers, and the proliferation of charters – is taking the state’s schools back to a segregationist past.

As a recent analysis by Bridge Magazine finds, “Tens of thousands of parents across Michigan are using the state’s schools of choice program to move students out of their resident districts and into ones that are more segregated.”

The analysis includes Holland, Michigan, DeVos’ home town, where “white enrollment has plummeted 60 percent, with 2,100 fewer white students. Today, whites comprise 49 percent of school-age children living in the district, but only 38 percent the school population.”

The level of white flight is similar across the state. “In the 2009-10 school year, roughly 64 percent of choice students across the state moved to a less diverse district. That rate is now approaching 70 percent.”

Bridge Magazine’s analysis finds especially stark results from school choice in East Detroit, where white students have fled the district to Lakeview schools, a predominantly white district that has better test scores, more funding, and better facilities. The article quotes charter school advocates who say the white flight has less to do with race than with “better quality schools.” But the history of America teaches that a racially separate school system will never produce equal outcomes for kids.

This resegregation of the state has negative academic results. Bridge points to studies that show disadvantaged black and brown students benefit academically and socially from a more integrated education environment and that integration can help white students too.

Michigan’s performance on the national benchmark exam, the National Assessment of Education Progress, is on trajectory to land the state at near bottom, 48th, in the nation.

The racial segregation produced by school choice in Michigan is similar to what these programs have created across the country.

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor, Simon Montlake notes, “What both charter schools and vouchers have in common, say critics, is that they perpetuate the racial segregation of US schools, even as the nation’s school-age population grows ever more diverse. While minority parents are being given more choices about where to enroll their children, these choices rarely extend to schools that are more integrated by race or ethnicity.”

Staunch defenders of DeVos like to cite her philanthropic work and advocacy for school choice as efforts to empower black and brown families to obtain better education options.

At her confirmation hearing, DeVos called out two in the audience Denisha Meriweather, an African-American student from Florida, and Nydia Salazar, a Latina student from Arizona, who were “rescued from failing schools” by voucher programs in their states.

As Wayne State University professor Mitchell Robinson explains on a Michigan based blogsite, the two women DeVos pointed to are commonly featured props in her propaganda campaign. Meriwether, he notes, is a paid employee of a Florida organization that helps administer the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program she used to attend a private religious school at taxpayer expense. Salazar, he explains in a separate post, used a taxpayer funded voucher program in Arizona to subsidize part of the cost of her education at a Catholic school that charged $14,000 per year. The rest had to come from her family’s income – hardly a solution that most low-income people can afford.

Others from black and brown communities that DeVos, and other school choice proponents, claims to care so much about who also showed up for her confirmation were locked out of the hearing room.

Members of the Journey for Justice Alliance – an alliance of grassroots community, youth, and parent-led organizations in 24 cities across the country – mounted a bus trip with over 100 primarily black parents and students traveling over 500 miles from Detroit to DC for the hearing.

In a pre-hearing event, J4J executive director Jitu Brown, a Chicago based community organizer, spoke about the “main issue” in American public education: racial equity.

Brown calls school choice an illusion in black and brown urban communities like his, including Detroit and Philadelphia. “We have plenty of ‘choices,'” he argues, “but they lack quality.”

Over 100 of the J4J participants attempted to enter the hearing room, but according to a tweet from the Advancement Project, a civil rights advocacy that joined J4J in speaking out, pro-charter “line holders” were already in place to fill the room ahead of the protestors. In a tweet from his organization’s timeline, Brown claims the line holders were paid to stand in line and then switched out of the line to be replaced by children who could enter the hearing room and provide a positive backdrop to the cameras filming DeVos.

The New York Times originally reported this stunt as well, writing that Capitol Police had confirmed supporters of DeVos had paid homeless people to line up to get into the hearing at 6:00 AM. Then at 4:00 PM, an hour before the hearing doors were to open, those in line were replaced by “better-dressed people wearing school-bus-yellow scarves celebrating School Choice Week.” This account was later deleted from the Times report, but  both versions are documented here.

Relegated to the overflow room, Detroit parents and students who are most affected by the policies DeVos favors were silenced by security officers and eventually ejected from the building.

Betsy DeVos likes to say her position on education is really very simple – that when parents don’t think their school is a very “good fit,” they simply move to another one. Here’s something else that’s simple: Operating schools that way tends to lead to racially discriminatory results. It’s a shame no senator at her confirmation hearing brought that up.


1/12/2017 – Will Betsy DeVos Restart The ‘Education Wars’?

THIS WEEK: Warren Warns About DeVos … Congressional Education Caucus … Charter Schools Fear DeVos … Harsh Discipline Fails … 2017 Pre-K Agenda


Will Betsy DeVos Restart The ‘Education Wars’?

By Jeff Bryant

“Education … has suddenly been thrust to the frontline in the increasingly heated conflict over President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposed cabinet appointees. The reason for that turn of events is his choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Her nomination risks “reigniting the education wars,” according to Randi Weingarten … Strong opposition to the DeVos nomination from Democrats indicates that if Weingarten is right … the conflict will be different from the past.”
Read more …


Warren Letter To Trump Education Pick Highlights ‘Lack Of Experience’


“‘There is no precedent for an Education Department Secretary nominee with your lack of experience in public education,’ wrote Senator Warren … ‘You and the organizations you led have also spent millions to promote policies that send more public funds to for-profit and virtual charter schools with no accountability for how well these schools serve students or how these taxpayer dollars are spent.'”
Read more …

Democrats Form Congressional Caucus To Support Public Education

The Huffington Post

“Several Democratic members of Congress announced the effort alongside the presidents of the nation’s two largest teachers unions … Members expressed fear that public education will be under attack if DeVos is confirmed … Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who spent over two decades as a public school teacher and is part of the caucus, said at the press conference that DeVos’ lack of experience gives her an ‘incredibly narrow view of public education’ … Another caucus member, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), said he has never worked as a teacher, but his years in the Wisconsin Legislature showed him the havoc school choice can wreak on children.”
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Charter Advocates Tell Liz Warren: Betsy Devos May Not Make Grade

Boston Herald

“Leading Massachusetts charter-school advocates have taken aim at Betsy DeVos … being pursued can lead investors to be dangerously slow in shifting their approach, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of its flaws … In a letter to US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, which represents 70 charter schools, asks Warren to ensure that DeVos commits to a strict oversight system for charter schools nationwide. ‘We’re very concerned that if the federal government lowers the standards for charter schools, it would have a negative impact on Massachusetts charter schools.’”
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Detentions, Suspension And Expulsion Do Not Curb Violent Behavior

The Hechinger Report

“Schools have traditionally applied punitive procedures, including detention, suspension, or expulsion in response to behavioral infractions … Numerous large-scale and well-conducted research studies reveal … these approaches don’t work. When schools apply highly punitive and restrictive procedures, problem behaviors such as rebellion toward teachers, vandalism against school property, absenteeism, and truancy actually increase … The solution is to develop and apply a positive approach that prevents problems from emerging and provides supports for students.”
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Early Education Priorities For 2017

New America

“New America’s Education Policy program has released an agenda with 10 important actions to help reform the country’s education system, spanning birth through higher education and the workforce … Expanding access to quality early learning is one key action for both federal and state policymakers … State lawmakers can improve the accessibility of child care by increasing financial assistance for families struggling to afford care … provide adequate funding to help school districts offer full-day kindergarten to all students … [and] enact policies for teacher preparation and professional development that put a premium on the quality of interactions between adults and children.”
Read more …

Will Betsy DeVos Restart The ‘Education Wars’?

Education, which was hardly ever mentioned in the recent presidential election, has suddenly been thrust to the frontline in the increasingly heated conflict over President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposed cabinet appointees. The reason for that turn of events is his choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Her nomination risks “reigniting the education wars,” according to Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union.

Weingarten stated that warning in an address this week at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and broadcast live on the AFT Facebook page.

The union leader joins a chorus of education leaders and activists, as well as Democratic party government officials on Capitol Hill, in calls to delay the hearing for DeVos until after government ethics officials have finished their review of DeVos’ numerous ties to financial and charitable interests. After these calls for delay, the confirmation hearing was indeed postponed for a week.

But what education wars?

During her address, Weingarten referrs to the passage of new federal education legislation in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act, that resolved many of the disputes over testing, teacher evaluation, and test-based “accountability” provisions that had been instigated by the previous federal law, No Child Left Behind.

Weingarten calls the consensus over ESSA “hard won” and “positive progress” in the way Republicans and Democrats could work together to govern the nation’s schools. But in Trump’s selection of DeVos, Weingarten sees “the antithesis of public education, ESSA bipartisanship, and what kids need.”

She calls DeVos “the most anti-public education figure ever” to hold the office and says her nomination would make education “a strong issue again” that would divide Republicans and Democrats.

In a phone conversation with Weingarten after her speech, I asked more specifically where she sees signs of a return to a more polarized policy debate over education.

She points to DeVos’ opposition to a bipartisan bill in Michigan, her home state and where she wields considerable influence, that would have returned some oversight of Detroit’s public education system – including regulating the openings and closings of traditional public schools and charter schools – to a mayor-appointed education commission.

Weingarten calls the bill a product of “consensus” among prominent stakeholders in Detroit, “people who really care about Detroit” – including the local chamber of commerce, religious leaders, community groups, parents, and educators. But Weingarten believes this local collaboration was undermined, largely due to DeVos’ influence, by an “ideology” coming from outside the community.

The ideology Weingarten refers to is the strong preference DeVos has for generally unfettered “school choice” that has rapidly expanded in Detroit and across the “Mitten State.” In Weingarten’s mind, DeVos has a strong tendency to enforce her own personal preference for choice and undermine other education ideas that come about from local collaboration.

Local collaboration is one of what Weingarten calls the “four pillars” of success in public education. Using the plural first-person pronoun to represent the collective beliefs of her organization and of public school supporters in general, she tells me, “We are not a competitive environment. We are not a commodity or a marketplace. We are for all kids.”

Seeing outsiders like DeVos, who lives in the suburbs of well-to-do Grand Rapids and spends significant sums of money to influence electoral politics and legislation at the capital in Lansing, undermining what communities like Detroit want for their local schools reminds Weingarten of the heated controversies that have long raged in communities like New Orleans, Newark, Philadelphia, and Chicago where public education activists have objected to education governance “being done to us, not with us”. ESSA was supposed to end that, Weingarten believes, and now DeVos will restart that conflict.

Another sign of the oncoming education war Weingarten sees is the resurgence of heated rhetoric vilifying teachers and their unions and branding public schools negatively.

She points to a recent pro-DeVos op-ed in Breitbart News by William Bennett, the Secretary of Education under Ronal Reagan, that criticizes Weingarten personally and rails against teachers unions and “underperforming and dangerous public schools.” (Bennett fails to note Michigan charter schools have an underperformance problem that is equal to the states’ public schools.)

DeVos has called the nation’s public school system a “dead end” and “failings government schools” and said teachers are “overpaid.”

Evidence of the re-emerging education war Weingarten perhaps didn’t see, or at least failed to mention to me, is the clear adversarial sides that are coming together to oppose each other.

For years, education policy has been an arena with blurred political allegiances, with Democrats often opposing teachers and public education advocates and siding with Republicans on issues like using student test scores to evaluate teachers and to close schools while increasing taxpayer money for privately operated charter schools.

In the case of the  DeVos appointment, the partisan divides for or against her are quite strong.

While conservative Republicans, including “moderates” like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, have made public statements in support of DeVos, forces on the left are showing an uncharacteristically unified front in opposition to a proponent of “school choice.”

Massachusetts US Senator Elizabeth Warren is helping to lead the way on the Democratic party side. In a strongly worded letter to DeVos, Warren writes, “Your history of support for policies that would drain valuable taxpayer resources from our public schools and funnel those funds to unaccountable private and for-profit education operators may well disqualify you.”

Another Democratic senator, Cory Booker of New Jersey, who is usually supportive of charter schools and voucher programs that send public education money to private education vendors, has also expressed “serious concerns” with the DeVos nomination and seems likely to oppose her.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats have responded to Trump’s pick for education secretary by forming a new congressional caucus.

In an event that Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan broadcast on his Facebook page, numerous Democratic party congressional representatives from across the country joined with Weingarten, National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia, and Chicago community activist Jitu Brown to announce the formation of the new caucus and urge senators to vote “no” on DeVos’ confirmation.

Pocan noted how school choice initiatives in his home state, such as vouchers, tended to spread academic failure while siphoning resources from taxpayer supported local schools. At one publically funded voucher school, Pocan recalls, “We had one person running the school who claimed he could read a book by placing his hand on the book. We gave funds to schools that used the money to buy Cadillacs.”

Following Pocan, California Rep. Mark Takano, a former public school teacher who spent 24 years in the classroom, insisted DeVos will enforce a “for-profit model of education that will severely cripple public schools … The results of her work in Michigan serve as a warning to schools across America.”

It was especially startling to see Colorado Rep. Jared Polis joining with his Democratic colleagues in calling out DeVos as an enemy of good public education options. Polis, who promotes charter schools and founded one, once called public school advocate and education historian Diane Ravitch “an evil woman” because of her prominent criticism of “education reform” ideas. In his address, Polis accused DeVos of spreading choice without attention to whether the schools were “high quality” options.

This strong opposition to the DeVos nomination from Democrats indicates that if Weingarten is right, that the education wars are returning, the conflict will be different from the past. This time the lines dividing political parties won’t be blurred, and Democrats will know whose side they should be on.


1/6/2017 – Democrats Who Oppose Betsy DeVos Have Nothing To Lose

THIS WEEK: War On Public Schools … Texas School To Prison Pipeline … For-Profit College Gravy Train … College Debt Hits Seniors… Carolina Coup


Democrats Who Oppose Betsy DeVos Have Nothing To Lose

By Jeff Bryant

“The education reform agenda … has been bipartisan because it had to be. Without a popular groundswell for charters and other school privatization efforts, Republicans intent on privatizing public education have needed Democratic party insiders to help push legislation and policy through government channels at all levels. But that’s changing.”
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The War On Public Schools

The American Prospect

“Education conservatives are ecstatic about their new political opportunities … With Republicans controlling the House and Senate, a politically savvy conservative ideologue leading the federal education department, a vice president who earned notoriety in his home state for expanding vouchers, charters, and battling teacher unions, not to mention a president-elect who initially asked creationist Jerry Falwell Jr. to head up his Department of Education, the stars have aligned for market-driven education advocates … Chances aren’t great that Democratic education reformers will staunchly oppose Trump’s school reform agenda.”
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In Texas, The School-To-Prison Pipeline Is Still Going Strong

Texas Observer

“Despite the Texas Legislature’s efforts to curb the school-to-prison pipeline, law enforcement still plays a major role in disciplining students for minor infractions … The proportion of ‘disorderly conduct’ … These charges put students in adult courtrooms, facing criminal records that can follow them into adulthood … Congress could find some way to … ‘Research shows that when students are pushed out of class and into court or juvenile probation, they are more likely to be involved with the justice system when they get older.’”
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Nearly 200 For-Profit Colleges Get Over 90% Of Their Funding From The Government


“The number of for-profit schools receiving at least 90% of their revenue from federal education programs would jump from 17 to nearly 200 when considering all sources of government funding and not just money from the Department of Education … For-profit colleges are required by law to receive no more than 90% of their funds from the Department of Education. But education benefits from other government agencies, like veterans benefits, don’t count toward that 90%. That means a for-profit college could still be in compliance.”
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Report: $171M Garnished From Older Americans’ Social Security To Repay Student Debt In 2015


“Tens of thousands of senior Americans currently have their Social Security benefits garnished hundreds of dollars each month by the government in order to repay long-held, defaulted federal student loans … Borrowers ages 50 years and older who have defaulted on their student loans are required to repay the debt with a portion of their Social Security benefits … Each time a borrower’s Social Security was offset, they were charged an offset fee of $15 … About 71% of the funds collected through offsets were applied to the fees and interest of the loan debt, while just 28% went to the loan balance. As a result, many debtors actually saw their loan balance increase rather than decrease over time.”
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The Carolina Coup And The Fight For Public Education

The Progressive

Jeff Bryant writes, “The naked power grab by North Carolina Republicans has shocked the nation. But few people really understand that a struggle over public education is at the center of the fight against an authoritarian government in the era of Donald Trump … The attack on the incoming governor’s power over education appointments is especially radical, as it transfers power from the state board to the new state superintendent of public instruction, Republican Mark Johnson, who defeated the Democratic incumbent, June Atkinson, in November. Why go after education offices? In North Carolina, public education has always been an issue inextricably intertwined with voting rights and democracy.”
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Democrats Who Oppose Betsy DeVos Have Nothing To Lose

In “an unprecedented break” from tradition, Democrats in the US Senate are expected to challenge as many as eight of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, including Betsy DeVos for US Secretary of Education, according to a report by the Washington Post.

The opposition to DeVos, Politico reports, comes from “more than a dozen Democratic senators from all wings of the party” who “will portray DeVos’ views as being outside the education mainstream.”

The non-mainstream “views” Politico cites include her “bankrolling efforts to create state voucher programs” and to expand a “loosely-regulated charter school sector” in Michigan, her home state. The Senators are “also intent on drawing attention to her lack of experience in a traditional public school setting. DeVos has never worked as a public school teacher or superintendent, nor has she sent her own kids to public schools.”

Opposition to DeVos has brought an outcry from conservative and politically centrist fans of “education reform” who claim opposing DeVos is driven “partisanship” and “nasty,” “personalized” rhetoric.

It’s true that the opposition to DeVos is a radical departure from what’s happened in the past.

Contrast the reception she is about to get on Capitol Hill to what happened eight years ago when the Senate confirmed former Chicago schools chief Arne Duncan as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Education. As Education Week reported then, Duncan “coasted through his confirmation hearing … on a wave of bipartisan support.”

Even well into the Obama administration, when Duncan resigned, his replacement, Acting Secretary and former New York state education commissioner John King, “got a partisan-fireworks-free confirmation hearing from the Senate,” per Education Week.

Keep in mind, both Duncan and King had been controversial figures in their respective school leader roles, with Duncan leading a reform charge that ultimately failed and King horribly bungling the implementation of new state academic standards. Also, both had been strong supporters of of the policies DeVos says she will push for federal policy, including charter schools and “school choice.”

What happened?

Certainly, November’s remarkably polarizing presidential election has scrambled previous alliances and opportunities for political consensus, few as they have been.

But what does this mean for education policy?

DeVos, The Ultimate Insider

Like many of Trump’s other cabinet insiders, DeVos is a figure of great wealth and privilege who in no way represents a “populist” wave sweeping into Washington. In DeVos, Trump has found the ultimate inside power player.

Jennifer Berkshire, my colleague at The Progressive magazine, recounts on her personal blog how Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick have played a “long game” to control the fate of Michigan’s much beleaguered public schools.

Berkshire points to a piece by Michigan-based journalist Allie Gross calling attention to a campaign conceived in the early 1990s to expand charter schools in the state. According to local news accounts Gross uncovered, there were just four major financial backers for the campaign, two of which are directly related to Betsy and Dick DeVos.

Everyone knows that politics is ‘dirty business,'” writes Michigan State University professor and blogger Mitchell Robinson, “but the brand of politics played by the DeVos family in Michigan is a particularly brutal version of the game.”

According to Robinson, the DeVoses have mostly failed at achieving political success the old-fashioned way – by using the electoral process. When their efforts to win a statewide referendum for a school voucher program and elect husband Dick to the governorship both resulted in resounding defeats, the “twin humiliations” motivated the DeVoses to attain their goals “like most political operatives and lobbyists, in the background.”

Among the “background” efforts Robinson points to is a DeVos financed “Skunk Works” campaign, “a secretive, off-the-books work group that had been tasked with developing a system of ‘low cost schools'” that would eventually lead to a school voucher program of some sort.

Robinson also points to the considerable influence Betsy and Dick DeVos had on ensuring the 2016 legislation to turn around the troubled Detroit school system did not include any further regulation of charter schools. He cites evidence backing up his claim the DeVoses were “the major players” in the effort to ensure any bill that passed “carved out special protections for school choice and charter schools, even going so far as to ‘freeze out’ a leading Republican senator and Detroit’s mayor from the deliberations.”

The DeVos Money Machine

The inside influence DeVos and her husband have wielded in Michigan has extended to “the national political stage” as well, according to Education Week, where they “are perhaps best known as big-time donors to Republican candidates and groups.”

EdWeek reporter Andrew Ujifusa notes, “In the 2016 election year, for example, the two gave $2.7 million to Republican candidates … But their campaign-donation record goes back much further. And it includes contributions to several senators who may vote on Betsy DeVos’ confirmation in the Senate education committee and subsequently on the Senate floor.”

Ujifusa unearthed nearly $2.7 million in political donations, over the past 20 years, Betsy DeVos personally gave to 370 individuals and causes.

The DeVos funding machine also extends to the All Children Matter PAC, which finances campaigns related to education and other issues. “Over nine years since it was founded,” Ujifusa reports, “the group gave $1.8 million to 581 candidates and party committees,” some of which got the organization in trouble for skirting campaign finance rules in Ohio in 2008. The state has fined All Children Matter $5.2 million, which the organization has yet to pay.

In the questionnaire  DeVos had to submit to the Senate committee that will meet with her next week, there is an astonishingly long list of political contributions.

The insider status DeVos enjoys is especially in character with the nature of the education reform agenda, which has always been much more reliant on the inner workings of politics and wealthy people rather than the will of the general populace.

Yet, the emergence of opposition to DeVos from Democratic party insiders seems to fly in the face of the bipartisan effort that has driven many of the policies she supports.

What Education Bipartisanship Hath Wrought

As Rachel Cohen writes for the American Prospect, “In a sense, the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations softened the ground” for “federally incentivized expansion of vouchers and other forms of privatization” DeVos is expected to advocate for.

“In the bipartisan deal that led to the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002,” Cohen writes, Republicans and Democrats enacted the standardized testing and accountability measures that created the narrative of “failing” schools. Obama, with his appointment of Duncan, extended and confirmed the narrative further.

Also throughout the Bush-Obama years, the federal flow of money and favorable policies for charter schools increased significantly. With the appointment of DeVos, the spigot of funding for various forms of privately operated, taxpayer funded schools will likely open wider still.

In Michigan, what the expansion of charter schools has led to, according to a report for the Christian Science Monitor, is an increasingly polarized debate where supporters of charter schools and vouchers insist these policies are what “has put kids before adults” against detractors who point to evidence “that 80 percent of the state’s charters actually perform worse than traditional public schools” and a “lack of oversight and accountability” has led to atrocious levels of financial waste, abuse, fraud, and corruption.

That’s exactly the scenario we’ve been seeing at the federal level as well, where insiders backing reform increasingly claim their cause is “all about the kids,” while outsiders continue to point to evidence that results of the reform agenda often lead to something quite the contrary.

What’s changed,however, is that it’s become evident that In states like Michigan, the insiders’ push for education reform no longer needs to include Democrats.

The End Of Education Bipartisanship?

As EdWeek’s Ujifusa notes, the amount the DeVoses gave to Democrats in 2016 was “nothing” and over the history of Betsy DeVos’ personal giving, only “a very, very small amount went to Democratic candidates or groups.” Of the senators who will preside over DeVos’ confirmation hearing, none of the Democrats have received donations from her, while four of the Republican senators have enjoyed her cash.

The truth is, from a political standpoint, the education reform agenda – at least the way it’s currently conceived as a mélange of funding austerity, standardization, testing, and efforts to direct tax dollars to various private interests – has been bipartisan because it had to be. Without a popular groundswell for charters and other school privatization efforts, Republicans intent on privatizing public education have needed Democratic party insiders to help push legislation and policy through government channels at all levels.

But that’s changing. Now that the federal government resembles much more the makeup of states like Michigan – where conservative Republicans dominate the legislative and executive branches – bipartisanship is a luxury Republicans no longer need to move their ideas for school vouchers and other forms of privatization forward.

For sure, there are Democratic party insiders who believe they’ve been backing the cause of education reform for idealistic reasons. They may choose to go along to get along with the new Republican regime to see where that gets them despite having zero leverage in the policy debate.

But for those Democrats who’ve remained largely silent or on the fence on charter schools, vouchers, and other features of the reform movement, now is indeed a good time to express opposition. They have nothing to lose.

12/22/2016 – Girding For The Education Fight Ahead

THIS WEEK: DeVos’ Donor Advantage … More Private Choice Coming … Obama’s Edu-Legacy … Online Charters Love Trump … Computer Conundrum


Girding For The Education Fight Ahead

By Jeff Bryant

“If you want to get an idea of what kind of education policies to expect from a Donald Trump administration, Wall St. has a clue for you … Online charter schools are ‘gearing up for a boom during the Trump administration, judging by where investors are placing their bets’… A burning question is, ‘Where are the Democrats?'”
Read more …


DeVos Heads Into Confirmation With A Megadonor’s Advantage


“Billionaire Betsy DeVos has been unabashed about using her wealth to advance her own agenda. ‘We expect a return on our investment,’ she once wrote … After giving millions of dollars to politicians over the past two decades, she now heads into her Senate confirmation hearing for education secretary with a clear advantage: DeVos and her husband, Dick, have donated to the campaigns of 17 senators who will consider her nomination – four of whom sit on the Senate education committee that oversees the process … Over the past two and half decades, the couple donated more than $7.7 million to Republican candidates and parties across the country.”
Read more …

Beyond Vouchers: How Trump Could Boost Private School Choice

Education Week

“What other avenues are there for Trump, DeVos, and Congress to expand private school choice?… Tax-credit scholarships allow individuals and corporations to claim a tax credit of some kind, in exchange for a donation to an organization that provides scholarships to children… Congress could find some way to … create a new education savings account applicable to K-12 … [Or] an annual $250 million federal grant program to promote private school choice.”
Read more …

The Education Of Barack Obama

The Nation

Dana Goldstein writes, “When it came to K–12 policy, [Obma’s] first six years were defined by an aggressive reform agenda that left the traditional camp, especially the teachers unions, playing defense. Only since 2014 has there been a détente … Grassroots activism from the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as from tens of thousands of parents who opted their children out of standardized testing, helped shift the terms of the debate. We now talk almost as much about school discipline, unequal school funding, and school segregation as we do about low test scores and teacher tenure. It’s a profound change in rhetoric … The expansion of the charter-school sector seems likely to be the most lasting of Obama’s education reforms.”
Read more …

Online Charter Schools Prepare For A Trump-Era Boom


“Online charter schools are widely regarded as among the country’s worst-performing, plagued by abysmal test scores and sky-high student turnover rates. They’re also gearing up for a boom during the Trump administration … K12 Inc., the online charter school industry’s largest and most controversial player, has risen in value by more than 50% since November 8 … Betsy DeVos … is married to an early investor in K12 … Vice President Mike Pence has worked closely with groups tied to the company. ”
Read more …

Giving Children Computers Basically Does The Opposite Of What You Expect

The Washington Post

“The benefits of having a computer at home are subtle and somewhat counterintuitive … Researchers … in California looking for students in grades six through 10 who didn’t have access to a computer at home … divided [stuents] into two groups. One group received free desktop machines …The other group got nothing … In the end, none of this had a measurable [academic] effect … The children who saw the most benefit were the ones who didn’t have a social-network account at the beginning of the experiment. They became more likely to chat with friends and to meet with friends face-to-face.”
Read more …

Girding For The Education Fight Ahead

If you want to get an idea of what kind of education policies to expect from a Donald Trump administration, Wall St. has a clue for you.

A report from BuzzFeed explains, online charter schools are “gearing up for a boom during the Trump administration, judging by where investors are placing their bets.”

The article points to K12 Inc., which is the country’s largest operator of online charters, whose stock price has risen in value by more than 50 percent since Election Day – hitting a 2-year high at one point.

The article quotes K12 executives who’ve “told investors the company was one of the ‘best positioned under Trump,” especially due to the “‘personal’ experiences that high-level Trump administration members have with the company.”

Among Trump personnel who’ve had these “experiences” with K12 is his pick for US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

As the article notes, Betsy DeVos’ husband Dick is “an early investor in K12.” Another in the Trump entourage who is close to online charters is his Vice President-Elect Mike Pence. As governor of Indiana, Pence advocated for more “school choice” in the state, including online charters.

Online charter schools operated by K12 have a particularly poor track record for academic achievement, as the BuzzFeed story notes.

A recent article in the Washington Post reports on a study that finds these schools are so bad that students enrolled in them “lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year … In other words, when it comes to math, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all.”

A recent assessment of the academic performance of online charter schools in Indiana found that nearly half of them are doing poorly or failing.

Trump’s “school choice” agenda will also likely include a way to give parents school vouchers they can use to pull their children out of public schools and send them to private schools at taxpayer expense.

Vouchers are another idea that makes a difference on the money side of education but does little to advance the wellbeing of children. Recent studies of voucher programs in Ohio and Louisiana showed they actually harmed students’ academic performance.

And of course we can expect to see more growth of charter schools under Trump. Even if his pledge to accelerate charters with a $20 billion federal block grant doesn’t become reality, there are many strings Trump and DeVos can pull to incentivize states to expand charters or fund these schools directly.

“Trump is going to be the best thing that ever happened for school choice and the charter school movement,” former New York City Mayor and a key advisor to Trump Rudy Giuliani assures us. And DeVos, who has spent millions to advance charter schools in Michigan and elsewhere, will be Trump’s diligent collaborator on this. Her husband Dick founded a charter school in their state.

A recent analysis by Bruce Baker for the Economic Policy Institute maps out what the consequences of continued charter expansions will be for major metropolitan school districts around the country. Baker finds that as these districts continue to experience losses of enrollments and revenues to charter schools, they inevitably experience budget deficits and degradation of services, while the system as a whole becomes more inequitable for students.

In other words, we’re going to get more school systems that look like Detroit, where, as Michigan-based freelance journalist Allie Gross describes in her vivid account from there, “Choice has come largely at the expense of the traditional public school district … As students joined new charters, public school enrollment and funding fell. Unregulated competition pushed these schools into near-unrecoverable insolvency and allowed dubious for-profit charter operators to prosper without establishing a track record of better outcomes for students.”

Elsewhere in the country, under Trump, many more places are going to look like North Carolina, where I document how states that don’t adequately fund their existing public school systems will continue to add competitive new charter systems, often composed of private institutions that make a profit off tax-payer funded education.

A burning question is, “Where are the Democrats?”

As for the outgoing US Secretary John King, according to Education Week, he’d like all “supporters of public education” to “set aside the policy differences that we have let divide us and move forward together courageously to defend and extend this fundamental American institution.”

While we should appreciate the Secretary’s respect for decorum, what needs to be made clear is who are the real “supporters of education” and what “differences” are appropriate for setting aside and which are worth fighting for.

Education marketers have rebranded “public schools” to mean any institution that gets tax dollars. And the phrase “doing what’s best for kids” has been turned into an empty PR slogan.

The operative political term of the day is “what parents choose for their children,” which has become a de facto argument to justify any kind of education option – even if parents are being suckered into bad choices or are being forced into situations where high quality education options are practically unobtainable. We can expect to hear conservative media outlets use King’s previous proposal to “welcome good public charter schools” to admonish any objections, no matter how reasonably stated, to expanding these schools.

Some Democratic Senators, in their vetting of DeVos, believe they’ve found a “difference” that warrants further scrutiny. As Education Week reports, five of them have issued a letter registering their concerns over a political group DeVos founded which has a $5.3 million overdue bill for a campaign fine it has owed to Ohio for several years. The senators’ concerns are warranted, but unfortunately, they have nothing to do with education.

As Casey Quinlan observes for Think Progress, Democratic advocates for charter schools, like King, are “stuck” in a difficult space between those who are increasingly alarmed with school choice run amok across the nation and “a new administration that’s hostile to public education.”

Exhibit A in Quinlan’s argument is US Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), who “has been a staunch advocate for the expansion of charter schools and of school choice,” but has now felt pressured to publicly declare he has “healthy skepticism” and “serious early concerns” about DeVos.

Quinlan points to national teachers’ unions as the force driving Democrats into these difficult spaces, but the opposition to the oncoming Trump education doctrinaire goes well beyond the national unions.

Signs of that widespread opposition were evident in states around the country, specifically in Massachusetts, Washington, and Georgia (a decidedly non-union state), where strong, diverse, and grassroots coalitions of voters defeated efforts to expand charters.

One such coalition, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, has called for a National Day of Action on January 19, 2017, to express opposition to “Donald Trump and his billionaire nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, [who] plan to dismantle our public schools by putting them on the market.”

“What our children don’t need is the federal government trying to divert any amount of that funding to private and religious schools,” writes David Sciarra, the executive director of the Education Law Center. His recommendations include “start[ing] state-level conversations about rejecting offers of federal funding that come at the price of defunding public education and causing even more inequity and disparity of opportunity for students” and “legislative campaigns for charter school reform.”

The Nation’s Dana Goldstein has good advice too. “If progressive education … is to be effective over the next several years, it will have to focus strategically on statehouses, school boards, city councils, and mayoral races.”

We know what’s at stake. Let’s get to it!

[Editorial Note: EON will be taking next week off and will resume in the New Year.]

12/15/2016 – Hillsdale College Connection Reveals Trump’s Extremist Education Agenda

THIS WEEK: DeVos Screwed Detroit … Pre-K’s Big ROI … Cops But No Counselors … Trumpism’s Threat To Academia … Crackdown On Student Journalists


What The Hillsdale College Connection Reveals About Donald Trump’s Extremist Education Agenda

By Jeff Bryant

“Trump’s selection of DeVos for Education Secretary is not the only clue that the nation’s education policy may be in for a sharp veer to the religious right … Anyone who strives for a clear-eyed view of the Trump administration’s oncoming education agenda will find there is no evidence – zero – of anything other than the most extreme policy agenda for the nation’s public schools.”
Read more …


How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit To Her Will On Charter Schools

The New York Times

“Few disagreed that schools in Detroit were a mess … So city leaders across the political spectrum agreed on a fix, with legislation to provide oversight and set standards … But the bill died without even getting a final vote. And the person most influential in killing it is now President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee to oversee the nation’s public schools, Betsy DeVos … DeVos pushed back on any regulation as too much regulation. Charter schools should be allowed to operate as they wish.’”
Read more …

New Pre-K Study Finds Ambitious Programs Bring Big Returns On Investment


“A study published … broke down decades of data from a group of 30-somethings who attended two North Carolina early childhood programs in the 1970s. They found that every dollar spent on this cohort of kids created $6.30 in return … The researchers used data detailed enough to calculate whether placement in one of the two child care programs increased the future earnings of participants, boosted their parents’ earning potential, improved participants’ health, and reduced the likelihood participants would commit crimes… The study also found … programs managed to boost participants’ IQ and that the boost sustained itself into adulthood.”
Read more …

Schools With Police But No School Counselors

Education Week

“1.6 million students attend public schools that have an on-site law enforcement officer but no school counselor … Minorities experience different forms of school discipline: black K-12 students are 3.8 times as likely as white students to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions and 1.9 times as likely to be expelled … Disparities in exclusionary discipline … may be an important driver of racial disparities in juvenile court referrals.”
Read more …

Trumpism Poses The Most Dire Threat To Academic Freedom In Recent Memory

The Nation

“A young conservative activist backed by the extremist right-wing organization Turning Points USA created the Professor Watchlist. Listing 195 professors believed to be hostile to the group’s agenda of unregulated capitalism, white-supremacist politics, and opposition to women’s reproductive freedom, it is a rough draft of a possible Trump-era blacklist … Professors across the nation found themselves suddenly targeted by well-connected conservative activists … No one knows what will come of it, but the shock has ricocheted through the halls of campuses all across the country.”
Read more …

Student Journalists Are Under Threat


“According to a new report … a disquieting trend of administrative censorship of student-run media has been spreading quietly across the country … The report chronicles more than 20 previously unreported cases of media advisers ‘suffering some degree of administrative pressure to control, edit, or censor student journalistic content’ … In many of the cases … administration officials ‘threatened retaliation against students and advisers not only for coverage critical of the administration but also for otherwise frivolous coverage that the administrators believed placed the institution in an unflattering light.’”
Read more …

What The Hillsdale College Connection Reveals About Donald Trump’s Extremist Education Agenda

Donald Trump’s election to the US Presidency left education policy experts at a complete loss to explain what this would mean for the nation’s schools. During his campaign, Trump had given few clues about what would inform his education leadership, only that he had some antipathy for the US Department of Education, that he was no fan of Common Core, and that he would advocate for more “school choice.”

After his election, experienced education journalists at Education Week predicted Trump would embrace conservative Beltway think tanks and state education policy leaders who had bristled under the rule of Obama’s education department, and he would reject the influence of teachers unions, civil rights groups, and politically centrist education “reform” groups.

Many who pointed out “personnel is policy,” speculated Trump would pick an Education Secretary from the ranks of his transition advisers who came mostly from the above mentioned DC-based circles and state government centers. Other knowledgeable sources predicted Trump might draw education policy knowhow from “outsider” sources, such as the military, big business, or the charter school industry.

No one – not a single source I can find – anticipated Trump would look for education expertise in the deep, dark well he repeatedly seems to draw from – the extremist, rightwing evangelical community.

The DeVos Nomination

The first clue that Trump would embed the extremist views of radical Christian orthodoxy in the White House’s education policy apparatus was his nomination of Betsy DeVos to be the nation’s next Secretary of Education.

As Politico reports, DeVos is a “billionaire philanthropist” who “once compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to ‘advance God’s Kingdom.'”

Politico reporters point to numerous recordings and interviews in which Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick, a billionaire heir to the Amway fortune, promote education policies as avenues to “greater Kingdom gain … lament that public schools have ‘displaced’ the Church as the center of communities, and refer to their efforts to advance private, religious schools as a “‘Shephelah,’ an area where battles – including between David and Goliath – were fought in the Old Testament.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Katherine Stewart, an expert observer of the Christian right, writes, “Betsy DeVos stands at the intersection of two family fortunes that helped to build the Christian right.”

Stewart points to numerous examples of DeVos-related family foundations that have generously donated to “conservative groups” pushing religious right doctrine including, the Alliance Defending Freedom,” the legal juggernaut of the religious right,” and “Colorado-based Christian ministry Focus on the Family.”

But Trump’s selection of DeVos for Education Secretary is not the only clue that the nation’s education policy may be in for a sharp veer to the religious right. As Stewart reports, “The president-elect’s first move on public education [was] Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the nation … Liberty University teaches creationism alongside evolution.”

Falwell Jr. Came First

The Associated Press was first to break the story about Falwell Jr. being offered the job, reporting also that he declined it saying, “He couldn’t afford to work at a Cabinet-level job for longer than [two years] and didn’t want to move his family, especially his 16-year-old daughter.”

“Here is Trump, ready to hand the job [of Secretary of Education] to a religious zealot whose sole goal,” writes Michelangelo Signorile, the Gays and Lesbians editor for the Huffington Post, “would likely be to infuse evangelical Christian doctrine into public schools.”

Signorile also calls Falwell Jr. an “enemy of LGBTQ rights” and states, “It’s hard to believe Falwell would continue the Obama administration’s pro-LGBTQ programs if he actually became Secretary of Education, nor would he likely take the job with any stipulation that he must so.”

Need more evidence that Trump will usher in an education agenda largely dominated by the evangelical community? Another candidate Trump also considered for Education Secretary was Larry Arnn.

The Hillsdale College Connection

As The Daily Caller reports, “Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College, a small conservative liberal arts school in Michigan known for declining all federal funds.”

Hillsdale College, located in Hillsdale, Michigan (the Devos family’s home state), is regarded as “the conservative Harvard,” in some circles, and has been the recipient of generous donations from numerous funders of the rightwing conservative movement including the Koch Brother’s family foundation. Hillsdale also sponsors the Rush Limbaugh Show.

Hillsdale students overwhelmingly supported Trump for president, according to the campus newspaper, and at least seven Hillsdale professors and administrators publicly endorsed him.

According to an article in The Atlantic, Hillsdale is one among a number of conservative private colleges that rejects federal funds including financial aid for students. Many of these colleges, while they are rejecting federal funds, “are seeking, exemptions from the US Department of Education from provisions under Title IX of the laws governing higher education, which protects students from discrimination in housing, athletics, and access to facilities on the basis of such things as gender, sexual orientation, sex or pregnancy outside marriage, or having an abortion.”

Hillsdale has a long-held reputation for discriminating on the basis of gender preference and identity, and news outlets in the LGBT community have reported incidents in which Hillsdale staff and officials openly discriminated against gay students.

Arnn also came under fire from many liberal sources for describing nonwhite students as “dark ones” during a state legislature subcommittee hearing regarding the adoption of Common Core State Standards. Hillsdale’s official apology for that incident was arguably worse than Arnn’s remark, a Michigan blogger notes, as the college used its apology as another opportunity to take a swipe at government enforcement of affirmative action policies.

In addition to Hillsdale’s strong resentment of federal intrusion, especially on issues of civil rights, the college also has deep commitments to another favorite of conservative, religious advocates: charter schools.

A Chain Of Religion-Based Charter Schools

As I report in an in-depth investigation of the conservative movement’s influence on charter school expansions in Colorado, in addition to reinforcing gender and race inequity, Hillsdale operates the Barney Charter School Initiative, which is essentially a consultant service for a chain of 16 charter schools called Classical Academies. These charters purport to offer “the same course of study that helped propel Western Civilization to the top of the world,” according to what at least one of these schools says on its website.

The Barney project’s strong political agenda was revealed in its former mission statement, since taken down, which said the Initiative seeks to “recover our public schools from the tide of a hundred years of progressivism that has corrupted our nation’s original faithfulness to the previous 24 centuries of teaching the young the liberal arts in the West.” The statement also said, “The charter school vehicle possesses the conceptual elements that permit the launching of a significant campaign of classical school planting to redeem American public education.”

Charter schools created with the help of the Barney Initiative are also proving to be an ideal vehicle for evading laws enforcing separation of church and state. Since my investigation into the opening of a Barney-related charter in Colorado called Golden View Classical Academy, an independent news outlet in that state confirms the school indeed provides students a religion-based curriculum on the taxpayers’ dime.

As Marianne Goodland of The Colorado Independent reports, charter schools like Golden View “have found a legal workaround, and many Democratic and Republican lawmakers are looking the other way.”

Goodland recalls when Golden View applied to the district school board for approval, the school’s director “assured the board Golden View would not use a religious curriculum” and “agreed to comply with the intent of Colorado’s sexual education law by providing ‘appropriate instruction on human anatomy, reproduction and sexuality.'”

Yet, she notes the school’s family handbook, “adopted before the charter application was approved includes references to teaching about sexual intercourse only “in the context of a monogamous relationship between two people of opposite sexes,” a focus on abstinence, admonitions on “the moral and physical consequences of promiscuous sex,” and the “limited effectiveness” of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Goodlad blames a loose, unregulated waiver process for allowing charter schools like Golden View to skirt state laws, and she points to Colorado public officials  who provide charters ample leeway to ensure they have the  “autonomy” which they claim justifies their existence.

Keep in mind, Barney-related charters like Golden View, that essentially function like private religious schools while receiving taxpayer money, are scattered across the country; their network is growing, and a Trump administration that has pledged to provide more money for “school choice” will only help fuel more rapid expansions of these schools.

“Neither the public nor lawmakers understand the extent of the problem,” Goodlad concludes.

How DeVos And Hillsdale Intersect

Unsurprisingly, Hillsdale president Arnn says Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, “is someone he ‘knows and admires,'” according to rightwing news outlet Breitbart.

And why not, since Hillsdale also has strong ties to DeVos and her immediate family.

As the Hillsdale campus newspaper reports, DeVos’s “roots in Michigan philanthropy run deep and also intersect with Hillsdale College. Betsy DeVos’ brother is Erik Prince, a 1992 graduate of Hillsdale College and the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, now named Academi. In 2009, the DeVos family also founded ArtPrize, an international art competition that featured the work of five art professors and students this year. Most notably, Richard DeVos, Betsy DeVos’ father-in-law, co-founded Amway with Jay Van Andel. Van Andel’s son, Steve, was a 1978 graduate of Hillsdale and currently serves as the chairman of Amway. In 2013, after he donated to graduate school scholarships and operations, Hillsdale named it’s graduate school of statesmanship in his honor.”

Jay Van Andel was also, at the time of his death, a trustee of Hillsdale College, Wikipedia informs.

Most Extremist Administration Ever?

“Those who know DeVos say her goals are not sinister,” Politico reporters caution, “though they acknowledge the policies she’s likely to advance would benefit Christian schools. In fact, Trump’s $20 billion school choice program that would allow low-income students to select private or charter schools was devised with the help of the advocacy group DeVos headed until recently.”

Despite the strong evidence Trump’s education agenda may be driven by rightwing evangelicals, advocates for charter schools in the Democratic Party keep looking for reasons to believe Betsy DeVos is not going to be the extremist she is often being portrayed as in media reports.

On hearing the news of the DeVos nomination, the politically centrist hedge fund-backed Democrats for Education Reform released a statement congratulating DeVos on her appointment and applauding her “commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools,” while at the same time regretting that her nomination is the outcome of a political campaign driven by “bigoted and offensive rhetoric.” (Never mind the charter schools DeVos helped grow in Michigan seem less than “high quality.”)

Another centrist Democrat deeply embedded in the investment community, Andrew Rotherham of Bellwether Partners, hopes a Trump administration will offer up a plan for charter school expansion that includes “sweeteners for the Congressional Black Caucus” – a condescending and white privilege phrase if there ever was one.

Emma Brown, the education reporter for the Washington Post, notes many advocates for charter schools “worry” Trump’s embrace of charter schools may be identified with his “rhetoric about immigrants, inner cities, and women,” but still hope some kind of “strong accountability” will be in the new administration’s charter school governance, even though those accountability measures have proven to be easily gamed by the savviest charter operators.

“Playing the politics of niceness has never been so convenient for the Dems of education reform,” writes college professor and former charter school leader-turned reform critic Andre Perry. “DeVos’s belief in limited state oversight, for-profit charter management, and vouchers didn’t give Democrat proponents of charter schools any pause in the past. And for many it doesn’t now.”

If Perry is correct, that’s a shame, because anyone who strives for a clear-eyed view of the Trump administration’s oncoming education agenda will find there is no evidence – zero – of anything other than the most extreme policy agenda for the nation’s public schools.