In another move that signals to the country that the current Trump administration is going to do what they want, when they want, Mike Pence has just confirmed Betsy Devos as Education Secretary.
From Sen. Franken: “One of the most important jobs in our government is the Secretary of Education, who directly oversees the policies that children, teachers, school administrators, and entire communities depend on,” said Sen. Franken. “It’s not a job for amateurs who don’t know the first thing about education. I voted against the nomination of Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor, because she is the most incompetent cabinet-level nominee I have ever seen. Last night, I urged my Republican colleagues to oppose her nomination, because if we cannot set party loyalty aside long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the President’s nominees, then I don’t know what we are even doing here. Betsy DeVos has demonstrated that she is fundamentally unqualified to lead the Education Department, and it’s a shame that Republicans voted to confirm one of their major donors instead of looking out for our children.”
It was a 50-50 Senate tie and no more debates were to be had, Pence said the magic words and ‘poof’ Devos is confirmed. So why is this so bad?
That is a long list, that is even without the dramatics and big ‘what-ifs’ added that so many media outlets focus on (will she force gay conversion therapy in public schools, probably not).
A little background, her brother founded Blackwater, the security/mercenary group that killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad and injured 20 more. She married into the Devos family, the head of the family is Rich Devos, the founder of Amway, her father-in-law. So her brother is a mercenary who has a security company that has had to change their name 3 times due to bad publicity Her father-in-law founded a mega corporation that is arguably a pyramid scheme and has duped billions out of their ‘employees.’ This gives you an idea of what their dinner table conversations may be like.
Her father, Edgar Prince, was a main contributor to the Family Research Council, a notorious organization that pumps out slanderous ads during campaign season. They are against LGBT rights (Marriage, Civil Union and adoption), abortion, divorce, pornography, needle exchanges for drug addicts and stem cell research.
Betsy Devos was Vice President of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation during the time when they donated heavily to the Family Research Council. She has claimed she was not involved in the donations, but as Vice President she certainly has some sway. If she was not aware of these donations then we must ask, was she a good Vice President of that charity?
In 1989 Betsy founded “The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation,” her namesake foundation. This foundation has given around $140 million throughout its lifetime, one of the principal receivers of this money was ‘Focus on the Family.’ Another far-right organization that advocates for the same issues as the Family Research Council.
So, she has headed charities that have donated large sums of money to two of the most hate filled Christian organizations out there. As Sec. of Education she cannot donate taxpayer money to these organizations, that is important to remember. She may have these far-right beliefs that are not mainstream, but I am hopeful that this particular blight on her record will not be an issue. Although it may, we have to wait and see.
So, her brother is a mercenary, father-in-law founder of world’s largest pyramid scheme and father was a main contributor to far-right Christian organizations. Besides this she has been a part of a myriad of charities that all seem to have a far-right Christian focus and she has only seemed to ever have 1 job in life and that was founding a controversial therapy clinic with her husband (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betsy_DeVos#Business_career).
Typically, the Sec. of Education, like other departments, would have someone knowledgeable about this position and someone who has experience. The only experience Devos has is donating Amway money to Republican/Christian causes.
In case you haven’t watched it, you should, here is the transcript from Sen. Franken’s line of questioning towards now Sec. Devos. This really sums it up.
Sen. Al Franken: I am a member of the party the chairman of vote. Charter schools are not an issue here. It is thoroughly in the mainstream. There are 37 states in this country that constitutionally prohibit the use of public school money for religious schools. It is the dfl party in Minnesota, thank you very much, that is in the mainstream and not the witness of the chairman.
Senator Lieberman mentioned proficiency. It reminded me of this. When I first got in the senate in 2009, I had a roundtable of principals in Minnesota. He said, we think of the MSLB test as autopsies. I know exactly what he meant. The students take the test in April, they get the results in late June. The teachers cannot use the test results to inform their instruction. I saw that in Minnesota, the majority of the schools were taking a computer adaptive test, a computer test where you get the results right away, and adaptive so you can measure outside the grade level. This brings me to the issue of proficiency, which the senator cited, versus growth. I would like your views on the relative advantage of assessments and using them to measure proficiency or growth.
DeVos: I think if I am understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would correlate it to competency and mastery, so each student is measured according to the advancements they are making in each subject area.
Franken: That’s growth. That’s not proficiency. In other words, the growth they are making is not growth. The proficiency is an arbitrary standard.
DeVos: Proficiency is if they have reached a third grade level for reading, etc.
Franken: I’m talking about the debate between proficiency and growth, what your thoughts are on that.
DeVos: I was just asking the clarify, then —
Franken: This is a subject that has been debated in the education community for years. I have advocated growth as the chairman, and every member of this committee knows, because with proficiency teachers ignore the kids at the top who are not going to fall below proficiency, and they ignore the kid at the bottom who they know will never get to proficiency. I have been an advocate for growth. But it surprises me that you don’t know this issue. And Mr. Chairman, I think this is a good reason for us to have more questions. This is a very important subject, education, our kids’ education. I think we are selling our kids short by not being able to have a debate on it.
The Department of Education is designed to standardize education curriculum throughout the country. Most of the issues regarding education are handled at the local and state levels, which is how it should be. Now, I am all for standardizing textbooks so we don’t have 4 pages on Sam Houston and ½ paragraph on the Native American holocaust, but things like ‘No Child Left Behind’ and ‘Common Core’ are not needed and just create more problems. Let’s have the states handle their own education and let the feds create very broad guidelines, that is how this should work and let’s hope Sec. Devos follows in this principle, advocates states rights and decreases fed oversight of our public schools.
In an audio clip from 2001 obtained by Politico Dick and Betsy Devos speak candidly about their faith: “The church — which ought to be in our view far more central to the life of the community — has been displaced by the public school as the center for activity, the center for what goes on in the community,” Dick DeVos says.
When asked why they don’t just spend their time — and money — funding Christian schools, Betsy DeVos said they want to reform the whole system to bring “greater Kingdom gain.”
Hopefully Sec. Devos has changed over the past 15 years and hopefully she does not truly believe her role as Sec. of Education will allow her to advance god’s kingdom through public schools.
One of the founding principles of our government was the separation of church and state, we must fight for that and maintain that principle. We are not a theocracy and never will be, hopefully Sec. Devos acknowledges and respects our Founding Fathers.