Opinion: Under DeVos, public schools face a real enemy

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Amway heiress Betsy DeVos, right, with President Trump. (AP)

Betsy DeVos, a Michigan heiress who has fought throughout her adult life to destroy public education, will probably be confirmed as U.S. secretary of education in a Senate floor vote next week. Opponents have fought her nomination hard, and for good reason, with two Republican senators committed to joining all Democrats in opposition. But so far that seems likely to set up a 50-50 confirmation vote, with Vice President Mike Pence likely to break the tie in her favor.

To those who follow the debate in education circles, the arguments offered in DeVos’ defense are very familiar. Yes, she strongly dislikes public schools. Yes, she wants to privatize the delivery of education while forcing taxpayers to continue to fund it. But as GOP Sen. John Cornyn said this week in explaining his own support for DeVos, “If people think our public education system is perfect, then I guess they don’t think we need to have any changes or any choices for students and their families. I certainly think we do.”

That argument is silly and insulting to its core. If you don’t happen to believe that the entire system of public education should be blown up, as does DeVos, then you simply don’t care about the kids and are content to see them fail? Really, those are our only two choices? We heard that very same argument in the debate here in Georgia last fall over the “Opportunity School District” concept, which would have allowed Gov. Nathan Deal to take control of poorly performing schools, stripping local leaders and voters of any say in how those schools are run.

“If we are as concerned about the minds of our children as we should be, then you will not let 68,000 students be trapped in chronically failing schools,” Deal told the voters of Georgia.

Personally, I’d frame it another way. “If we are as concerned about the minds of our children as we should be,” and as Deal claims to be, then maybe we shouldn’t have cut per-pupil public-school spending in Georgia by 9.8 percent between 2010 and 2014, as reported in the latest Census Bureau data. At $9,202 per student, maybe we should have been trying to move closer to the national average of $11,000 per pupil instead of moving in the other direction. We now rate 38th in the nation in that inflation-adjusted metric and slipping, according to the Census Bureau, now trailing states such as Alabama and Arkansas.

I know I know: “You can’t improve education by throwing more money at it.” It’s a funny thing, though: If we need to improve transportation, then we need to spend a lot more money on it. If we feel the need to bolster national defense, then we need to spend a LOT more money on it, even though we already spend more than twice as much as Russia and China combined. If you want to upgrade your car or house, you will expect to pay more money for it. If we want to attract better coaches and athletes so our favorite college football team can compete nationally, we are told to spend a lot more money on salaries and facilities.

In all of American life, it is only public education where that relationship between resources and outcomes supposedly breaks down. And again, maybe it’s me, but if you’re publicly demanding better and better performance from a company, individual or institution, while reducing the resources available to do, I’m going to suspect that you may be setting them up for failure.

It gets even more strange when you hear DeVos, Deal and others try to tell us that they want to give poor public-school students access to the same kind of education available to more affluent private-school students. Who could be opposed to that? Well, DeVos, Deal and others are opposed to that. Tuition and other costs at a top private school such as Westminster here in Atlanta now reach $27,000 a year, and nobody, and I mean nobody, proposes to hand out taxpayer-financed school vouchers of $27,000 a year or anything approaching that.

And by the way, with every tuition check that they write, the affluent parents of those private-school students are providing us with irrefutable, market-based evidence that in their minds at least, more money does indeed buy a better education.

We can also look to Georgia’s own poorly disguised school-voucher program, its Qualified Education Expense Tax Credit, to gauge outcome and intent. Under the program, individuals and corporations that owe taxes to the state can instead contribute a like amount to private-school scholarship programs, a revenue diversion justified by the familiar claim that those programs give poverty-stricken students an escape route out of poor schools.

But for the most part, they don’t.

According to the most recent state data, families from the poorest 25 percent of Georgia households are the least likely economic group to benefit from those scholarships; a substantial majority of those scholarships go to households with above-average income. Overall, the program is a sham through which upper-middle-class students get their private-school tuition subsidized by the taxpayers in the name of helping the poor, while the poor themselves get little help.

And then there’s the matter of accountability. Talk to public school teachers and administrators and you’ll hear endless stories of reports and forms and standardized testing and other requirements imposed on them by state officials in the name of ensuring that public dollars are well-spent. Huge amounts of their time and energy are consumed in meeting those demands. Yet the private schools that benefit from the taxpayer-subsidized voucher program have no such disclosure requirements or oversight. We don’t know their graduation rates, their standardized test scores, their curriculum, nothing, and without that data we have no way of comparing their educational outcomes to those of public school students. And every effort to change that has been met with rejection.

That’s also the case in Michigan, where the DeVos family has used its incredible wealth to create hundreds of privately run, publicly funded schools with almost no oversight, transparency and accountabililty. (Roughly 80 percent of the charter schools in the state are private, for-profit institutions.) If you set up a system in which every failure in the public-school system is fodder for headlines and criticism, while the failures of the publicly funded but privately run schools are kept secret, I again have to wonder whether you are consciously setting the public-school system up to be perceived as a failure.

If DeVos is indeed confirmed as education secretary, it’s going to be fascinating to watch what happens. Conservatives have complained for decades about the very existence of a federal Department of Education, arguing that the feds have no appropriate role in state and local education decisions. Under a crusader such as DeVos, however, that same federal authority is now likely to be wielded as a weapon against public education all across the country, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Reader Comments 0

2295 comments
Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

Sheets 

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Let me guess. 

Hopping on the latest round of Russia hysteria.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

Nope Trump's Wall Street lies that he told while campaigning.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

"In one day Trump got more fat women exercising than M.O. did in eight years."

Beautiful satire.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/remembering-a-journalist-who-was-killed-for-standing-up-to-putin/2016/10/06/d3a9e176-8bf7-11e6-bff0-d53f592f176e_story.html?utm_term=.5752fb3aca83


Ten years ago Friday , Anna Politkovskaya, Russia’s most famous journalist, was murdered in Moscow. Her death serves as a window to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin autocrat whom many Americans are looking at for the first time — his name now in U.S. election headlines as a result of alleged hacking of Democratic National Committee servers by Russian actors and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s praise of Putin’s strongman rule.


Politkovskaya was murdered two days later in a contract-style killing, her body dumped in the elevator by her apartment along with the Makarov pistol used to kill her. It was Oct. 7, which just happened to be Putin’s 54th birthday.

gotalife
gotalife

billo made putin. mad by calling him a thug. He wants billo to apologize.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

The United States and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”. At the same time, the US will be in another “major” war in the Middle East.


Those are the views – nine months ago at least – of one of the most powerful men in Donald Trump’s administration, Steve Bannon, the former head of far-right news website Breitbart who is now chief strategist at the White House.


Will we be in an alliance with Putin then as well ?

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

You can spin it all you want JREB but Russia has something on Trump and he is kissing Putin's a$$ to make sure it stays hidden.

gotalife
gotalife

russia told trump to back off Iran.


They are not our friends stupid.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

It's clear that Trump - he and Bannon at least, if not others in his administration - want to enter a front with Russia to fight Islamic radicalism. 


It is obvious


But me. I'm hesitant to make deals with people who have journalists or political opponents killed ala Putin. Who amend their countries constitutions so they can remain President for life


We used to oppose those sorts of things.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@Hedley_Lammar 

Again, can you point to definitive evidence of Vladimir Putin's government having journalists or political opponents killed? 

"We used to oppose those sorts of things."

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No we didn't. We enter into alliances with such governments all the time, when it's in our interests to do so. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Donnie_Pinko @Hedley_Lammar Again, can you point to definitive evidence of Vladimir Putin's government having journalists or political opponents killed? 


LOL


If they haven't those are some of the biggest coincidences of all time.


Putin is a KGB guy. He isnt going to admit it comrade.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Donnie_Pinko Bannon sees immigration as the beginning of " The Islamic States of America "


The guy is unhinged. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Donnie_Pinko @Visual_Cortex

Well FWIW I think you're probably mostly correct about how Bannon views Putin strategically.

But then Bannon's a sick, disgusting man who probably has some weird issue with Muslims going back who-knows-how-long.

Doesn't make Trump's relativism about our respective nations any less troubling to me, though. Call me a McCarthyite if you must.

gotalife
gotalife

I am just happy Alabama lost to Clemson.

gotalife
gotalife

Drew Brees says sometimes he sets his phone to Falcon mode.


No rings.


Too soon?

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@gotalife


I am the only one who was disappointed last night. Those commercials suck.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@McGarnagle 

The Buick commercial with Cam Newton was the best of the lot with Synovus bank Clydesdale commercial trailing a distant 2nd

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

The farm-fresh wisdom of InTheMiddle:

 BREAKING NEWS: In one day Trump got more fat women exercising than M.O. did in eight years.

That's what you call "whistling past the graveyard," ITM.


Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

The way that the hard-right guys here choose to imagine these 3-4 million who marched that weekend really says a lot about their upbringing, doesn't it?

KUTGF
KUTGF

@Visual_Cortex Trump needs to get his fat self with those little hands marching instead of tweeting. 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@Visual_Cortex

To this day he will defend himself as being 'in the middle.' I gotta say he's a crackpot approaching td-esque levels.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

JohnnyReb, I am glad you showed up because I was thinking of you relative to someone who badly needs to understand the consciousness of James Baldwin, in order to raise your own consciousness toward black people (and other people) with whom you cannot identify (even though we are all humans).


Please go to the Landmark Theatre, on Monroe Drive in Atlanta, or even the movie theater at Phipps Plaza, and see "I am not Your Negro," as soon as you can. Words are all Baldwin's.


Td, I'm asking that of you, also.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@JohnnyReb @MaryElizabethSings


Prove that I do by going to see that film, then.  And view it from the perspective of James Baldwin.


It it highly unusual for an audience to applaud a motion picture, but the audience I was within did so for a long time.  That was because of the brilliance and truth in Baldwin's mind, expressed.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@MaryElizabethSings @JohnnyReb No thanks.

Let's cut to the chase.

Baldwin died in the 80's.  Anything he has written would be history.

Yesterday is gone.

IMO, black leaders linger too much on yesterday, roll it over into today, and blame others too often for individual failings.

That BTW is not limited to blacks, most people who wallow in yesterday end up losing.

I believe the pendulum swung to blacks but is now swinging away from them.

Those that assimilate and embrace the present situation will thrive.

Those that linger on the past, cry discrimination. white privilege, etc. will be left behind.

I do not need nor do I long for a lesson on how bad blacks were treated.

I lived it, don't endorse it, but I won't support it as a crutch for today.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

I drop back in and what do I find?

More misguided LibProgs who think that because Trump won't announce Putin a murder that he is in the tank for Putin.

Let's see?

If you were going to meet Jay for lunch, would you announce beforehand he's a bleeding heart misguided foolish Liberal?

Or, would you make the best of stupid questions from Cons to protect the mode of the forthcoming lunch?

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

BS, he made an excuse for Putin being a murderer. He has to work with Dems if he wants to bring the country together and he does not mind insulting them so why is so careful with Putin? He insults everyone but Putin.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@JohnnyReb


Ironic is that it was the liberal goon Bill O'Rielly who ask that question. You don't have to trash Putin but call a spade a spade if you are the straight shooter you claim to be.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

Exactly, Trump does not care about who he insults, he does it all day every day.

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

McGarnagle

Can anyone defend Trumps defense of Putin by saying we are not so innocent as well?

Trump is in the tank for Putin. End of story. He is actively seeking his favor instead of demanding it like he does with other countries.

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I can see that this worries you greatly.  You've apparently bought the line that Vladimir Putin is one of History's Great Monsters. 


McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@Donnie_Pinko


Putin deserves as much scolding at Iran, China, Mexico, and any other country that Trump "believes" is a threat to this country. For some reason Trump is obviously giving Putin preferential treatment. the question is why? 

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@McGarnagle @Donnie_Pinko 

You say that like it's some big mystery. 

It's clear that Trump - he and Bannon at least, if not others in his administration - want to enter a front with Russia to fight Islamic radicalism.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@McGarnagle @Donnie_Pinko take your argument down to the named leaders of those countries, instead of the country, and you would have an on par debate about Putin.

As is, you compare other countries to Putin.

Apples to Oranges.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

@JohnnyReb @McGarnagle @Donnie_Pinko


Replace the countries then with names. Point is Trump is saying no more Mr. Nice and yet with Russia he's like puddy. I know I am re-hasing an old argument here but his comment last night just makes it more bloody obvious.