I sat yesterday and watched as 50 men and women that were elected to carry out our wishes, that work for us, vote to destroy the public education system against the wishes of most of their constituents. How did they do this you may ask? By confirming Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. For a list of how our Senators voted, visit this link.
Mrs. DeVos brought out parents of special education students and “typical” students alike to demand that our Senators not confirm her. Tens of thousands of citizens exercising their right to speak, many of whom had never done so before. Trump supporters and Liberals alike- all standing together begging them not to do this, not to confirm her. Citizens wrote, called, and staged sit ins for weeks, opposing the confirmation of Betsy DeVos. Repeatedly we yelled that Mrs. DeVos has zero experience in the public education system and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to touch our public education. It makes a lot of people nervous that she never attended a public school, nor did her children. In fact, neither her or her children ever had to take out a student loan. In her life, she has never served as an administrator, teacher, or even as a volunteer in the public-school system.
|DeVos with President Trump. Picture Courtesy of MatoMetrix.com|
To add more, she holds no degrees in education. The teachers she will technically lead will have higher educations in the field than she does. It has also become clear that she isn’t a huge fan of public education and is not a friend to the special needs community. She wasn’t even aware what IDEA was during her Senate confirmation hearing. Her being such a huge proponent for vouchers is a slap in the face of all parents of special needs children. It is a wide belief that vouchers encourage isolation of students with disabilities and that they drain public schools of resources. It is also well known that voucher programs often require students with disabilities to sign away their rights under a federal civil rights law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA guarantees a free appropriate public education for all children. It has been cited several times that Mrs. DeVos believes that Special Education is a drain on our public education. Many Republicans have mentioned the increase in spending on special education since the 1980s by the Federal Government. As of now, our government gives states about $13 billion annually for special education. To add insult to injury, as of right now, Feb. 8th, 2017- the IDEA website is down. The claim is that they have had problems with it since January and are working on it. Kinda fishy seeing as though it went down the day she was confirmed. We shall see though.
|Picture Courtesy of nea.org|
Every day it becomes more clear that Mrs. DeVos’ success is measured by her enormous wealth, not her qualifications or education. Her family has funded the billion-dollar charter school industry and shielded it from all rational for many years. They have also, single-handedly donated some 200 million dollars to the Republican Party over he last several years. Need examples of how she donates? For example, in 2000, the DeVos family spent near $5.6 million on an unsuccessful crusade to amend Michigan’s constitution to allow school vouchers. Just this summer the DeVos family contributed $1.45 million over two months’ time (for those of you counting, that’s an average of $25,000 a day) to Michigan GOP lawmakers to derail a provision that would’ve provided more charter school oversight in Detroit.
Mrs. DeVos formerly served as the Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan. She has also been very active in the drive to privatize our countries public education system. Her idea to do this is by creating programs and passing laws that require the use of tax-payer money to pay for private school tuition. This would most likely be done in the form of vouchers. Mrs. DeVos was also chair of American Federation for Children, a pro-school-choice advocacy group. Whose objective is, “promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers, scholarship tax credit programs and Education Savings Accounts.” Currently, Mrs. DeVos sits on the board of directors for the Alliance for School Choice. This is a special interest organization that organizes donations to legislative action that are in favor of school vouchers. Her family also started the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), whose political action committee does the most aggressive lobbying for charter schools. Betsy DeVos and other family members of hers have given more than $2 million to this cause since 2001. GLEP has in turn spent that money essentially buying policy outcomes that have helped Michigan’s charter industry grow.
She spent many years pushing for educational changes in the state of Michigan. It is well known that her efforts returned disappointing results. To top it all off, the nail in the coffin- if you will: Mrs. DeVos and her husband own stake in a collection agency which collects on student loan debt. The firm in question is called RDV. DeVos once served as director of said company. The dealings of RDV had many high-level officials very concerned.
Let me break it down for you.
Per The Washington Post, RDV is associated with a company called LMF WF Portfolio. LMF WF is described by many as a limited liability corporation. In all actuality, it seems that RDV and LMF WF are the same, if not close to the same entity. It seems that the investment fund that Mrs. DeVos formed, called Ottawa Avenue Private Capital, is listed as statutory agent for LMF WF. Both companies share the same filing address which is directly tied to the DeVos family. In fact, some of the same people are listed as employees of all the above-named businesses, all tied to DeVos directly.
The big problem for most is that LMF WF is listed in legal filings as being involved in a $147 million loan to Performant Financial Corp. In case you don’t know, Performant is a debt collection agency that is in business with the Education Department. Do you see the problem here? It seems that, near twenty-three percent of Performant’s earnings are directly tied to its dealings with the Education Department. This in turn means that a percentage of what she is earning collecting on loans is coming from student debt.
|Mrs. DeVos. Picture Courtesy of abcnews.go.com|
Given her ties to these educational debts and her new position, DeVos is now in a stance to influence the award of the debt collection in these and all cases of educational debt. Not only that but she now is in a spot in which she can influence the school servicing and recovery contracts and the oversight and monitoring of said contracts too. DeVos also now has the authority to revise payments and fees to contractors for rehabilitating past-due debt. To sum that up, she has control of the money and how it is spent. She can choose to pay the student debts back, in turn lining her own pockets with tax payer dollars.
For all these reasons and more, Mrs. DeVos is not qualified to take on the job she has just paid for. It is not only this writer’s belief that she was nominated and confirmed based completely on finances and not on merit. It is also my belief that she will devastate our public-school system. Her belief that Charters and vouchers are the only way to go and her potential to bankrupt the education system all while lining her pockets make me nervous, and should make you nervous as well. Yes, Charter schools can be a viable option for some students, thing is, it’s not the only option for all students. In fact, voucher programs and charter schools would be a disaster to many students across the country. Our public education system is important. It needs improved on, not destroyed from the inside.
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|Picture Courtesy of The Other 98%|
As the Washington Post pointed out: "It’s impossible to imagine such improvements will be aided by an education who is so willfully impervious to the relevant data. Instead, Betsy DeVos’ lodestar has been her conviction that any nontraditional public school is better than a traditional one, simply because it’s not operated by government." I couldn't say it any better myself. Our only hope is that her outrageous ideas and plans get held up in the courts and take so long to implement that she'll be out of office by the time her hands actually touch our school systems.We can all hope, can't we.
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