Donald Trump just announced billionaire donor Betsy DeVos as his pick for education secretary, and it’s every bit as scary for parents as you might imagine coming from the Republican politician who just paid $25 million to settle three fraud and racketeering lawsuits against his own fake, for-profit university.
The largest teacher’s union in America called the choice of DeVos, “anti-public education.” Republican has-been and charter school crusader Jeb Bush re-emerged from the rock under which he’s been hiding to hail Trump’s choice as an “outstanding pick.”
DeVos admits that her family – which is the Republican party’s largest “soft money” donor – expects influence in return for all of that cash. Trump’s choice to cut out the middle man and makes this billionaire America’s Secretary of Education someone whose nomination needs to be stridently opposed. DeVos herself told a New York Magazine reporter Jane Mayer that, “People like us must surely be stopped,” for the book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind The Rise of the Radical Right.”
— Tim Newman (@tnewmstweet) November 23, 2016
Charter schools are a big business for real estate developers and corporations in America, led by Jeb Bush’s pioneering efforts in Florida to replace failing public schools with public boards with failing private schools who reap massive government subsidies, with little accountability.
That’s why parents on both sides of the aisle should voice immediate concern about elevating Betsy DeVos – a deeply entrenched member of America’s oligarchy, and a radical privatization advocate – directly into a high-level government position where she can fight for “school choice.” It’s dreadful Republican-speak for cutting public school funding to give corporate subsidies to private charter schools. NBC reports:
DeVos, a 58-year-old billionaire philanthropist from Michigan, leads the American Federation for Children, which promotes charter school education. She’s married to Dick DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune, and is the sister to Erik Prince, founder of notorious government-contracted security company Blackwater, now known as Academi. DeVos has spent millions lobbying for voucher programs for private schools, which jibes with Trump’s campaign promise to make taxpayer-funded charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools as a hallmark of his education policy.
It blows the mind to imagine, but Trump did win a great many votes from confused public school teachers, who will now stand to lose their own jobs because of this terrible appointment. Worse yet, as AFT President Randy Weingarten told NBC, DeVos precisely the kind of lobbyist that Donald Trump promised his voters to keep out of Washington:
“Betsy DeVos is everything Donald Trump said is wrong in America — an ultra-wealthy heiress who uses her money to game the system and push a special-interest agenda that is opposed by the majority of voters.”
“Installing her in the Department of Education is the opposite of Trump’s promise to drain the swamp.”
It’s important to understand that long before there was an America, our founding fathers recognized the absolute necessity of public education, as Ben Franklin wrote in 1749:
The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages, as the surest foundation of the happiness of both private families and of commonwealths. Almost all governments have therefore made it a principal object of their attention, to establish and endow with proper revenues, such seminaries of learning, as might supply the succeeding age with men qualified to serve the Publick with honour to themselves, and to their country.
None of this will affect Donald Trump personally, so it’s unlikely that he’ll do much more than hand our country’s education system to Betsy DeVos for whatever experiment she sees fit.
Trump’s own son attends a tony private school in Manhattan that costs $44,000 in annual tuition for his 10-year-old son. Because the Trumps refuse to move into the White House – after years of Republican preaching about cutting government spending – taxpayers will be forced to shell out a million dollars a day to accommodate the President-elect’s decision.
American public education is officially under attack by the Trump administration’s unwise choice for Secretary of Education, whose lobbying ties to the corporate business of charter schooling are ill-suited to the task of tending responsibly to the minds of our future generations.
If you’re unhappy with this choice by the Trump Transition team, then please by all means send them an email with your opinion and demand that they find someone who isn’t a lobbyist, billionaire or privatization crusader to run America’s Department of Education, and then pass this story along.
You can read more about the history and vital importance of public education here:
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition