Another Disastrous Appointment

If Americans agree about anything, it’s probably about the importance of education. Although there is substantial disagreement on what a “good” education looks like (guiding intellectual enlightenment ? teaching marketplace skills?), it is widely assumed that better education is an important part of any solution to our social ills, especially poverty.

There can be no equality of opportunity so long as disadvantaged children are trapped in substandard schools, especially under-resourced urban schools in majority-minority districts. Education reform efforts are recognition of that reality.

Despite the number of such reform efforts over the past several years, no one has yet developed a magic formula that consistently turns underperforming schools into academic success stories. We do, however, have a lot of experience with reform efforts that haven’t worked—several of which have made things worse.

Which brings me to President-elect Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.

Douglas Harris, an economics professor at Tulane, has been a proponent of charter schools and a researcher of school reform. Friday, he published a scathing column in the New York Times, titled “Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools.”

The choice of Ms. DeVos might not seem surprising. Mr. Trump has, after all, proposed $20 billion to finance “school choice” initiatives and Ms. DeVos supports these ideas. Yet of all the candidates the transition team was apparently considering, Ms. DeVos has easily the worst record.

As one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system, she is partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country….

Detroit is not only the lowest in this group of lowest-performing districts on the math and reading scores, it is the lowest by far…. The situation is so bad that national philanthropists interested in school reform refuse to work in Detroit….Michigan has the dubious distinction of being one of five states with declining reading scores.

In contrast, Harris points to New Orleans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the city replaced most of its schools with charters; after a poor start, the state took over a third of them and revamped the system, increasing oversight and preventing cherry-picking of students.

After the reforms, the city’s standardized test scores have increased by eight to 15 percentile points and moved the district from the bottom to almost the state average on many measures. High school graduation and college entry rates also seem to have improved significantly, even while suspensions, expulsions and the rate of students switching schools have all dropped. Detroit and New Orleans represent radically different versions of school choice — and the one that seems to work is the one that uses the state oversight that Ms. DeVos opposes.

Harris notes that New Orleans is also important because it is the only city in the country in which charter school results can be compared to results for school vouchers, the approach Ms. DeVos prefers.

In a study my center released this year, researchers found that the statewide Louisiana voucher program had exactly the opposite result as the New Orleans charter reforms. Students who participated in the voucher program had declines in achievement tests scores of eight to 16 percentile points. Since many of these students received vouchers through a lottery, these results are especially telling.

Ms. DeVos is a long-time financial supporter of the extreme Right, believes schools should teach Creationism, and has been a generous donor to anti-LGBT groups. She is a rich ideologue who has been described as “an enemy of public education.”

Michigan blogger Ed Brayton, who has observed her at close range for several years, is blunt; “Putting her in charge of the Department of Education is like making Al Capone the chief of police.”

This choice is a disaster for schoolchildren—and especially for low-income children.



35 thoughts on “Another Disastrous Appointment

  1. Trump’s cabinet choices are stunning, to say the least. His businesses are a massive conflict of interest and he has already walked back on many of his promises to the people who voted for him. Of course, we Hoosiers are sure that Pence is using every ounce of power (Trump allows him to have) to force his theocratic authoritarian ways and beliefs onto the upcoming administration.

    How long will it be before he is impeached? Will he even be allowed to be sworn in? I am still in shock that Pence was going to lose his office in IN due to his authoritarian theocracy only to be elevated to the position of second in command. I am truly depressed about this whole mess.

  2. I am going to again point out and ask what can be done and when can anything be done due to Amendment XXV which only covers the removal of a SITTING PRESIDENT in case of death or resignation. We have no protection from a presidential elect other than the POSSIBILITY of recounts or Electoral College members changing their vote before the final, legal decision.

    We are looking at control of the education (or dumbing-down) of future American leaders by members of the 1% who have no concept of the results of taking money from a deteriorating condition, giving it to those who are demanding their WANTS be supported with tax dollars, and expecting the deteriorating conditions to somehow improve themselves with less. This is a simple math equation; subtraction and addition in the old-fashioned manner of Arithmetic we learned “back in the day”. Neither Trump nor DeVos has ever in their wealthy lives had to use basic math to survive this economy. Both were handed the highest educations on their family silver platters; we, the working class buried under student loans, will be paying for their educations for decades. My granddaughter over $55,000 and my grandson over $45,000 as examples from public education.

  3. My suspicious mind tells me that DeVos was not Trump’s choice. No, he gave that choice to Pence as a reward for going along with the insanity of his government as reality show.

  4. Marv I often ask myself that question, “How much more can we (or I, as a teacher) take?”

    Myself and other teachers have been dealing with this stuff for years, since Mitch and his ilk enacted their so-called reforms starting in 2011. After all of these years, I have concluded there are two types of education reformers. There are the Mitch Daniels types that want reform based on the ratio of investment to return. The Mitch crowd is only concerned about money – keeping it from public schools and allowing private groups to profit from it. Mitch and his buddies hate teachers and their unions because he follows the belief that we are not worth what we are paid. The other type of reformer is the Mike Pence crowd that wants reform based on ideology. Mike and his followers believe the public schools breed liberal thinkers that reject all things that are religious, and want Christianity in particular to be the center of our education system. DeVos is a leader in the Pence group.

    Both of these philosophies of education “reform” offer no solutions to the needs of public education, and are specifically intended to end public education. I can only hope that my fellow teachers will become even more vocal and speak out about how vouchers are draining precious funds from the public and how charters are nothing more than failure factories that make investors rich at the expense of innocent children.

    There could be no worse choice for Secretary of Education than DeVos.

  5. The destruction of public education is a Republican goal. This is evident by the state by state dismantling of funds to support school systems and school employees. However we cannot discount the culpability of those same employees and parents of students who allow this action with their vote. If you don’t stand up for yourself no one else will. The dumbing down of America began when NEA, ISTA and other teacher supported groups caved into supporting charter schools because of their own Republican leadership. My biggest fear is that our grandchildren will no longer love in the greatest nation on earth. The greatest nation respects education for everyone and equality for everyone. Those are no longer priorities.

  6. Thus began the dismantling of government. The closest thing to a sane pick was Nikki Haley, even though she has no diplomatic experience, to be UN Ambassador.

  7. Teresa,

    I guess most of us are having the same type of fears. In a nutshell, it is about insanity. Is Donald Trump a “madman”? I’ve mentioned before that I was the General Counsel of his corporation and advisor to the genius behind all of this mess. He was a genius; he also was in and out of the hospital and finally killed himself, the fact of which has been covered up all these years.

    Donald Trump is a seriously disturbed opportunist at best who found the perfect niche for himself as leader of the neo-fascist, Republican Party/Tea Party.

    In the name of God, Buddha, etc., we all better move quickly to SAVE THE REPUBLIC. The time is running out.

  8. I spend summers in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) area and winters here in Florida, and it is not possible to spend time in Western Michigan and not be aware of the Prince and DeVos families and what they have contributed to (or removed from) the region and state. Her maiden name was Prince and her father was a rich industrialist who lived in Holland, Michigan. Rich DeVos, her husband, is a billionaire owner of Amway located in Ada, a suburb of Grand Rapids. Her brother, Erik Prince, is the CEO of Blackwater, which prospered greatly in the George Bush administration(s) as private killers in Iraq and elsewhere , and is involved in protecting our diplomatic personnel and who knows what else to this day. Erik is a former Navy Seal and is ready to do his country’s undercover bidding amidst much flag-waving and phony patriotism. DeVos and his wife Betsy are members of the Dutch Reformed Church; Erik defected from that church to Catholicism. All dabble in right wing Republican politics and were big time supporters of Newt and now Trump.
    Betsy doesn’t like for the public to be involved in public education; apparently she thinks that public education is the exclusive preserve of the rich in which top down choice of curriculum and educational administration are for the rich to decide while indoctrinating students to accept their fate, go to church and work hard for their corporate masters and mistresses. I could go on, but you get the idea. Betsy will now head up an agency via Trump’s appointment which calls for her to essentially destroy the agency as an armed fox in a locked hen house.

    This thoughtless appointment is another step toward the total corporate privatization of the American educational system. These people and what they are trying to do with their snobbery and wealth remind me of what must have been in the minds of the French when storming the Bastille. With the advent of total corporate takeover of Americana, election of a clueless chief executive and loss of our democracy, I for one am beginning to think French.

  9. I still can’t get over Ben Carson turning down Health and Human Services as a doctor, but choosing Housing and Urban Development. That signals something really bad, but I don’t quite know what yet. I do hope he realizes that it has radically changed since his younger days, and that public housing is only a sliver of the whole department. His comments on fair housing are troublesome and references an outdated perspective. Smh

    I can’t even wrap my head around these choices.

  10. Gerald,

    “With the advent of total corporate takeover of Americana, election of a clueless chief executive and loss of our democracy, I for one am beginning to think French.”

    We all should. That’s the direction we’re going whether we like it or not. There’s going to be a civil war if there is no effective intervention.

  11. Maybe, instead of hoping for recounts or Electoral College members changing their vote, we should assume Trump and Pence will be duly elected and begin NOW contacting all elected Republicans in our respective states. There must be some who are watching this “wag the dog” situation with Trump’s continuing instability and unqualified appointees and agree with those of us aware of the danger if they are accepted by Congress. I read one item stating the appointment of DeVos was another of Trump’s attempts to “walk back” his connections to the Alt-Right (Alt-Right = white nationalism). A little foresight couldn’t hurt; could also be a way to learn which of our elected officials are aware of the situation and the unavoidable destructive aftermath.

  12. We’re all worried what Trump/Pence might do with the power they will have over our nuclear capability. We should be. I also suggest that we might equally worry about bombs being dropped on OUR HEADS.

    I’ve mentioned before that my eight websites are monitored as to location. For the past few months, the majority of the traffic to my two main websites has come from Beijing, China.

  13. I’m aware that most of you are wishing that I would disappear. I can understand that. Before I go, I will again recommend that you rent or purchase from Amazon…”The Killer Shrews.”

    It was produced by Gordon McLendon, the genius behind this “stinking mess.” He plays the part of the mad scientist. It accurately foretells the future of America. And it AIN’T good.

    When you have a multi-millionaire father like McLendon had, there’s was no telling the extent of the good or bad that he could inflict on us all.

  14. Marv; I have mentioned more than once the possibility of this country becoming the targeted rather than targeting other nations. The next “boots on the ground” may be foreign boots on this ground. Is Trump stupid enough to turn the nuclear weapons on this country to “nuke” the invaders? I believe he is; collateral damage includes the innocent in foreign countries we have invaded and/or bombed for years. It would save Trump from deporting all those on his list and Ryan has already said we do not have enough money to deport those targeted by Trump. Are my comments any stupider than the daily rants from our president-elect? We need to think outside the box…or outside that basket full of Deplorables coming into full power.

  15. The 25th constitutional amendment is provided below. It does provide a 4th article in which the Vice President and cabinet could declare the President unable to discharge powers and duties of the office and the V.P. would assume the Presidency. If the President declares otherwise, the matter goes to Congress which would decide the matter by a super majority. No impeachment or doctor’s statement or hearings or other standards are required. Presumably the cabinet the President appointed would be loyal to him, BUT if the cabinet became concerned that the President was a real threat to the country by reason of his inability to ‘faithfully” discharge his duties under the constitution, they COULD remove him in favor of the Vice President.

    Mike Pence has a lot more friends in the Congress than Donald Trump who seems intent on giving Pence and others plenty of ammunition for his own destruction. Trump already has violated the constitution in encouraging foreign diplomats to use his Washinton, D.C. hotel which reportedly has been hurting for business ever since it opened.

    Short of constitutional removal, Trump is super sensitive to public polls and criticism. If he tries to remove Obamacare and Medicare (Speaker Paul Ryan wants to marry the two in the same repeal legislation) without replacing or improving them, he’ll be in for heckuva fight. The public only needs to react, and the louder, the better in case Trump has a ‘hearing’ problem.

    Text of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

    4: Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

    Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

  16. Nancy,

    This assumes that the elected and appointed Republicans in office actually have the best interests of the United States foremost in their hearts and minds. I no longer believe this.

  17. Theresa,

    “This assumes that the elected and appointed Republicans in office actually have the best interests of the United States foremost in their hearts and minds. I no longer believe this.”

    That’s going to be our problem. However, if all the Republican members of Congress were given a copy of the “The Killer Shrews” DVD and its application to our present situation, we might START to get somewhere.

    JoAnn is right. “We need to think outside the box…or outside that basket full of Deplorables coming into full power.” In other words, we need to think outside the FUCKING INSANITY in Congress.

  18. Theresa; that section refers only to the President or president, NOT the president-elect or vice president-elect. We apparently have no protection until/unless they are inaugurated. SCOTUS, like the founding fathers, couldn’t envision a Donald Trump winning a presidential election. If they were thinking; they would have included a way to PREVENT anyone of Trump’s caliber even being allowed to seek the nomination…or allow the GOP to support him or her.

  19. To paraphrase Sun Tzu in “The Art of War”…….The way to prevent war is to be prepared for war.

    I’m following the orders that Gregory Peck gave as head of Bomber Command in the WW II movie: “Twelve O’clock High”………….Consider yourself “dead.” What he was conveying to his pilots was that you’ll never reach the target if you’re overly considered about yourself. In other words, ” since many of you will be shot down over the target, you have nothing to lose, you have already lost it, so quit worrying about it.”

    The same goes for standing up to the power that will be in control on January 21st. On that date, there will be nothing to lose. Democracy, as we understand it, will be dead. So relax, speak out, and quit worrying about any danger from doing so, at least, until the day of reckoning comes.

    I believe, we all agree, JoAnn should be our “Squadron Commander.”

  20. I read a number of years ago, I believe in the Smithsonian Magazine about the Finnish School system. The Finns made some big reforms. A 2015 study by the OECD ranked the Educational Systems by the results of kids aged 15 at Maths and Science. The ranking is very similar to the general ranking, with top tier Asian countries leading the list: Finland is number 6. The USA is number 29.

    Among the highlights: “They have socialized medicine and much more educational funding,” she adds. For residents, school lunches are free, preschool is free, college is free. “Children come to school ready to learn. They come to school healthy. That’s not a problem the United States has solved yet.” — There are no sports teams, no marching bands.

    We have in the USA Corporatism as the dominant Economic-Political Lifeform. Prisons for Profit, Education for Profit, Health Care for Profit, the Security System for Profit, McMega-Media, etc., results are scored by how much profit is made. There are plenty of blood suckers along the way, who receive a piece of the action.

    I do not see Trump as a political ideologue, that is he has no political foundation in a sense, such as Bernie Sanders has. What Trump does have and it supersedes all else is the drive to enrich himself no matter what the cost is to others – His Trump University is a good example. DeVos is a Theocratic Corporatist Ideologue. Critical thinking would not enter into her curriculum.

  21. Hard core conservatives (now the Republican Party) have for years targeted the Dep’t. of Education for elimination without much hope of accomplishing that goal. My first thought after the election results were in was that now was their time; they had the votes in Congress to finally do away with it.

    But actually the Republicans — at least the Pence/ Alt.Right crowd — have a much better and much more insidious plan. Destroy it from within. No messy Congressional hearings and necessity for public voting. Just insert a cancer at its core and use it to promote your own purposes and ideology. That’s actually much more scary than simply getting rid of it altogether.

    And as to the comments about Pence’s influence in all this. I, too, agree, that most of the choices for administration jobs are coming directly and solely from the Pence/Alt.Right team. Just look at the blowback Trump got from his power-behind-the-throne Kelly Ann Conway over Trump’s considering Mitt for Sec. of State. It’s pretty clear who’s running the show when the guy, who supposedly has all the power and final say, gets publically slammed by someone who works for him for just considering someone for a job in his own administration. Pretty telling about who is actually running things.

    Time for the Old Donald to appear in his own reality show and famously shout out to Conway and her master Bannon; “You’re fired!” But apparently that really was all just an act Trump put on. But it turns out — not surprisingly given his basic personality and lack of self-awareness and interest in anything other than himself — that the mighty, all powerful, strong leader Trump is being used by Pence, the Alt.right crowd, and Putin. And he doesn’t care because he gets to be the President and in the ultimate lime-light while Pence/Conway/Bannon rip the country apart. Again that’s more scary than if Trump really was interested in governing the Country himself. Ineptitude would be bad enough. This is far worse.

  22. If there’s one thing common to all TrumPence supporters it’s that white Anglo-Saxon Christian heterosexual American born males deserve everything. They believe, IMO, that that group, because they have always been privileged in America, built it and everyone else is a parasite.

    What they ignore because open minded learning is not their thing, is that this world is not that world. In fact their world was obsoleted decades ago and can’t be restored. Think Middle Eastern Muslim Males today.

    But they feel empowered at the moment unjustly so so they will push their agenda upstream against the flow of culture until………what?

    Will Congress or the Supreme Court stop them? They have already capitulated. Will the rest of the world? Who? China? Putin? Why would they stop the self destruction of their global competition?

    So that leaves the folks giving up everything to the ruling class.

    The question is do we have the will and organization?

    While that’s being figured out we must realize that the America that we love is no more. We have to conquer the America that is to bring it back.

    #notmypresident is at least a start.

  23. Pete,

    While that’s being figured out we must realize that the America that we love is no more. We have to conquer the America that is to bring it back.

    #notmypresident is at least a start.

    You’re right. We’re on our way back.

  24. I’ve often wondered how the past 8 years were allowed to continue, and by that I mean how in the world did obstructionism to the tune of ongoing threats to ‘shut down the government’ continue and flourish? Where were we?
    No governing party has the right to shut anything down. I thought that was up to the people. So naïve.
    As I watched all this happening, then watched the “horse and pony show” called Trump and associates do their brand of magic, why am I not surprised about the current outcome?
    Again, where were we?
    All eyes are upon us, people. Hopefully we are still smart enough to work through this mess without even greater numbers of the armed fringe lunatics and those monsters we have created outside our borders join forces against us.
    Hearing whispers of “civil war” all around me, I am thinking we are already in the midst of a so-called civil war…we are killing each other on a regular basis and have still not worked together effectively enough to stop that from happening. And there’s nothing civil about it.
    I’m still not without hope. Naïve old lady?

  25. Pete,

    I wonder what happens if the majority of the NFL and the NBA jump on the #notmypresident bandwagon. Then it will be France like Gerald predicted. More specifically, France of the mid to late 30’s. I wonder how the Stock Market is going to react to all of this? Maybe all the Republican members of Congress have SOLD SHORT. I wouldn’t put it pass them. They’ve probably passed on a few tips by way of Trump to Putin.

  26. Maywin; welcome, my naive old lady friend, please continue to share your insights with us. There is strength in numbers; we need you with us. But will Hillary’s popular vote numbers be the strength we need to bring about change to the escalating fears as Trump’s appointee numbers rise but the quality of his choices sinks lower?

    I try to share your hope but keep losing sight of salvation from the fascism and pseudo Christianity guiding the newly elected leaders of this country and the world. The holidays – and that is plural – are fast approaching but will they soften the hearts of so many who chose hate to determine their vote?

  27. JoAnn 10:02 the “boots on the ground” have long been domestic boots of oppression here in the USA. The Jim Crow law enforcement comes to mind. Unions have faced off at times with the Security State. The Memorial Day Massacre by the Chicago Police Department on striking workers and their families in the 1930’s is documented on film. The Security State has seen it as it’s goal to protect Corporate AmeriKa against the working class.

    We see this today in North Dakota where Native Americans and their allies confront the Security apparatus. The Security Forces are dressed up like they going out on patrol in Iraq. The McMega-Media has ignored the protests, after all they are part of the Corporate establishment. Obama has been silent on this. Trump may provide the encouragement once he is in office to clear the protestors out be what ever means necessary.

  28. Marv – Mark Cuban, a fellow billionaire of the Orange One, predicts that we will have not a recession but a depression with this narcissistic nincompoop at the helm. I disagreed with Cuban in a recent blog, predicting that we will have only a recession, but one which could turn into something worse unless quickly slowed by a dose of Keynesian/New Deal efforts, lamenting that with the current Republican fascination for austerity economics and their majorities in all three branches of government that such a turn would be unlikely. Republicans wed to “free market” ideology would prefer, like Hoover, to “let the market decide.” Trouble is, the market has already decided, and its decision was to go under with the result that all of us are victimized because of ideological slants of right wing politicians.

  29. Gerald,

    “….but one which could turn into something worse unless quickly slowed by a dose of Keynesian/New Deal efforts, lamenting that with the current Republican fascination for austerity economics and their majorities in all three branches of government that such a turn would be unlikely.”

    I remember what you said a month or so ago. I’m not the economist you are, but I do have a B.S. in Economics and I agreed with your assessment then and continue to agree with you. You’re better qualified than Mark Cuban, but Cuban saw the threat of Trump being President at the beginning. That comes from his living in Texas. He knew the threat was real having lived so long among the “deplorables.”

    That’s why it so important to move as quickly as possible to shore up the democracy as much as possible at this critical time.

  30. Yes, this woman is part of the Koch brothers’ archipelago and star chamber. These people are committed to total oligarchy and the absolute end of public education. Theirs is a “1984” world where only their opinions matter.

    This appointment’s horror will only be superseded by General Flynn starting WW III with one of is paranoid spasms of fear.

    The H.L. Menken prophecy of finally having a moron for President is at hand, and the absolute stupidity of the American electorate is now clearly visible for all to see. We can’t even govern by majority rule. Pathetic.

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