The Coming Assault on Education

I have noted previously that Trump’s choice for Education Secretary is Betsy DeVos, a dedicated proponent of school privatization. The depth of her commitment to vouchers is matched only by the shallowness of her educational experience and training (she’s never taught nor does she have a degree in education).

Politico looked into DeVos’ history and statements, and began a recent article as follows:

The billionaire philanthropist whom Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Education Department once compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to “advance God’s Kingdom.”

Trump’s pick, Betsy DeVos, a national leader of the school choice movement, has pursued that work in large part by spending millions to promote the use of taxpayer dollars on private and religious schools.

In an audio recording obtained by POLITICO, DeVos and her husband (an Amway billionaire) explained that their Christian faith drives their efforts to reform American education. They believe that school choice leads to “greater Kingdom gain”  and that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of communities. They’re convinced that school choice can reverse that trend.

Hoosier readers who see the fundamentalist hand of Mike Pence in the choice of DeVos can find confirmation of those suspicions in a Mother Jones article about Pence’s voucher program.

Pence’s voucher program ballooned into a $135 million annual bonanza almost exclusively benefiting private religious schools—ranging from those teaching the Koran to Christian schools teaching creationism and the Bible as literal truth—at the expense of regular and usually better-performing public schools. Indeed, one of the schools was a madrasa, an Islamic religious school, briefly attended by a young man arrested this summer for trying to join ISIS—just the kind of place Trump’s coalition would find abhorrent.

In Indiana, Pence created one of the largest publicly funded voucher programs in the country. Initially launched in 2011 under Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, it was sold as a way to give poor, minority children trapped in bad public schools a way out.

Daniels program was relatively small, and focused on low-income families. Pence dramatically increased and redirected it.

By the 2015-16 school year, the number of students using state-funded vouchers had shot up to more than 32,000 in 316 private schools. But Pence’s school choice experiment demonstrates that vouchers can create a host of thorny political problems and potential church-and-state issues. Almost every single one of these voucher schools is religious. The state Department of Education can’t tell parents which or even whether any of the voucher schools are secular. (A state spokeswoman told me Indiana doesn’t collect data on the school’s religious affiliation.) Out of the list of more than 300 schools, I could find only four that weren’t overtly religious and, of those, one was solely for students with Asperger’s syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders, and the other is an alternative school for at-risk students….

Indiana’s choice law prohibits the state from regulating the curriculum of schools getting vouchers, so millions of dollars of the state education budget are subsidizing schools whose curricula teaches creationism and the stories and parables in the Bible as literal truth. Among the more popular textbooks are some from Bob Jones University that are known for teaching that humans and dinosaurs existed on the Earth at the same time and that dragons were real. BJU textbooks have also promoted a positive view of the KKK, writing in one book, “the Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross to target bootleggers, wife beaters and immoral movies.”

Not surprisingly, Indiana children in these voucher schools perform poorly on standardized tests.

The voucher schools can’t necessarily blame low test scores on poverty, either. According to data from the state, today more than 60 percent of the voucher students in Indiana are white, and more than half of them have never even attended any public school, much less a failing one. Some of the fastest growth in voucher use has occurred in some of the state’s most affluent suburbs. The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a Chicago-based think tank, recently concluded that because white children’s participation in the voucher program dwarfed the next largest racial group by 44 points, the vouchers were effectively helping to resegregate public schools.

So Indiana taxpayers are subsidizing religious indoctrination with monies that should be supporting the state’s under-resourced public schools. And that’s the model that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos want to replicate nationwide.


  1. This all makes perfect sense in our world where many can’t distinguish their own opinion from fact; they’re just trying to pass it along. I would warn parents who actually care about their children learning something, to assume as much of the burden of teaching as possible and tell their children to ask lots of questions in class. I believe that part of this problem has been created by schools valuing conformity in the classroom over critical thinking and questioning. Otherwise it’s a sad state of affairs.

  2. Sheila: “The Coming ASSAULT ON Education.”

    Wouldn’t WAR AGAINST be better for mobilization purposes?

    Time is running out. Time is not on our side.

    The following is from “Germany Jekyll & Hyde: A Contemporary Account of Nazi Germany” by Sebastian Haffner (London: Little, Brown Book Group, First published in 1940) p. 204:

    “Meanwhile slowly, very slowly, the intellectual elements of the NEW FRONT are being formed, of the opposition that really has a chance of overthrowing the Nazis. It shapes itself with TANTALIZING SLOWNESS, and the nightmare continues that it may not be ready in time, that it might not be there at the DECISIVE MOMENT. One must say, in its defense, that even spiritual processes are not easily brought to completion today in Germany. Even PURE THOUGHT needs a minimum of ‘living space’, discussion, verbal crystallization, and contact with critical opinion, all of which is highly dangerous, if not impossible. Above all, however, thought is hindered by the daily flood of propaganda. It is like trying to compose a symphony while the same potpourri of marches roar’s in one’s ears in a continuing and compelling FORTISSIMO.”

    Are we ALL a “bunch of nuts” waiting to see what happens after the Presidential inauguration?

  3. Next time I hear about the ‘war on Christmas’ I’m going to mention this ‘war on education’.

  4. I have been a member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education (ICPE) since 2011. I hang my head as I tell you that my children and grandchildren have opted for vouchers for their children; with the exception of my exceptional daughter-in-law who, after her disabled son being bullied for 2 years in one charter school, then one Catholic school for 2 years where her youngest son was bullied because of his brother, she decided to home school my grandsons. Both schools refused to take action to stop the bullying; it wasn’t physical so mattered not to teachers or school authorities. Both boys are making top grades and they do have to pass state tests to continue being home schooled. They are required to take ISTEP but must pay for this “privilege”. In the words of Linda Ellerbee, “And so it goes!

    Below I have copied and pasted one paragraph of Sheila’s blog and the “ICPE Legislative Report Card for 2016” which provided the individual legislator’s party and grade as determined by ICPE. The full report, including basics of the bills referred to, can be read on the “City Counter Observer” web site.

    Sheila’s blog:
    “So Indiana taxpayers are subsidizing religious indoctrination with monies that should be supporting the state’s under-resourced public schools. And that’s the model that Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos want to replicate nationwide.”

    September 6, 2016
    “ICPE Legislative Report Card For 2016

    Thirty-one members of the Indiana General Assembly earned A’s, and 50 earned F’s in a report card evaluating their support for Indiana’s public schools.

    The ICPE Report Card rated incumbents who filed for reelection in 2016, grading them based on their votes on five bills that either expanded private school vouchers, increased tax credits for the Indiana Scholarship Granting Organizations giving taxpayer money to students in private schools, or otherwise damaged public education.”

  5. “Are we ALL a “bunch of nuts” waiting to see what happens after the Presidential inauguration?”

    Marv; to your copied and pasted question above I can only comment is, “Dogs bark, but the caravan moves on!” This is true on every issue relating to Trump and Pence and the entire home-grown terrorist threats of actions which will be quickly put in place after January 20, 2017. Reports of some Republicans “not supporting Trump” is a repeat of their claims during the campaign…but they voted for him. Is there no way to legally stop the caravan of Trump and Pence with their DAILY attacks on American citizens with their inane and destructive decisions. We are also seeing reports of more Electoral College members stating they will not vote for Trump; of course there are those few who want to vote for Kasich…lol. Can they vote for someone who is NOT a candidate and remember, during the Republican Roll Call at the Convention, ALL votes were switched to Trump and Pence.

    So; if the Electoral College is unable to reach a decision (an “election mistrial”) and the vote goes to the totally Republican Congress…what does our “bunch of nuts” think will happen?

    Some of us are paying individual organizations with membership dues, signing petitions and surveys to take action on our behalf; wouldn’t they have more force if they organized as individual members of one “corporation”…such as United Technologies, Corp. and the Carrier miscarriage of justice here? Just askin’

  6. JoAnn,

    “Marv;…Is there no way to legally stop the caravan of Trump and Pence with their DAILY attacks on American citizens with their inane and destructive decisions.

    “Some of us are paying individual organizations with membership dues, signing petitions and surveys to take action on our behalf; wouldn’t they have more force if they organized as individual members of one “corporation””

    You’re exactly right. That’s the only way EFFECTIVE COMMAND DECISIONS can be made. Otherwise, it’s paramount to suicide.

  7. JoAnn,

    “Life offers us two choices! We can live from Personal Power and build Interdependent teams through “Followship-Leadership” OR We can live in the illusion of Emotional Inequality.”

    Electronically Published by Awareness Communication Technology, LLC

    That’s right. It’s about FOLLOWSHIP not “fellowship.”

  8. Teaching the Bible as fact goes hand in hand with believing fake news and therefore advances the agenda of the right wing. Critical thinking will be a relic of past times by the time this administration is finished.

  9. Sadly, these sorts of attacks on public education happen easily because parents of public school children are not an organized group that can fight for public schools. Parents of private religious school children are organized through their churches and are easily mobilized. How long is it going to take the people in this country to realize that they’ve got to get engaged in this stuff? Paying attention and contacting legislators is critical, no matter how hard it is. But, hey, Kim Kardashian is more important, right?

  10. Betsy, Pence and their cohorts should look to the Christian history they pretend to hold so dear. When they do, they will find that Jesus was not into education at all, and that (per red letter) he advised those about him to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
    Education is a Caesar thing and Jesus was clearly one who distinguished between church and state, as our Constitution once did before the Betsys and Mikes of this world got into the act.
    Case closed, or should be, but billionaires have the resources to appeal the apparent judgment of the one they ostensibly worship. Their purpose, of course, is to provide an environment where innocent children are indoctrinated not only with specific religious views but are also taught to work hard and be good in furtherance of the continued accumulation of money and power by such as the DeVoses, Kochs, Sam Walton’s heirs, and that consummate Christian and billionaire (he says),Donald J. Trump, who will shortly lead us out of the wilderness.
    These billionaires and their political toadies such as Pence apparently pick and choose which scriptures are applicable to their conduct. I refer them to that section of scripture that points out that it is more difficult for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. Given our gender parity these days, I presume that such an impossibility would also apply to Betsy and the heiresses of Sam Walton.
    While such people may be in charge of a selective reading of ancient scriptures as a rule and guide to their personal conduct, they have no right to choose and adopt such a rule and guide for the rest of us taxpayers who are funding the education enterprise any more than we taxpayers have a right to choose and adopt and enforce a rule and guide for their personal conduct. The right to render unto what is Caesar’s is a secular enterprise funded by tax money paid by all of us, and those who would privatize such an enterprise or choose curricula based upon religious views should bug out. It’s the business of all of us and not just a religious or profit-minded few, and we must vigorously defend that position if our progeny and theirs are to prosper and survive in a democratic society.
    What if the shoe were on the other foot and government marched into churches, mosques and temples and dictated to their members who funded such organizations what was to be taught and who was to teach it? They would properly be outraged, of course, and well within their rights, as we are well within our rights to be outraged at this invasion of public education by the rich and powerful in pursuit of a buck. I am sure thatJohn Dewey, eminent educator and a favorite author of my now deceased wife (who herself was a university professor of education), would be utterly appalled at this turn of events in which the tail wags the dog – and with the dog’s money.

  11. In my book, “A Worm in the Apple: The Inside Story of Public Schools”, published in 2010, I discuss this coming storm of greed and ideology in detail.

    Look into Diane Ravitch’s publications and articles to obtain the data that shows how private/charter schools perform compared to public schools. This idiotic and un-patriotic money grab by the Republicans is to partially fulfill the dictates of Hayek and Friedman and their sorrowful nightmare of supply-side economics. Making schools a profit center is asking for yet another nail to be driven into the coffin of democracy.

  12. There is no way to discern the motivation behind anyone’s Faith. It’s futile to try.

    But I will offer this. There are no more loyal and unquestioning followers in the world than the Faithful.

    I think that Pence and DeVos both know that.

  13. I posted the below comment a few days ago. I cannot find the original article to provide a link. It seems apt once again given the subject the matter.

    > Education is the enemy of fundamentalism because fundamentalism, by its very nature, is not built on facts. The fundamentalists I grew up around aren’t anti-education. They want their kids to know how to read and write. They are anti-quality, in-depth, broad, specialized education. Learning is only valued up to the certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only God can alter the weather? >

    Learning is only valued up to the certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous. <<>This is the goal!!!

  14. Louie,

    “Learning is only valued up to the certain point. Once it reaches the level where what you learn contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist arguments, it becomes dangerous.”

    That’s why Pete was right, the other day, when he said something to the effect that talking is not the answer. If there is an answer, it would involve action and not just words alone.

  15. For the Faithful, understanding has to stop at the borders of the Faith. It has to be the end point of knowledge, nothing can explain beyond it.

    That’s pretty limiting.

  16. Sheila, my question is for you.

    Alhough our state courts ridiculously decided in 2013 that taxpayer money for vouchers spent at religious schools could skirt our constitution by stating that the money was actually going to the student/parents, not directly to the religious schools – my question is: Why hasn’t another lawsuit been brought to try to stop this? Who could create such a lawsuit and could they come up with an argument to again sue the state? If we don’t sue to stop this, then I don’t see how it will ever slow down.

    I am sick and tired of being forced to support religious schools and I believe that I should have some say in the matter. Could those of us who are against being forced to support an Unconstitutional use of the portion of our taxes that go towards education sue to be able to say where our money is spent on education? I want my money to go towards public education.

  17. Marv and Pete, the Bible Thumping idea of literacy is to be able to read the section in the bible on Noah’s Ark. However, then you must suspend a logical thought process – that is do not question how all these animals, plants, and food fit into the ark. Read and believe but do not question.

  18. Pete,

    “For the Faithful, understanding has to stop at the borders of the Faith.”

    You’re right. Consequently, in our dealings with the Faithful, our only chance is to take action to bring about an extension of the present “borders of the Faith” to a place where there might be a “deeper” understanding of the political reality that they are facing.

  19. Nancy,
    Like you, I believe the state Supreme Court ruling was wrong. Unfortunately, I know of no other legal theory upon which to base a challenge to continuation of the program. Our remedy has to be political–and in Indiana, that’s going to be difficult. Educators around the state need to make their dissatisfaction known to their state representatives and other election officials.

  20. Nancy and Sheila; the fact that the voucher money does NOT go to the parents should have been an issue in that case. Had anyone actually cared about going against Daniels and supporting federal and state Constitutions. Not only does it go to the schools but; if the student leaves for any reason, dropout, move, expulsion, death – the money stays in that school for the full school year.

  21. Indiana, of course, has the ‘School Voucher Program’, and it also has the ‘Tax Credit Scholarship Program’ for private/nonpublic school tuition. These scholarships are funded by donations from individuals or businesses who receive tax benefits in return for their contributions to the 5 or 6 state-approved nonprofits called Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs).

    Two of the SGOs, the Sycamore Institute and the Institute for Quality Education, are headquartered in Indianapolis and are directed by high profile Boards. I believe these SGOs advertise themselves as using private money for public good.

    Schools receiving SGO scholarship monies must be accredited and must participate in ISTEP+ testing. The current participating approved schools are listed at the below link. Hope the link opens to the correct pdf.

  22. Correction needed above. Sycamore is a tree, and somewhere I’m sure there’s a Sycamore Institute.

    But, Sagamore is the word I intended to write. Sagamore Institute.

  23. There is a Web Site – Freedom from Religion Foundation.
    “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute . . . where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference[.]”
    — John F. Kennedy’s speech to Greater Houston Ministerial Association, 1960

    From the above Web site:
    Religious voucher schools may have few or no credentials. In Florida, for instance, private schools need not be accredited by the state or any particular agency. Nearly two-thirds of private schools in North Carolina are unaccredited.

    Well this would certainly fit in with Trump and the Bible Thumpers – Tax Dollars to fund it all. Sort of like Trump U. with bibles.

  24. FL, NV, LA, CO and NC State Supreme Courts have ruled vouchers as unconstitutional. Our State Supreme Court is full of Daniels/Pence appointees and reflect their aim to continue the segregation of and privatization of public schools. The end run tactic of giving the money to the parents to use is a dodge without safeguards, accountability and as JoAnn stated, the money does not remain in the parents’ hands if the child leaves the school for any reason.
    From the Indiana State Constitution
    Article 1. Bill of Rights
    Section 4. Freedom of religion
    No preference shall be given, by law, to any creed, religious society, or mode of worship; and no person shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent.
    Perhaps a legal argument can be made as to the last three words, “against his consent.”
    Since the vast majority of schools receiving state tax money in the form of vouchers are self-declared religious schools, and funded at the expense of money lost to public schools, surely there are grounds for redress in there somewhere for those citizens who do not consent to supporting schools whose mission is religiously based education.

  25. JD. Excellent idea. I, like so many, never consented to my property tax dollars being shifted away from public schools and to private schools. It seems that this would be a valid argument for a lawsuit against the state.

  26. JD and Nancy; a class action suit against the State of Indiana, Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence regarding “against OUR consent” based in both federal and state Constitutions regarding separation of church and state?

  27. Welfare for the Wealthy…subsidizing private schools through vouchers is a disgusting use of public funds. DeVos and her ilk choose not to connect the dots because equal access to quality education means a level playing field, and that is not part of their agenda.

    Public funds for public schools! No welfare for the wealthy.

  28. Religious schools must be funded by their own followers, not the rest of us.

  29. Penceʻs so-called Christian values seem to include stealing from taxpayers, boundless hypocrisy, and righteous arrogance. He is indeed the Pence of Darkness.

  30. The more I learn about Betsy DeVos, the more it becomes apparent that she didn’t want charter schools to soak up the support for voucher schools. But when Betsy DeVos poured millions into a campaign to put the voucher issue on the ballot and to pass it, Michigan voters defeated the voucher initiative. Subsequently her only way to undermine public schools was through charter schools. She masterfully and financially fought efforts to apply high standards (or any standards) to Detroit Charter schools which have some of the worst charter shools in the nation.

    DeVos has never attended nor sent her children to a public school, and she has not been an employee, voluteer, or board member involved with a public school. Michigan folks says she’s out to destroy public schools to clear a path for religious school education according to her faith.

    A Michigan conservative talk show host claims DeVos supports Muslim but not Jewish schools in her voucher plan and wants anti-Semitic courses taught in the public schools curricula. The articles below provide more information on DeVos’ efforts in Michigan and the conservative talk show who’s no fan of Betsy DeVos.

  31. Nancy P.,

    I mentioned a few days ago that my sister and deceased brother-in-law had been the “King and Queen” of Amway in North Florida.

    I can vividly remember my, “good Christian,” brother-in-law telling me that the goal of Amway was to destroy the Jewish-run department stores. As a true believer, he gave up his medical practice, hopped on the DeVos bandwagon, and made his millions.

Comments are closed.