Education was seen as important through most of world history and it was certainly seen that way through early American history. Slaves struggled and risked their lives to learn to read and to write. Early American leadership at every level supported education in a broad sense. There has been an understanding of the relationship between the public and political purposes and the values involved in education.
Betsy DeVos May Defund Public Ed
— But Wants Guns in Schools to Fight Grizzlies
In a rushed confirmation hearing, billionaire Betsy DeVos's attempts to dodge tough questions occasionally entered the realm of absurdity
from Common Dreams by Nika Knight
Billionaire heiress and school privatization advocate Betsy DeVos faced withering scrutiny Tuesday at a rushed confirmation hearing for her nomination as secretary of education, often betraying her inexperience with education policy as she dodged Democrats' questions.
As she attempted to avoid the line of questioning, at one point DeVos refused to say whether or not she'd defund public schools.
Watch NBC News' footage of DeVos refusing to answer a series of questions about her donations to the Republican Party, her privatization agenda, and her total lack of government and policy experience:
DeVos was also the first of President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet picks to sit for a hearing without completing a full ethics review, a fact not lost on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who noted that without that review, the senators are unable to question the billionaire about how she stands to personally profit from education policy.
Democrats were also dismayed when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, announced that he was limiting the questioning to "one round of five minutes for each senator," the New York Times writes, noting that the questioning in previous hearings had included two rounds.
During the hearing, Warren pointed out that DeVos has no experience at all with managing loans or grants—particularly on the scale of the federal loan and grant system, a system upon which poor, working- and middle-class students depend to pursue higher education:
And DeVos faced many pointed questions about her myriad conflicts of interest, such as when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) asked DeVos if her family's contributions of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Republican Party perhaps played a role in her nomination for education secretary.
When Sanders went on to ask if DeVos would work with him to push for free college tuition, DeVos, who personally inherited billions, said, "I think that's a really interesting idea, and it's really great to consider and think about, but I think we also have to consider the fact that nothing in life is really free."
DeVos also refused to answer Sanders' questions about to how she plans to help people paid less than $15/hour—and the Republican Party is against raising the minimum wage, he points out—as they struggle to pay for the skyrocketing costs higher education and childcare:
At times DeVos even appeared entirely unfamiliar with major education laws, such as when Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked DeVos whether her plan to decrease federal funds for schools meant she wouldn't enforce the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. DeVos had apparently never heard of it:
Whoah Say What?!? Betsy DeVos Diligently Loves Congress and States' Rights and Potential Grizzlies But Schools - Not So Much (Also, Actually, Not Crazy About Kids With Disabilities)
from Common Dreams by Abby Zimet,
Man, watching the crumbling of the republic is gonna be tough. Tuesday's accelerated confirmation "hearing" - ie a strictly allotted five-minute evening questioning so nobody could find out just what a debacle it represents for our democracy - on super-rich right-wing zealot Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education even though she hates it, knows nothing about it, and has spent her uber-privileged life working against it was unreal, aka "low, insulting burlesque and a revolting dumbshow of the arrogance of monied ignorance."
The deep-pocketed, God-and-conversion-therapy-loving lobbyist, best known for helping destroy Michigan's public education system and once conceding, "We are buying influence and we do expect something in return" kept a bizarre Stepford smile plastered on her face while hedging and dodging and repeatedly failing to answer questions about fraud, student debt, disability rights and fundamental educational philosophy from a host of Democratic notables who actually know their stuff.
Because you probably, understandably don't have the will or iron stomach to watch it all, some highlights: Bernie does his forthright thing by asking if she'd be there if not for giving the Repubs $200 million. Al Franken raises his disbelieving eyebrows while hammering her for not knowing the difference between the debated-for-decades educational standards of "proficiency" vs "growth." Elizabeth Warren quickly tires of her vaguely saying sure she's against Trump-University-style waste, fraud and abuse and you can bet she'll be vigilant about working with Congress to make sure it doesn't happen and blah blah diligent blah, to which an exasperated Warren who's heard it all before snaps, "Yeah, I'm asking how."
Tim Kaine and Maggie Hassan both get her to reveal she knows nothing about existing federal laws protecting the rights of kids with disabilities but what the hey she'll just let states decide if they get wheelchair ramps. And when Chris Murphy - Senator of the state that endured Sandy Hook - asks about guns in schools, she again hems and haws about states' rights before allowing as how maybe some schools need guns to protect against "potential grizzlies." Yes. Grizzlies. This would all be wildly entertaining if our kids didn't ultimately have to pay for it. But they will.
"It's hard to imagine someone less qualified to oversee the nation's schools than Betsy DeVos," argued public education advocate Diane Ravitch earlier this month. "DeVos did not attend public schools, nor did her children. She has never been a teacher, administrator, practitioner or scholar of education. In fact, one wonders whether she has ever actually set foot in a public school."
"Betsy DeVos is a dedicated enemy of public education," Ravitch said on MSNBC Tuesday, "and 85 percent of this country's children are in public schools."
"Reason, knowledge, ethics—none of that matters here," wrote teacher and advocate Steven Singer after the hearing. "We are truly in the age of the plutocrats where money has arrogantly attempted to buy governmental power outright. Right in front of our noses."