By Sam Anderson
The Complete elimination of a federal oversight of public education is about to begin. This was a campaign promise of President-Elect Donald Trump… and he has started the first phase of shutting down the US Dept. of Education with the selection of Ms. Betsy DeVos- a multibillionaire with absolutely no education experience (because the job of dismantling public education does not require it!).
The ultra-rich Americans who are now represented in the highest office by their fellow ultra-rich cohort- are about to feed deeper and wider into the trillion-dollar public education trough. During the campaign, Trump had vowed to shut down the US Dept. of Education using the rationale that it was a waste of money and that states should control their public schools without a “massive governmental bureaucracy of political correctness.”
Who is Ms Betsy DeVos?
“Betsy DeVos heads the American Federation for Children, an organization that promotes charter school education. Previously, she served on the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group led by Bush. She and her husband have given millions of dollars every year to organizations that promote Christian and conservative values, such as the Focus on the Family and the Washington, D.C.-based think tank American Enterprise Institute….
Betsy and Dick DeVos come from a family with a $5.1 billion net worth. Dick’s father, Richard, is the co-founder of Amway and considered the 88th richest man in the United States by Forbes. In 2014, Mother Jones called the DeVos clan “the new Kochs,” as they have sought to ‘defund the left and bring down labor in Michigan.’” (from mic.com)
So, as Trump tries to mend the real deep divide within the Republican Party and start to fulfill his dismantling promises, he chooses Ms. Betsy DeVos. As you can see, she is a longtime advocate of charter schools and vouchers (vouchers are a way to directly transfer your tax dollars into private schools under the guise of “choice”). Left up to her, every public school would become a corporate-backed charter school with some students taking their public school money to a local private school. Ms. DeVos’s model is the all charter school system of New Orleans and the evolving all charter school system of Philadelphia that pump hundreds of millions of tax dollars into their corporate backers and administration.
Racist high stakes testing will be on steroids with Ms. DeVos’s staunch support of the Common Core Curriculum even though Trump has claimed to NOT be a supporter of the Common Core. However, three things are very clear with Trumpism when it comes to education:
- In the heads of these emboldened racist education policy makers, the school-to-prison-pipeline must not only continue but become an even stronger central component to “innercity” education to help make it a less crime ridden ghetto… making it even safer for the mainly white gentrifiers trying to return to the cities of America.
- Ms. Devos and her cohorts are absolutely clueless (and really don’t care) about the erasure of cultural excellence within public education’s curriculum and pedagogy. The multibillion dollar white supremacist textbook and testing industry will have a friend in the US Dept. of Education who will further marginalize not only Black & Latino History and Culture, but will also accelerate the removal of Black and Latino educators (NYC has already lost 40% of its Black educators under Bloomberg-de Blasio’s Mayoral Control and Chicago has lost 45% of its Black educators under Mayor Rahm Israel Emanuel and his predecessor).
- Teachers’ unions will lose even more of what little power they have at the bargaining table because Ms. Devos will bring in the highly funded and politically backed union busters and her administration will use the policy of strictly tying students’ test scores to teacher evaluation. In addition, Under Devos’s rule, charter schools will dominate and their teachers don’t have to be unionized even states where the AFT and the NEA operate!
We have spent the last 30-35 years being dependent upon liberal Democrats to bring equity to public education and all they have done was to lay the groundwork for the white supremacist Republicans – and some Democrats- to privatize every aspect of public education while enhancing its devastating “prison prep” policies for Black & Brown children.
With Ms Devos as Education Czar, those very same Democrats will try to seek a middle-ground where there’s none. They will also try to use moral suasion with these amoral and immoral so-called education leaders.
Parents, educators and students: we have only one choice to make as we enter the Age of Trumpism. That choice is to build power within us and our communities. And that means, for education, we need to take control of our schools. And for New York City, that means not only seizing our local schools, but taking the entire Board of Education out of the hands of the mayor and placing it within the control of a democratic collaboration of parents, educators, students and community rights-holders. Amongst Black and Latino Folk, we have the education expertise and experience to create local public schools of cultural and civic excellence that will be devoted to the highest intellectual, emotional and physical development of our children.
With the selection of Multibillionaire noneducator Ms. Betsy DeVos, for us Black and Latino Folk, Trump is continuing down the road of “Education Genocide”.
Our power and victory over the impending white supremacist education and privatization policies of Trumpism will become a real force if we, parents, educators and children embrace the simple but powerful words of Frederick Douglass: “We struggle to learn to learn to struggle.”
Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence and the Coalition for Public Education are here to help towards that Victory! Join Us in the fight against the privatization and white supremacist education policies that Ms. Devos and her allies will try to impose upon us!
Sam Anderson is a retired Math and Black History Professor and a member of Black New Yorkers for Educational Excellence) and the Coalition for Public Education