Among the do-nothing puffery from the White House this week is Donald Trump’s executive order telling Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to review education policies and get rid of anything that doesn’t comply with federal law.
Hmm… groundbreaking, or simply restating the status quo?
In an executive order, Trump granted DeVos authority to get rid of K-12 education regulations that don’t comport with federal law. A top U.S. Education Department official admitted, however, that DeVos already has this authority.
…[DeVos advisor Rob] Goad said Wednesday’s executive order “puts an end to this overreach,” giving DeVos the power “to modify anything that is inconsistent with federal law,” though he admitted that she is already empowered to do that [Greg Toppo, “Trump Orders DeVos to Get Rid of ‘Overreaching Mandates’ in Schools,” USA Today, 2017.04.26].
Trump’s order that the Department of Education follow federal law suggests another Trumpian governing philosophy: the rule of law is subordinate to the rule of man, so Trump’s people should follow the law only when Trump tells them to.
But if Rounds’s Republican neighbor in the House (and good Iowa pal of new SDGOP chair Dan Lederman) Rep. Steve King has his way, South Dakota won’t get any federal education money unless it does implement vouchers.
As eager reader Joe Nelson notes, H.R.610, the Choices in Education Act, would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, establish a federal education voucher program to give money to parents of private school students and home-schoolers, and limit Education Department funding to block grants to states that comply with the voucher program.
In other words, under Rep. King’s proposal, South Dakota wouldn’t get any of its $295M share ($174M for K-12, $107M for post-sec, $12M for adult ed… and then we could talk about $336M in student loans) of the federal Department of Education’s $68B budget unless it implemented the vouchers Betsy DeVos has campaigned for but which Senator Rounds says won’t work in South Dakota.
HSLDA opposes H.R. 610 for reasons of prudence and principle.
Once homeschools become publicly funded by the federal government, more scrutiny and more control are likely to follow. After all, homeschooling families will be spending government money, and the Congress has a responsibility to guard the public fisc.
On principle, homeschooling has succeeded as a movement in part by being different. Unlike typical constituencies asking for our piece of the public-money pie, we have simply asked the federal government to leave us alone. This has fostered one of the most dynamic social movements of our lifetime.
The spirit of self-government at the heart of private homeschooling has led to a vibrant social network of small groups and statewide groups who depend on each other—not on the government. The homeschool movement has been a better idea because we built it ourselves.
Routinely taking federal tax dollars will enervate the movement, lead to more squabbles between families and the state, and will result in more scrutiny, oversight, and control.
I agree with HSLDA and apply their critique to private schools as well: alternatives to public education should remain separate from public dollars and public control. Private schools and home schools cannot get public dollars unless they play by public rules. Vouchers for any private education are a bad idea, whether in the weaselly fashion implemented via insurance company scholarships in South Dakota or the full-frontal attack on public education represented by Steve King and Betsy DeVos.
Um, Senator Rounds? If a special interest group tells us the sky is blue, the sky is still blue. And we didn’t need special interest groups to tell us that DeVos supports vouchers; DeVos said at her confirmation hearing that she supports vouchers:
The committee’s chairman, Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and former education secretary himself, asked DeVos whether she would try to push school vouchers onto states even though the federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, does not include or allow it.
Senator Rounds further poo-poos South Dakotans’ concerns by saying Betsy DeVos can’t impose vouchers or her other bad policies here:
The good news for South Dakota is the state doesn’t have a voucher program so the issue is moot, Rounds said.
…“It’s a voucher system that does not exist in South Dakota,” he said.
The state also does not have charter schools, and Rounds said he is trying to get the message out that fears that people have about the new secretary are not ones they should have.
…Rounds also said there are no issues with DeVos and special education that would impact South Dakota [Larsen, 2017.02.13].
Get back in your bunker, South Dakota—if policies don’t directly hurt South Dakotans specifically, then South Dakotans have no business worrying about the harm those policies might do to the rest of America. So goes what passes for logic in Senator Rounds’s office.
Senator Rounds misses the possibility that South Dakotans may want to apply their commitment to public education to all American kids:
The fact is, in a rural state like South Dakota, two public schools in a community cannot be supported.
“You have to make your public schools better rather than having multiple schools,” he said [Larsen, 2017.02.13].
Make your public schools better rather than having multiple schools—you said it, Mike! Making public schools better isn’t just rural pragmatism; it’s the proper philosophy and duty of every public official, especially the United States Secretary of Education. Betsy DeVos has devoted her political career to diverting money from public schools to subsidize the private/charter school industry—in other words, the opposite of the duty of a Secretary of Education. Hence, our opposition… which you ignored on specious grounds.
Senator Bernie Sanders takes his turn to ask DeVos is she thinks she’d be on the edge of Secretaryship if she weren’t a multimillionaire, then tries to get her to address whether his free tuition plan is as important as her boss’s tax-cuts-for-the-rich plan:
Pay attention to that ending: offered an easy “you betcha” question, Secretary DeVos declines to not commit to enforcing existing rules that protect students from lying, cheating for-profit “colleges”.
DeVos is not up for Education Secretary because she understands real education issues or wants to help all Americans get an education. DeVos is up for this job because she is rich, and because she will fight to protect her fellow rich people.
Democrats, take note: Franken, Sanders, and Warren show us how to deal with Trumpists: by asking them direct questions that they can’t answer. Franken/Warren 2020.
Former Madison superintendent Dr. John Sweet thinks billionaire Betsy DeVos is a really bad choice for U.S. Secretary of Education. The retired education expert urges us to write our Senators, especially our Republican Senators, to reject this nomination:
It was the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that said “Education is the most important subject we can be engaged in.” Free public education for all is a major underpinning of democracy. That underpinning is threatened by the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. She wants to institute vouchers, which send public money to private schools. And this could include private schools set up by Islamic extremists. Don’t let the extremists that are taking over our government get by with this. Mail senators, especially Republican senators from the party of Lincoln, urging them to oppose her nomination. You can start the process here [Dr. John Sweet, Facebook post, 2016.11.29].
The idea that the incoming administration would use public dollars to support private schools, all in the name of “choice,” strikes me as absurd. The federal government doesn’t send our tax dollars to rent-a-cop shops to compete with the FBI, state highway patrols, and city police. We don’t hand vouchers to citizens and say, “Here, choose your fire department!” Instead of undermining the government’s obligation to provide one free, fair, and universal public education system by subsidizing a whole nother private system, I’d rather Trump (and his toady Mike Rounds) return to his campaign promise (ha!) to eliminate the Department of Education.
So might my conservative neighbor Dr. Art Marmorstein, who pens his own suspicions about DeVos in my morning paper:
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary, seems to have her heart in right place. She’s worked hard to give students and their parents more schooling options. But she’s another of those billionaire charter school advocates, and she may end up using her position to further accelerate the shift from traditional public schools to the charters — much to the disappointment of those of us who want to see the ring of federal education department power cast into the fires of Mount Doom where it belongs [Dr. Art Marmorstein, “Ring of Education Power Dangerous on Any Hand,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.12.01].
Join Drs. Sweet and Marmorstein in opposing Trump’s education agenda. Don’t let the Trumpist regime enrich certain private school players with public dollars. Keep DeVos out of Education, and keep our public dollars in public schools, where they belong.