*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
It is questionable how many Americans have heard that crucial to a democracy is a well-informed and well-educated populace; many world leaders have expressed that sentiment quite often over the centuries, including Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. Republicans hold a contrary belief and opinion founded on their real-world experience that the less-informed and less-educated the population is, the better conservatives’ chances are of racking up consistent electoral victories. As this column has proffered far too many times than should be necessary, “without stupid people Republicans would go extinct.”
Now that Republicans look to never go extinct and only grow more prosperous, their choice to run the country is making moves to not only increase the level of stupid in the population but to make corporations a lot richer at taxpayers’ expense; and make education one Hell of a lot more theocratic, also at the taxpayers’ expense. There was some consternation that Donald Trump broke a campaign promise to eliminate the Department of Education only to nominate a woman to run the cabinet-level agency as if he had any interest whatsoever in allowing the agency to continue. Well, there will still be an Education Department in Trump’s America, but it will exist to serve the interests of corporate and religious private schools and primarily function as a transfer point from the taxpayers directly to corporations and churches embracing evangelical dogmata.
Trump’s choice for education secretary is Betsy DeVos. She is a filthy rich conservative whose only efforts in education in her home state of Michigan and nationwide have focused entirely on establishing corporate education models to compete with traditional schools for taxpayer dollars; she has no use whatsoever for public schools, public school teachers, or taxpayer dollars not flowing directly to corporations and evangelical madrasas. As education secretary, DeVos will do whatever is necessary to put an end to public education by diverting whatever money is allotted for public schools to for-profit charter and religious schools; it is what many Republican-led states have been doing to the detriment of public education.
Anti-union, school privatization, and forced-theocratic education activists hailed Trump’s selection of DeVos as someone who would block federal intrusion (read federal funding) in local schools. For the record, each individual state controls its own public schools; NOT the federal government. The school privatization advocates ALL know that to be the case. It is precisely why some states reject implementation of the Common Core standards that were first envisioned and created under Bush by a consortium of state governors; NOT the federal government. It is that popular “government intrusion” misconception that Republicans, and DeVos, use to push for school privatization under the guise of school choice and their dirty lying claim that public schools have failed.
It is important to note, yet again, that when public schools are properly funded, and privatization thieves are prevented from raiding and diverting money to their churches and businesses, America’s public school students outperform their peers and are among the highest achievers on the planet. Still, anti-public school cretins such as Republican Jeb Bush hailed DeVos as an “outstanding pick,” and a “passionate change agent to press for a new education vision. Her allegiance is to families, not to an outdated public education model that has failed.”
Remember, that “public education model” outperforms the rest of the world as well as the abject failures known as “for-profit charters,” and it has served the population well until Republicans made destroying it their top priority and a major goal. DeVos will do her part to ensure that the Koch brothers’ call for the abolition of public education, expansion of for-profit corporate charters, and greedy evangelical churches will get to witness Republicans achieve their goal.
The New York Times noted that the “new education vision” the “passionate change agent” DeVos will impose on the nation has already produced devastating results in her native Michigan. But that is what Republicans do best; implement a policy everyone and their pet rat knows will fail at the state level, watch it fail as expected for twenty years, and then go on a crusade to spread that failure nationwide. Now with a Koch Congress, a corrupt rubber-stamp fascist in the White House, and an incoming education secretary with a two-decade record of failure and longing to destroy public schools, this time it appears that another decades-long Republican goal will reach fruition with the advice and consent of 60 million moronic American voters; probably the kind of yokels that eschew education as a terrible waste of time.
The Times reported that “If Michigan is a center of school choice [vouchers, Christian madrasas, corporate charters], it is among the worst places to argue that choice has made schools better.” The Times reported the truth about privatization and charters nationwide of which Michigan is just a glaring example. They reported that,
“As the state embraced and then expanded charters over the past two decades, its rank has fallen on national reading and math tests. Most charter schools perform below the state average. And a federal review in 2015 found ‘an unreasonably high’ percentage of charter schools on the list of the state’s lowest-performing schools. The number of charter schools on that list had doubled since 2010, after the passage of a law financed by Ms. DeVos pushed to expand the [failed] schools. The [DeVos] group blocked a provision in that law that would have prevented failing schools from expanding or replicating.”
According to Amber Arellano, the executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, DeVos is a horrible choice and a serious threat to education nationwide; particularly for transferring public school funding to corporate charters and churches. She was particularly irked about a Michigan charter school law that DeVos spent millions to defend. Ms. Arellano said that Trump’s choice of Education Secretary had “the potential to undermine the nation’s hard-won progress by diverting resources from the young people who most need them, or by failing to uphold the federal government’s responsibility to protecting the needs and interests of all students — especially the most vulnerable.”
Michigan has one of the nation’s largest charter school problems, with the Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids school districts among the nation’s 10 largest shares of students in failed charters; charters that have robbed Michigan’s public schools of over $1 billion annually. And it should come as no surprise to anyone that of those $1 billion charter schools, over 80 percent are run by for-profit organizations; “a far higher share than anywhere else in the nation.” It is unclear how many of those for-profit organizations are affiliated with religion, but it is certainly no small number. Anywhere there is taxpayer money to pilfer, religious organizations are typically in very close proximity and Trump did promise evangelicals they would get a very significant share of public school money.
What is clear, especially among public school advocates, is that Trump knows the DeVos family is the “most prominent name in state Republican politics,” and has been the biggest financial and political backers of the effort to undermine public education. They have spent over twenty years pushing for school privatization (vouchers) and funded campaigns across the country to see DeVos’ “new education model” implemented in all 50 states. Something an overwhelming majority of the American people do not want.
Look, it may appear that Trump is breaking his promise to abolish the Department of Education, and technically that may be true. But he is accomplishing the next best thing by appointing public school enemy number one to transform the agency into a taxpayer-funded distribution hub to transfer money for public schools directly to corporations and churches. What is curious, is why anyone ever believed dirty Don was going to eliminate the Education Department when he laid out his education plan that included everything DeVos wanted; more corporate charters, nationwide privatization (vouchers), and a healthy dose of taxpayer dollars for private religious instruction. Now that he has made his choice to dismantle public education according to the Koch vision, everything DeVos, evangelicals, and corporations want will come to pass, and if Americans are even allowed to get an education, it will be as a result of a “failed experiment” to produce another generation of stupid people to elect Republicans.