A Federal Judge Will Force Betsy DeVos to Explain Her Actions Towards Defrauded College Students

Donald Trump placed a number of unqualified people in important positions. No appointment, though, may have been more destructive than making Betsy DeVos the education secretary.

Rather than helping people attain an education, DeVos worked on making it more difficult. The billionaire heiress also turned a blind eye to students who had been defrauded by for profit colleges. Donald Trump, not surprisingly, had started one of these sham colleges himself.

Under Trump Administration, tens of thousands of fraud claims against sham colleges were dismissed. The students who filed the claims were given little to no explanation for the denials.

160,000 of these students joined a class action lawsuit against the Education Department. DeVos was attempting to avoid testifying in the case. A federal judge has now ordered her to sit for testimony.

The judge, William Alsup, “ruled that DeVos must sit for

three-hour deposition in which attorneys for the student borrowers may question her under oath about the decisions she made regarding the loan forgiveness program.” read more

Betsy DeVos Says She Stands By Resignation But Also Thinks Trump is Key to Future of the GOP

Like other presidents before him, Donald Trump rewarded supporters with roles in his administration. But the 45th president took it to an extreme. Trump’s cabinet was filled with people completely unqualified for their roles.

Betsy DeVos was a good example of this. The billionaire heiress was named Secretary of Education. Her tenure was disastrous as she sought to privatize public schools and made it easier for college rapists to get away with their crimes.

Following the January insurrection, DeVos resigned from her position. It wasn’t all that big a stance as Trump was set to leave office days later. She wrote in a resignation letter, “

That behavior was unconscionable for our country. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.” read more

Rudy Giuliani’s Security Detail in Ukraine Was Handled by Betsy DeVos’ Brother’s Controversial Company

The second time Donald Trump was impeached, it was his own fault. The former President’s lies about the election had stirred his supporters into a frenzy and they stormed the US Capitol.

The first time Trump was impeached, though, was kind of Rudy Giuliani’s fault. The bumbling lawyer had taken off to Ukraine and very openly tried to dig up dirt on Joe Biden‘s son, Hunter.

According to a new report from Buzzfeed, Giuliani wasn’t in the Ukraine alone. Along with him was a security detail from Erik Prince’s controversial company Blackwater.

Christopher Miller writes, “

Prince provided Giuliani with a personal bodyguard by the name of Thomas “Doc” Williams, who accompanied the then–personal attorney for Trump everywhere he went on the Eastern European trip.” read more

Opinion: Surviving Trump and DeVos: Dr. Jill Biden Brings Fresh Perspective On Education And Labor To White House

“Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.”

This phrase has accompanied many a report on how to improve and reform public education in America and, of course, policy statements from education associations that support the work of teachers.

To a large degree, the phrase is not just pithy but also has the ring of truth. It seems like basic common sense.  If classrooms are not equipped with textbooks, computers, and other technology and supplies necessary for educating America’s youth so they are prepared to take on the work necessary for our society to operate and serve the population’s needs in the 21st century, how can teachers optimally help students learn as they need to?

And, of course, for classrooms to be optimal learning environments, our public schools also need to be able to recruit and retain the best and brightest among us, right? After all, who do you want teaching your children? To achieve this end requires ensuring the profession earns a respectable salary and working conditions are supportive and empowering.

This phrase is effective in reminding us that issues of education and of labor justice, of workers’ rights, go hand in hand.

After four years of Trump’s presidency and the shameful and deleterious antics of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, having Dr. Jill Biden accompany President-elect Joe Biden into the White House will be a breath fresh air, promising a proper seriousness when it comes to educational policy, including a respect for the rights of labor.

Dr. Biden recognizes the interconnectedness of these issues, as exemplified in her tweet from last November:

Linking the right to organize, as well as teachers’ salaries and working conditions, to the fight for quality public education seems like a fresh idea in Washington D.C. because this type of thinking has been not just absent in Trump’s administration, it has been roundly, even savagely, dismissed in favor of a brutal assault on public education, on teachers’ rights, and on the students’ civil rights.

The sounds of Trump’s silence on public education and teachers’ working conditions were audible to the point of being deafening when in 2018 teachers from West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado effectively engaged in mass strikes the likes of which our nation has not witnessed since the 1930s. Trump said not a word to acknowledge or in any way address both the lagging teacher salaries in those states or the woefully low levels of funding for public education which was also a major, if not primary, impetus behind the teachers’ mass actions. The silence continued in early 2019, which witnessed massive teachers’ strikes in Denver, Los Angeles, and Oakland for similar reasons.

Trump’s 2020 proposed budget slashed education funding by $7 billion, and his proposed 2021 budget followed up with a $6 billion cut.  DeVos has repeatedly endorsed policies that enable funding typically channeled to America’s public schools to be diverted to private schools.

And she has fought repeatedly against civil rights protections, or enforcement of protections, for transgender students and students with disabilities as well as for DACA recipients.

Perhaps exemplary of DeVos’ long and damaging four-year reign as Secretary of Education is her participation in Trump’s ongoing assault on the rights of federal workers and their unions.  In 2018, Erica Green reported for The New York Times, federal labor mediators advised DeVos and her department that they were likely in federal violation of law in their curtailing of workers’ protections and their right to access union representation.

David Borer, counsel for the union, stated at the time, “It’s a real spoke in the wheel in the government’s attempt to destroy federal sector unions. This was the first salvo in what’s become a broadening assault on federal unions, the rights of federal workers.”

DeVos’ attack on union rights echoed the myriad anti-union statements riddling Trump’s budget at the time.

It needs to be pointed out that, of course, this attack on unions, on workers having the right to representation in the world and the right to organize, is consistent with efforts to undermine democracy we see being carried on ever more intensely these days by the Trump administration and the Republican Party overall. The attack on unions needs to be understood as an attempt to deprive workers of the right to have a say in their workplace, where they spend a good portion of their time. To suggest that we have democracy-free zones, in this case the nation’s workplaces, in a democracy is just a violent contradiction, a bill of goods Republicans have for too long been selling Americans at steep price.

But more to the point here—pardon my digression—is that in the realm of education, anti-labor policy is actually anti-student, anti-education. In this regard, DeVos is the Secretary of Mis-Education.

On her way out the door, she has been urging the very colleagues she has assaulted to resist changes to her policies, telling agency employees:

“Many of you know well that most everything in this town, when it comes to education, is focused on schools — not students. So, let me leave you with this last plea: Resist. Be the resistance against a familiar force that will distract you from doing what’s right for students.”

And here we see what is either DeVos’ iniquity or stupidity—or perhaps the unhappy combination of the two.  Students are educated in schools by teachers. We must give schools the proper means to meet students’ needs and allow them to excel, and that means also recruiting, retaining, and supporting quality teachers, enabling them to have autonomy and exercise their expertise and creativity in serving students. It means having counselors and nurses on staff to take care of children.

What does she think it means to focus on students, if not make sure they have quality teachers, optimal teaching and learning environments, and attention to their health, mental and otherwise?

Ironically, DeVos’ tenure is best characterized as a constant assault on students. Last January the

American Federation of Teachers read more

Dem. Congressman Jared Huffman Destroys Betsy DeVos in Brutal Tweet

A lot of Donald Trump’s cabinet members have been objects of ridicule. Oreo Cookies made fun of Ben Carson after a HUD gaffe. Late night news hosts ripped Wilbur Ross for his physical and behavioral similarities to Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

But no figure has been the figure of more disdain than Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Even in committee hearings, the billionaire Trump donor is insulted right to her face.

And back when DeVos had a disastrous 2018 60 Minutes interview, California Democrat Jared Huffman couldn’t resist taking a huge shot at her. “Dear President Trump,” Huffman wrote.  “If you want to meet someone who has an actual IQ problem (as opposed to just being black), meet your Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Rich, white, and dumber than a bag of hammers.”

Dear President Trump, if you want to meet someone who has an actual IQ problem (as opposed to just being black), meet your Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Rich, white, and dumber than a bag of hammers. https://t.co/hrkNuF1OQW read more

Betsy DeVos is Encouraging Staffers to be “The Resistance” Against Biden Administration

Donald Trump’s cabinet was filled with unqualified an incompetent people. But no one in Donald Trump’s cabinet was as unqualified and incompetent as Betsy DeVos.

Trump tapped the billionaire donor to be his Secretary of Education. Time and time again, the Michigan heiress showed just how little she knew about her job.

A 2018 60 Minutes interview went viral after DeVos told Leslie Stahl, “I have not – I have not – I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.”

During a December 2019 hearing, Florida congresswoman told the Education Secretary, “

You are the most unpopular person in our government. Millions will register to vote in 2020 and many will vote to remove you more than to remove the president.” read more

Betsy DeVos: We Need to Reopen In-Person Learning in “Every Possible Situation”

Parents across America would like to get their children back to school, but also do so in a safe way. In some areas, that has been difficult. The city of Boston recently shuttered public schools after an alarming rise in positive COVID-19 cases.

Despite having the virus, Donald Trump has also pushed for the reopening of schools. And he is joined in lock-step by his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

On Wednesday, DeVos held a virtual conference call with the Pacific Research Institute. During the call, she made some alarming comments about public schools.

The Secretary remarked, “

We know that in some places where there is a spike in cases of the virus, that there may have to be short times of working at a distance, but for those families who need and want this for their children, learning in person, there’s no other substitute for it.” read more

Opinion: A Full View of the Economy Reveals Trump’s Betrayal of Americans

Polling indicates that Americans still give Donald Trump an edge over Joe Biden when it comes to their faith in either candidate to manage the economy.

While it’s true that, according to a late-August Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump’s approval rating on the economy has dipped 14% since March, putting him in negative territory with 47% approving and 48% disapproving of his management of the economy, voters nonetheless see Trump as a better bet when it comes to serving their economic interests—despite the fact that the same poll revealed that 58% of respondents believed the economy was on the wrong track. read more

Betsy DeVos Accused of Hiding Out in Her Mansion Even as She Pushes to Reopen Schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is isolating herself within her 22,000-square-foot Michigan estate even as she pushes to reopen schools nationwide amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education pushed back against the reports.

“That’s simply not true,” the spokesperson told Salon via email. “Secretary DeVos has held 9 roundtables, 4 briefings, 30 calls with governors, 62 calls with state superintendents, 28 interviews and 13 conference calls about this pandemic. She provided 7 major flexibilities, took 5 steps to protect students’ rights, and made $30B for schools available in 30 days.” read more

Trump Threatens to Withhold Funds from Schools That Don’t Reopen

Trump responds to Black Lives Matter by defending the Confederacy

Writing on Twitter earlier this morning, President Donald Trump accused Democrats of orchestrating a political ploy in advocating for schools to remain shuttered because of coronavirus risks.

“In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” he wrote. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”

In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open! read more

DeVos Sued by 19 Attorneys General for Overturning Rule Protecting Students from Predatory Schools

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been sued by 19 attorneys general for overturning a rule that protected students from predatory higher education institutions. The rule dated back to the Obama administration and ensured that schools were denied federal funding if their students graduated with disproportionately heavy debt loads and weakened career prospects.

The attorneys general are from the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Colorado, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

“Betsy DeVos’s unjustified and illegal repeal of the Gainful Employment rule is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to dismantle critical safeguards protecting students and taxpayers in order to further the interests of for-profit colleges,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

“We are standing up for students and calling out the Department of Education’s improper repeal of a rule that plays a vital role in ensuring students can make informed decisions about their education,” James continued “The Trump administration’s actions here are just another example of putting special interests ahead of student interests.”

Opinion: Are We All in This Together? Not When Republicans Funnel Relief to Millionaires

Trump - McConnell

We’re all in this together.

Is anybody else tired of hearing this mantra?

I mean, in many ways I love it both as an aspirational sentiment, encapsulating the vision of a cooperative, humane, and compassionate social way of being, and as a statement that captures an undeniable, matter-of-fact aspect of our reality: we are absolutely dependent on one another. If we don’t grasp that fact now, when we are made hyperconscious of the “essential” workers performing all the functions that make food available to us, when will we? read more

Opinion: Trump Attacks Own Base by Slashing Funding to Rural School Districts

We hear these days about the importance of the African American vote within the Democratic base, and rightly so. This base has played a key role in the Democratic primaries and, according to all indications, will play a key role in determining the Democratic presidential candidate.

Democratic candidates would also be wise as well as both humane and politically responsible, though, to pay attention to another population that, while historically endorsing Trump, has been nonetheless largely ignored by Trump, and is in dire need of attention and support. With some much needed attention from Democratic candidates, these voters could certainly make the difference necessary to defeat Trump in key states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

And it is also a vital matter of standing up for the equal rights of all and serving all constituencies, making particular efforts to serve the least visible among us in cultivating a democratic society and economy.

I’m talking about rural America, which isn’t, of course, exclusively white but which is nonetheless a white majority–and unquestionably, and more to the point, a forgotten one.

What is one of the latest key developments in terms of Trump turning his back on rural–and, really, working-class–America?

Trump’s Department of Education, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is up to its old tricks of cutting funding for public education and doing its best to make public education less rather than more accessible to Americans and making the nation’s public education system increasingly unequal.

And these cuts are targeted to hit rural America, a typical stronghold of Trump support, the hardest.

This time, through what Andrew Naughtie, reporting for The Independent, calls “an under-the-radar bookkeeping change at the Department of Education,” DeVos’s squad is setting up over 800 public schools across the nation’s primarily rural school districts to lose thousands of dollars per school in key funding. These cuts will cost these schools everything from reading specialists, to computers, to counselors, to language lessons for non-English speakers and more.  Really, we are talking about the basics.

How can these under-resourced schools offer an education equal to what students receive elsewhere in America and prepare their students to compete in our economy and make their most meaningful contributions to American society?

And what’s more, as Erica L. Green reports in The New York Times, rural schools are already, according to advocates, “the most underfunded and ignored” in the country, even though they serve nearly one in seven public school students.  These students, according to a report from the Rural School and Community Trust, “are largely invisible to state policymakers because they live in states where education policy is dominated by highly visible urban problems.”

What has happened exactly?

Well, public schools have previously been able to demonstrate they qualify for the Rural and Low-Income School Program by counting the number of students who qualify for federally subsidized free and reduced-price meals in order to determine poverty rates in the schools. The Department of Education, however, recently determined many of these schools that had been receiving funding had qualified erroneously, according to the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. To qualify for funds, schools must demonstrate 20% of their area’s students live in poverty. Using this census data is less accurate than actually using the data of who actually is attending a school.

The push-back against this policy move has been decidedly and firmly bi-partisan.  Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine indicated that this change would mean 100 of the 149 schools in Maine previously receiving funding from this program would no longer qualify, costing its schools $1.2 million in funding.  Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana underscored that 220 of its most remote schools would lose some $400,000 in funding.

The Trump administration is not making life better for our rural populations, despite the hopes of advocates that it would, given these regions’ electoral support for Trump.

Alan Richard, for example, a board member of the Rural School and Community Trust, a non-profit advocacy group, told The New York Times, “Rural education advocates definitely hoped that a president elected, in part, because of rural and small-town voters would pay more attention to rural children. Even after the last election, with all the attention to rural America, little has been done to correct the inequity so many rural students face.”

Trump can be called out for his broken campaign promises, his outright lies, and his complete lack of concern for people in need.

The real question is whether or not Democrats will listen to, pay attention to, and take up the concerns and cause of our rural populations.

Senator Amy Klobuchar spoke to and about rural America. At times, Senator Kamala Harris did as well. Both, of course, are no longer in the running to be the Democratic presidential candidate.

Other than that, we don’t hear too much from Democratic candidates regarding rural America.

And it also needs to be said that there is a tendency in Democratic politics to demonize and dismiss poor white and white working-class people in America as racist and backward, as not on board with the progressive politics of change.

Maybe listening, paying attention to, and creating actual policy to address the needs of these Americans—as opposed to dismissing them—would go a long way towards courting these voters.

It would certainly go a long way toward addressing the severe class stratifications in our society and working-class issues overall.

Will Democrats take advantage of this opportunity to serve the needs of those Trump has abandoned, address them, and cultivate their support? Is the Democratic tent big enough? Can Democrats be big enough?





Trump’s Attack on “Failing Government Schools” Reveals Religiously-Repressive, Racist, and Homophobic Attack on Public Education

In his State of the Union Address, Trump took a swipe at what he called “failing government schools.”

Most of us use the term “public school” or talk about “public education,” as we refer to institutions set up by, for, and of the people.

Trump, of course, is talking about public schools, but his choice to re-name them “government schools” is consequential. This phrase is not aimed at making public schools appear as institutions central to supporting the public good, to undergirding any hope for equality and freedom in this country, and to enabling the vast majority of Americans to access education. Rather, he makes these schools sound repressive and imprisoning, not enabling and liberating.  (And I’m not suggesting there aren’t issues of gross inequality in our public school system.)

Certainly, the phrase “government take-over” is never used positively, as when opponents of, say, universal healthcare decry a “government take-over” of the healthcare system.

In short, substituting the adjective “government” for “public” can make any institution sound like a top-down, inefficient messy operation. Sadly, these are just the connotations the word has become saddled with over time, deserved or not.

And in many cases, it is not deserved. Remember when Tea Party activists used to wave signs demanding “Keep your goddamn government hands off my medicare”?  People loved their government-run healthcare; they just didn’t know it because the right wing has trained so many Americans reflexively to hate government (even when the right wing controls it!) and automatically see it as the enemy and as inefficient.

Indeed, the world had been turned upside down for these Americans, as they protested against their own interests, railing against a government that administered the very program they wanted.

The same is true in the case of Trump referring to “failing government schools.”  The phrasing is designed to get folks on board with defunding the public schools on which most Americans depend, promising them more “choice” and better schools.

But what’s really behind Trump’s words?

Let’s listen and then unpack.  Here’s what he said Tuesday night:

“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Trump said. “Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

The solution is to pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, legislation proposed by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz and endorsed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  This act would provide $5 billion worth of annual tax credits to encourage individuals and businesses to donate to nonprofit scholarship funds. Families could apply for these funds to send their children to private and religious schools or potentially other kinds of vocational training or certification.

But what’s really behind this proposal? Why not actually have not just “government run” schools but schools that are actually sufficiently—and why not lavishly?—“government funded”?

We can’t separate Trump’s call for an “inclusive society” and attack on public education from his call for what he calls “religious liberty,” which is intimately linked to Attorney General William Barr’s and DeVos’s agenda of dismantling the division between church and state, imposing a right-wing Christian worldview on public institutions (or eliminating them), and de-funding the public sector.

Compare what Trump said in last Tuesday’s address to what Barr said in a speech last October at Notre Dame’s law school.

Here’s Trump:

“My administration is also defending religious liberty, and that includes the constitutional right to pray in public schools,” he said. “In America, we don’t punish prayer. We don’t tear down crosses. We don’t ban symbols of faith. We don’t muzzle preachers and pastors. In America, we celebrate faith, we cherish religion, we lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of God.” read more

Betsy DeVos’ Corrupt Assault on Public Education Continues

The drama of the impeachment of the nation’s president, reports indicate, simply has not captured the interest or concern of the American audience.  Apparently the melodrama of daytime soap operas attracts their attention more than the antics of a corrupt president and administration actively undermining the nation’s security for personal gain at the expense of the people’s interests.

Arguably, Trump’s corrupt behavior and incessant lying should concern the American people. He has misled the people about his support for healthcare policy that ensures coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, his refusal to cut medicare and social security, and hosts of other issues most Americans would tend to understand as “kitchen table” issues, those issues that directly impact their pocketbooks, livelihoods, and ability to take care of their families. It would seem that the corrupt behavior of a president everyday seeking to make American lives worse in the most basic ways would interest voters.

But there is no point arguing. I tried as much when I wrote a piece arguing in a similar vein, titled “Why the Mueller Report is the Kitchen Table Issue of all Kitchen Table Issues,” back when that report was released.

What IS worth highlighting in reporting, though, is the kind of corruption we see in the Trump administration in relation to issues that we actually know Americans care deeply about and which just doesn’t receive as much attention.

I’m talking about issues of public education and the ongoing corrupt behavior of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who continues to work against Americans’ abilities to attain affordable and quality public education. And she does so, like Trump, to line her own pockets.

The magnitude of the impeachment hearings and “trial,” dominating the attention of the American media, provided cover for DeVos’ own more mundane corruption.

Early last December,

DeVos proposed a plan read more

Opinion: Kansas and Kentucky Show Support For Public Education: A Key For 2020 Democrats

Back in 2004, Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter with Kansas? elevated the state as the textbook case of how the Republican party has been able to leverage a platform of conservative social values to sway the electorate to vote against its economic interests.  Railing against abortion, affirmative action, big government, elitism, political correctness, and the like, Republicans surfed the wave of voters’ cultural outrage to election victories and then performed the bait-and-switch.

As Frank tells the story, these officials, instead of delivering on these platforms, engaged in unbridled deregulation and tax cuts, gutting the public sphere on which people depended, such as the educational system, and concentrating wealth in a fewer and fewer hands at the people’s expense.

In 2018, Kansas voters suddenly got “woke,” deciding they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.  They elected Democrats Laura Kelly as Governor and Sharice Davids to the House of Representatives.

They felt the reality of Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s Kansas, where it became apparent that, lo and behold, massive tax cuts did not pay for themselves, much less increase state revenues, but rather resulted in severe austerity conditions.   For example, the school year was shortened due to revenue shortfalls attributable to his criminally huge corporate tax cuts, exposing that these Republican fiscal and tax policies were not benefiting the economic health of the state or creating a higher quality of life. Brownback’s cuts to education were so egregious that they were deemed unconstitutional by the state’s supreme court. Bobby Jindal wreaked similar havoc in Louisiana back in 2016, granting massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, leaving the state in economic chaos and facing massive cuts to education and basic social services.  Republican Governor of Illinois Bruce Rauner followed the same playbook, razing the state’s public sphere in the name of restoring economic health by lowering taxes and destroying unions.

As I wrote back then, voters paying attention should have seen what the GOP had in store for them should a Republican win the presidency in 2016. And Trump has indeed realized this vision, lavishing exorbitant tax cuts to the wealthiest among us and to corporations, resulting in the accelerating deterioration of the economy as well as gutting the public sphere. His budget cut proposals as well as the

policies of his Education Secretary Betsy Devos read more

Debate makes Clear: Public Education, the Public Good itself, Hang in the Balance in 2020

When asked about his approach to education in last Thursday’s Democratic primary debate, Pete Buttigieg’s response boiled down the difference between his approach and Donald Trump’s to its most  basic element.  “Step one,” he said, would be to “appoint a secretary of education who actually believes in public education.”

Buttigieg’s pithy statement put sharply into focus the stakes the 2020 election holds for the health, indeed the fate, of public education in America—even the fate of the public good itself.

As basic and common sense as this first-step solution is, that someone needed to say it—and that it actually and accurately captured reality—should speak volumes to the American people about how the Trump administration has approached and understood the role of governing overall. For Trump, the role of government is not to support the public good and cultivate a vibrant public sphere that enables and encourages people’s democratic participation in serving each other; rather, for Trump, governing is about using—or abusing—the power of the presidency to help some exploit our national resources to profit off of others–at the severe expense of those others.

Of course, the lawsuit moving forward against Trump for violating the emoluments clause in the Constitution alleges this same behavior.

But compelling allegations aside, Trump’s own behavior speaks for itself.

Last August he appointed a labor secretary, Eugene Scalia, who has historically devoted his energy to undermining the rights and conditions of labor in favor of the businesses who profit from exploiting workers.  As Morgan Chalfant reported for The Hill, Scalia “has a career history of representing businesses and fighting to roll back labor regulations. One of his more prominent cases involved representing Walmart as the retail giant fought a Maryland law on employee health care.” Labor unions vigorously opposed his appointment because of his long record of fighting for business against labor.

And, of course, Trump’s appointments to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, previously Scott Pruitt and now Andrew Wheeler, have aggressively sought to assault rather than protect our environment.  Pruitt was instrumental, for example, in convincing Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord; and for a taste of Wheeler’s environmentally destructive antics, just look back to last Thursday when the EPA rolled back Obama-era regulations on clean water.

And just as Trump’s labor secretary and EPA head support business’s profits over the well-being of workers and people generally, as all our impacted by deteriorating environmental standards, it is no different when it comes to the secretary of education Betsy DeVos.

DeVos has repeatedly undermined access to education for America’s students and, in her routine yet stalwart support of for-profit education, participated in fleecing Americans of millions of dollars and leaving them, as they earnestly sought degrees to improve their lives and pursue their dreams, without degrees.

At the end of last August, DeVos, reversing policies put in place during the Obama administration to enable students to seek forgiveness for loans they received when for-profit colleges defrauded them, made it more difficult for students to qualify for such loan forgiveness.

She complained students were just raising their hands to get “free money.”

Eileen Connor, legal director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, found these rollbacks so unconscionably egregious that the project has vowed to challenge them in court.   She said, “If Betsy DeVos won’t do her job and stand up for students, then we will fill that void. That is why we will be filing a suit challenge these harmful new regulations that give a green light to for-profit colleges to continue scamming students.”

Senate Democrat Dick Durbin similarly characterized the move “another Trump-DeVos giveaway to their for-profit college cronies at the expense of defrauded student borrowers.”

Indeed, let’s not forget that shortly after the 2016 election Trump settled a lawsuit for $25 million against his own sham for-profit Trump University.

When it comes to education, too, the Trump presidency is all about either enriching himself and his family at the expense of people and the public good or helping others do so.  The overarching policy of his administration is to create conditions, using the authority and resources of the federal government, in which some can reap enormous profits at the expense of the tax-paying American public.

This truth revealed itself with crystal clarity last July when Erica L. Green and Stacey Cowley reported for The New York Times the substantial depth of complicity of DeVos’s Education Department in supporting the fraudulent for–profit Dream Center Education Holdings, a subsidiary of Los Angeles mega-church that was allowed to buy out the collapsing for-profit Argosy University and the Art Institutes chain.

First, the Times underscored the fact that Dream Center had no experience in higher education when it received the blessing of DeVos’ department to buy the troubled for-profit chains.

Second, we learn that the head of higher education policy for the department, Diane Auer Jones, a former executive and lobbyist for for-profit colleges, was pulling strings to help the colleges earn back accreditation, while Dream Center held back the truth from students who were paying tuition, often with federal funding from tax-payers, that the school did not have accreditation and thus the credits for which they were paying were worthless.

When finally Dream Center closed the doors on its institutions, students were left holding the bag, having paid tuition to an institution that could not grant them a degree.

Obviously, DeVos’ leadership enabled incompetence and greed, mirroring Trump’s presidency.

What is clear, though, is that the current administration not only does not value public education as serving the public good but that it simply doesn’t value serving the public good anyway.

The Trump administration is interested only in serving the private interests of the few at the expense of the American public majority.

Buttigieg makes clear that in the 2020 election, much hangs in the balance when it comes to serving the nation’s children through public education.



Former Education Secretary Duncan Wants To Boycott Schools Until Gun Laws Change

What if children stopped going to school until gun laws were changed to keep schools safe?

That is the radical idea being proposed by former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who wrote on Twitter:

“This is brilliant, and tragically necessary. What if no children went to school until gun laws changed to keep them safe?  My family is all in if we can do this at scale. Parents, will you please join us?”

This is brilliant, and tragically necessary.
What if no children went to school until gun laws changed to keep them safe?
My family is all in if we can do this at scale.
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Trump Sending Conflicting Messages While Leading On Gun Reform

Ever since seventeen children were tragically killed and another sixteen injured last month in yet another school shooting at Marjorie Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the nation has been embroiled in a national debate which has been amplified by the survivors of that tragic event.

Key to the debate has been the age requirement or lack thereof, for individuals to procure such a lethal weapon. In fact, due to such pressure the state of Florida, under Republican control, not only passed, but has signed into law, broad legislation which not only raised the age to buy firearms to twenty-one, banned bump-stocks, allowed for restrictions for those individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others to owning a gun, and had a controversial component allowing certain school employees to carry a gun.

As a result of that legislation, the National Rifle Association filed suit against the State of Florida, within hours of the bill’s passage and now all eyes look to the White House for the essential leadership to get such an initiative passed in other states.

Last week during a televised bipartisan meeting of Senators, Trump seemed to provide a glimmer of hope for such leadership when he made clear his support for the gun lobby, going so far as to refer to the lobby as “great patriots,” while arguing that his support of the lobby “doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.” He then added:

“It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait until I’m 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18.” read more

Opinion: Evangelical Blueprint To “Restore” God in Schools Handed To Trump and DeVos

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

One of the downsides of investigating, observing, and opining on the state of American politics is the relatively rare case of uncontrollable rage; not at what’s happening, but that it is happening precisely as no small number of opinion columnists and commentators warned incessantly it would. This is particularly true in the case of Republicans and their close connection to the religious zealots intent on creating a theocracy.

On Wednesday this author had one of those horrid “uncontrollable rage” moments when it was reported in the Washington Post that exactly as this column and many others have predicted, the movement to dismantle the Department of Education to make room for installing the Christian god and bible in the classroom is underway; replete with a lengthy manifesto for transforming public schools into evangelical madrasas. This is as serious a breach of the United States Constitution as Trump’s violations of the Emoluments Clause, and it is a breach that Donald Trump and education secretary Betsy DeVos intend to see implemented in spite of swearing to support the Constitution.

The five-page “education reform policy” manifesto was created by the religiously conservative Council for National Policy. The group was created when Reagan began tearing down government and it has very close ties to the Trump administration; particularly his woefully unqualified Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The manifesto demands a “restoration of education in America that promotes religious schools, homeschooling and enshrines historic Judeo-Christian principles” as the basis for public school instruction.

First, notice the demand to “restore” religion in schools implies it ever existed, or that it was ever deemed constitutional. It wasn’t because it is not constitutional and in never existed. But religious conservatives could not care less and the idea of dismantling the Department of Education is one the Koch brothers and Republicans lust to see to fruition.

The manifesto proposes drastically downsizing the Education Department to little more than “a presidential Advisory Council on Public Education Reform,” and would no longer be a cabinet-level agency. Also, all employees should subscribe to the religion-based educational worldview of the Trump administration; “from assistant secretaries to the mailroom.”

There is also a major plan to transform what public schools are allowed to remain into evangelical-based instruction including many actions, like posting the Ten Commandments to teaching Bible classes and recognizing holidays as religious events. The manifesto also demands public school curriculum and instruction come “from a Judeo-Christian perspective;” damn the Constitution and god-damn several Supreme Court rulings that religion has no place in public schools.

The powerful conservative group has no qualms stating unabashedly what its ultimate goal is:

“A gradual return at all levels to free-market private schools, church schools and home schools as the normative American practice.”

That particular goal is, to no-one’s surprise, precisely the same as the Koch brothers’ including using taxpayer dollars to fund for-profit church and corporate schools and pay religious conspiracy-afflicted parents to run their own homeschool madrasa.

This news, and report, could not possibly be more disturbing because based on Betsy DeVos’ complete and utter ignorance of the public school system, and her single-minded drive to eliminate it, coupled with Trump’s lack of direction or awareness of anything other than his deification, the administration will likely do exactly as instructed. The instructions to the Trump and DeVos are, as Patheos cited from Right Wing Watch are based on some outrageous assumptions in a secular nation with a secular Constitution like America:

1 – All knowledge and facts have a source, a Creator; they are not self-existent.

2 – Religious neutrality is a myth perpetrated by secularists who

destroy their own claim the moment they attempt to enforce it.

3- Parents and guardians bear final responsibility for their children’s education, with the inherent right to teach, or to choose teachers and schools, whether institutional or not.

4 – No civil government possesses the right to overrule the educational choices of parents and guardians.

Obviously, there is no room for public schools or schools that fail to hew to the evangelical worldview and the list of the CNP’s “new rules” to be implemented by the new President’s Council on Education Reform include:

1 -Restore Ten Commandments posters to all K-12 public schools.

2 – Clearly post America’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

3 – Encourage K-12 schools to recognize traditional holidays as celebrations of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

4 – Implement select bible classes, such as Chuck Stetson’s Bible Literacy Project.

5 – Encourage instruction on U.S. and world history from the Judeo-Christian perspective for middle school and high school history and civics classes.

6 – Develop and recommend In-service training on philosophy of education for K-12 faculty based on historical Judeo-Christian philosophy of education.

7 – Strongly push states to remove secular-based sex education materials from school facilities, and emphasize parental instruction.

These instructions inform any typical evangelical religious school anyplace in America and should in no way be implemented in public schools; they are the grossest violations of the Establishment and Separation Clauses of the 1st Amendment. However, Trump’s administration has shown little knowledge of, and no fealty to, the Constitution and perusing the members of the “Council” advising the creation of federally-enforced religious education policy explains why. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published a membership directory that is a who’s who of ultra-far-right evangelical conservatives.

The CNP’s education reform committee who are responsible for the report made a pledge to the Trump and DeVos to:

“…work toward achievable goals based on uncompromised principles, so that their very success will provoke a popular return to the Judeo-Christian principles of America’s Founders who believed that God belonged in the classroom.”

Setting aside that the statement is founded on a blatant fantasy, the “committee” has to present evidence in the U.S. Constitution proving that the Founders “believed that god belonged in the classroom;” the Separation and Establishment Clauses are very clear and they were, in a point of fact, exactly what the Founders really believed about inserting religion into any Americans’ life under aegis of the government, or by legislation, or under the advice of a cabal of fanatical Christians.

Some of the former and current members of the CNP are one of Trump’s puppet masters Steve Bannon, Trump product promotions specialist Kellyanne Conway, and a rash of Betsy DeVos’ family members. One of the CNP education committee’s members, E. Ray Moore Jr., is the founder of the Exodus Mandate Project and an enemy of public schools.

The “project” calls for Christian families to pull their children out of public schools because they aren’t Christian schools. Moore thinks that Trump’s election shifted the education debate toward the (religious) right and instead of strengthening public schools, Moore believes Trump and DeVos will stop trying to strengthen public education by eliminating it. He said,

“The system can’t be fixed. You don’t hear Republicans and free-market people talking about fixing Obamacare. They talk about repeal and replace. We think the same argument should apply to education.”

So there it is in a nutshell. Trump’s people, and the Trump himself, who have no experience in or idea about, educating America’s children have been handed an evangelical blueprint to implement Trump’s pledge to “largely eliminate” the Education Department. What that means for public schools is they will not only lose most of their funding to private, for-profit corporate and religious schools, the few public schools allowed to remain will be taxpayer-funded Christian madrasas. One of the committee members who served as an education appointee in Reagan’s administration said as much in defending the push for god in school. According to Donna Hearne:

“There’s a real need for a discussion in America today of what kind of education do we want, because what kind of country do we want down the road?”

Based on the CNP’s instructions to Trump and DeVos, the kind of education Republicans want taxpayers to pay for is evangelical Christianity and run by corporations to profit off of taxpayer-funded education. Because the kind of country they want down the road is a theocracy in the fashion of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Islamic State In Iraq and Syria (ISIS) caliphate. It is an abomination of epic proportions and one this column warned was coming to no avail if Republicans ever got control of the government, and that is still infuriating.

**The above article includes reports with commentary by R Muse**

h/t Michael Stone/Patheos