Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
If anyone has a “stranglehold” on politicians it’s silver spooned magnates like DeVos/
By Steven Singer / 12.02.2018
Betsy DeVos is furious!
She and her family spent boatloads of money this election cycle and few of their candidates won.
Instead, lawmakers were largely selected by these things called… ew… voters.
She was so enraged that she used her platform as Secretary of Education – another prudent purchase by her family – to lash out at teachers unions for – get this – having too much influence!!!!!
“The teachers union has a stranglehold on many of the politicians in this country, both at the federal level and at the state-level.”
That’s rich coming from her, but one can see where she’s coming from.
In the midterms 23 states had double-digit percentage-point increases in turnout compared with 1982-2014. That resulted in a blue wave in the U.S. House – one of the largest and most diverse groups of freshman Congresspeople ever.
This is the third-highest turnover since 1974. We showed 104 incumbents the door.
DeVos didn’t pay for THAT!
How dare those Joe and Jane Sixpacks come out to the polls and upset the plans the billionaire class had plunked down their hard-inherited wealth to ensure!
How dare teachers and school employees pool their nickles and dimes to have a say about their own professions!
The only people who should have a voice in public policy are the… uh, public?
Parents and students?
Plutocrats like DeVos and family?
Yeah! That’s right!
We can’t let our schools be run by parents or students or the people who work there. Decisions can’t be made by just anyone. It has to be by the BEST people. And who better than the rich?
That’s why this election cycle has DeVos so irate.
She spent $1 million through her affiliated Students First PAC to elect Scott Wagner Governor of Pennsylvania – but those darn VOTERS spoiled everything by re-electing Gov. Tom Wolf instead!
The DeVos family spent more than $635,000 to keep Scott Walker as Governor of Wisconsin, but those naysaying nellies who pay taxes decided to go with Democratic challenger Tony Evers, instead.
I mean, come on, people! That’s just not fair!
We’re making her waste her enormous fortune without getting any return on the investment!
And she DOES expect tit-for-tat.
She famously wrote:
“I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”
Her boss – and philosophical soul mate – Donald Trump feels the same way. He once bragged at a rally:
“I’ve given to everybody because that was my job. I gotta give it to them, because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”
DeVos doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk.
One of the most infamous examples of quid pro quo was when the DeVos family gave Michigan Republicans $1.45 million over a seven-week period as an apparent reward for passing a no-accountability charter school law in 2016. That’s $25,000 per day! The editors of the Detroit Free Press’ described it as a “filthy, moneyed kiss.”
Yet somehow it’s unions that have a “stranglehold” on politicians and policy!?
Let’s get one thing straight – money should not be able to buy political influence. Period.
That’s union money. That’s billionaire money. That’s anyone’s money.
But that requires major reforms to how we finance political campaigns. It requires several Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United to be overturned. It requires additional regulations and transparency from our legislature.
Until that happens, no one can afford to stop making these campaign contributions.
In Buckley v. Valeo and several additional rulings that built on it, The Supreme Court wrongly ruled that money equals speech and thus any limitation on political spending would violate the First Amendment.
Therefore, no one can afford to limit their voice by voluntarily closing their pocketbook.
People with truckloads of cash – like DeVos – cry wolf when the unwashed masses pool their resources to the point where they can come close to matching the wealthy.
But make no mistake – with the rampant economic inequality in this country, the rich can outspend the poor. And they often do.
It doesn’t take a political genius to see that our national policies invariably favor the wealthy and ignore the poor. That’s no accident. It’s the rich getting what they’ve paid for.
If anyone has a “stranglehold” on politicians it’s silver spooned magnates like DeVos who can transform the whims of winning a lottery of birth into political appointments and massive influence on policy.
But DeVos wasn’t done whining to a sympathetic audience on Fox Business Channel.
“…they [i.e. teachers unions] are very resistant to the kind of changes that need to happen. They are very protective of what they know, and there are protective, really protective of adult jobs and not really focused on what is right for individual students.”
Really? How would you know? You never sent your kids to public school. You never went to public school, yourself. You’ve only ever visited a handful of public schools after purchasing your position in Trump’s cabinet (Check the receipts to the Senators who confirmed her!).
Moreover, it takes a certain level of ignorance to claim that teachers get into the classroom because they DON’T care about children. That’s like saying firemen don’t want to protect people from fires or lawyers don’t want to serve their clients legal needs.
Having a well-educated, experienced, caring teacher in the classroom IS what’s in the best interests of students. That means having a teacher with collective bargaining rights so she can grade her students fairly without fear of political ramifications if someone complains to the school board. That means being able to blow the whistle if classroom conditions are unsafe or policies handed down by functionaries (like DeVos) aren’t helping kids learn.
Teachers want change. They’re begging for change – just not the kinds of change DeVos is pushing.
But she went on:
“One of the most fundamental things again is focusing on individual children and knowing that all students are different, they learn differently. I have four children, they were all very different, very different learners.”
This is not exactly a news flash to any teacher anywhere. We’re constantly differentiating our instruction to help students with different learning styles, kids in special education, kids who are gifted, kids on the autistic spectrum, kids with dyslexia, etc. It’s just too bad that policy mavens like DeVos keep pushing more standardized tests and Common Core. Sure today she’s saying all kids learn differently. Tomorrow she’ll be pushing us to assess them the same way.
But she went on:
“We have to allow for more kinds of schools, more kinds of educational experiences, and to do that we need to empower more families to make those decisions on behalf of their students.”
And there it is! Her obsession with school privatization – charter and voucher schools! She’s selling them because her portfolio is heavily invested in them. She is not a philosophical believer in a certain kind of pedagogy. She’s a privatization pimp, pushing schools without transparency, accountability or regulations so that public tax dollars can flow into private pockets – and to Hell with what that does to the students enrolled there!
To enable her scheme, she needs to attack teachers:
“We have a lot of forces that are protecting what is and what is known, a lot of forces protecting the status quo. We need to combat those, break them, and again empower and allow parents to make decisions on behalf of their individual children because they know their children best.”
Betsy, charter and voucher schools are not reform. They ARE the status quo. They’re the same crap championed by Obama and the Bushes and the Clintons.
Republicans are famous for their privatization advocacy. But most Democrats are in favor of it, too.
Sure most career Democrats will argue against school vouchers while quietly approving Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits (OSTC), Educational Improvement Tax Credits (EITC) and a host of other Trojan horse programs that do the same thing under a different name.
We’ve been increasing school privatization and standardized testing for decades. It hasn’t helped anyone except investors.
More than 90% of parents throughout the country send their children to public schools. That’s not because they have no other choices. Every time – literally every time – there is a referendum on school vouchers, voters turn it down. Civil rights organizations from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to Black Lives Matter and Journey for Justice are calling for a moratorium on charter schools. In fact, for the last three years, charter school growth has stalled. It’s dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.
That’s because people are sick of these far right and neoliberal policies. If we listen to what parents and students really want, it’s not the garbage DeVos is selling.
This whole unseemly tantrum from our Education Secretary is just sour grapes.
Her stranglehold is loosening. And she doesn’t know how to regain her grip.