Betsy DeVos Needs to Work Harder

Betsy DeVos has been working to undermine public education ever since she became Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education in February 2017, about 1200 days ago.  Will a recent exposé on the front page of the New York Times derail–or even slow down–her determined effort?

That’s doubtful.  But you should know that she’s now using pandemic dollars to weaken public schools.  

Frankly, she’s not as efficient as she could be, so at the end of this piece I have a couple of tips that will help DeVos finish her apparently divinely-inspired mission to completely destroy public schools, forever.  Please read on…  

In a story headlined “DeVos Funnels Coronavirus Relief Funds to Favored Private and Religious Schools,” the Times’s Erica Green lays out in excruciating detail how the Secretary, herself a graduate of a Christian high school and a Christian college, has taken the $30 billion appropriated by Congress to help education institutions upended by the pandemic and diverted it to institutions and policies that support her vision of privatized, God-centric education.  In doing so, she’s taking dollars away from low-income children–not because she’s against disadvantaged children. They happen to attend public schools, her target.

And we are not talking chump-change here, either.  For example, Bergin University of Canine Studies in California, whose purpose is to ‘advance the human-canine partnership through research and education,’ received $472,850 in pandemic relief funds.  That’s $11,532 per student, because its website reports an enrollment of just 41 students. Yes, you read that right: 41 students and $472,850.

The invaluable Inside Higher Ed has been pursuing the story as well.  Here’s one snippet from its coverage:  ‘Denver’s Montessori Casa International, which had received $3,492 in stimulus funds, is now in line to get another $496,508. That means the school, which trained 12 students in the Montessori method in the 2017-18 academic year, could get a whopping $41,375 per student.”  

There’s method to this madness, of course: starving public education: “Private schools are set to receive more support than they expected from the federal coronavirus relief package, while high-poverty school districts are set to receive less, thanks to guidance put out by Betsy DeVos’s federal education department,” according to Chalkbeat, the on-line education newspaper.  Basically, DeVos has told states that they must give more of the pandemic funds to private schools, whether they enroll low-income students or not.

Here are more details from The Times: “In Louisiana, private schools would receive at least 267 percent more funding, and at least 77 percent of the relief allocation for Orleans Parish would be redirected, according to a letter state that education chiefs sent to Ms. DeVos. The Newark Public Schools in New Jersey would lose $800,000 in federal relief funds to private schools, David G. Sciarra, the executive director of the Education Law Center, said in a letter to the governor of New Jersey asking him to reject the guidance.”

Some state education leaders have said they will not follow her directive. (Congratulations, Indiana).  Others, like Tennessee, have fallen in line.

Secretary DeVos has even been sending money to schools that didn’t apply for it, Green writes.  “The Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential, a private college in Wisconsin that has a website debunking claims that it is a cult, was allocated about $495,000. All of the colleges could apply for the funds or reject them, and Wright officials said the school did not claim the funds.”

Here’s more: God’s Bible School and College in Cincinnati, which enrolls 378 students, has already received $155,000 in higher education coronavirus relief money and has been offered an additional $337,447.  The institution, which enrolls 239 students, told The Times that it wouldn’t accept the additional funds.

From the beginning, Congress has rejected the Secretary’s efforts to create and fund a massive program that would give parents valuable ‘vouchers’ that they could spend for their children’s education wherever they chose, including religious and for-profit institutions. (DeVos and her family apparently have invested in some on-line education efforts.)  The pandemic funds have provided DeVos a backdoor to achieving this goal.

It must make DeVos furious that some institutions have given back the pandemic money, out of conscience or principle.   Since her goal is to shovel our tax dollars out the door and into the hands of the undeserving, she needs to make sure she doesn’t send money to people with principles, or to those with a conscience.  She needs to focus her campaign on people without scruples.

Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks because ‘that’s where the money was,” DeVos should send checks only to those who are demonstrably unworthy of receiving it.

Actually, she doesn’t need to do any original research to find the scammers, the crooks, and the zealots.  Their names are readily available.  For example, The Network for Public Education has published detailed information about thousands of publicly funded charter schools that are guilty of wrong-doing.  All DeVos has to do is get copies of “Asleep at the Wheel” and “Still Asleep at the Wheel,” pick out some scamming schools, and send them checks.  There’s even a map, so she can direct the money to states that her boss needs to win in November. What could be easier!!

Funneling money to undeserving colleges and universities doesn’t require any work either. Just use Google for a full list and take your pick among dozens of unrecognized ‘religious’ colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, it’s too late for DeVos to help Golden State School of Theology.   “It is with a sad heart that we announce that as of March 31st, 2020, Golden State School of Theology has ceased opperation (sic).”  (Clearly, Golden State didn’t emphasize spelling.) 

But the Secretary has plenty of options if she wants to support religious institutions that cannot earn accreditation. Why not send pandemic dollars to Louisiana Baptist University, which is not accredited by any organization recognized by her own United States Department of Education?  “The current president of LBU is Dr. Neal Weaver.[10] Mr. Weaver holds no doctorate from an accredited university. LBU’s faculty page list a Ph.D.[11] from Holy Trinity Seminary.[12] Holy Trinity Seminary does not issue degrees, and is a non degree granting institute.”  I’m not picking on LBU, because there are literally dozens and dozens and dozens more…..

If I may close by addressing the Secretary directly.  Madam Secretary, no doubt your fellow religious zealots in the Trump Administration–Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and others–support what you are doing.     

I’m wondering whether you find it ironic that your boss, who has only a passing knowledge of Christianity and other religions, lets you try to undermine an institution of immense social value, our public schools, in the name of your notion of God?  Or don’t you care, because for you the end justifies the means (as Christ never taught)? 

Hard as you are trying to destroy public education, you will not be successful.  Most Americans believe in and value public education, which will be here long after you are gone.

That said, however, November cannot come soon enough!!


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