The vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is expected early this week. DeVos needs 51 “yes” votes to be confirmed. Currently, the Senate is split at 50 – 50 after two Republicans defected. Unless there are more defections from Republicans, Vice-President Pence will be called upon to break the tie and DeVos will be confirmed 51-50.
While we’re waiting for the outcome, I would like to go back to DeVos’s confirmation hearing and reexamine an embarrassing exchange between between Bernie Sanders and Betsy DeVos over “free” college tuition. Here’s a brief transcript:
Sanders: “Will you work with me to make public colleges and universities tuition free through federal and state efforts?
DeVos: “Senator I think that’s a really interesting idea and it’s really great to consider and think about. But I think we also have to consider the fact that there’s nothing in life that is truly free. Somebody’s going to pay for it. ”
Sanders (interrupts), “You’re right. Somebody will have to pay for it and that takes us to another issue.”” (Video below)
We can all be embarrassed for Sanders’ blunder but it is equally embarrassing for DeVos, when we apply the”nothing in life is free” principle to her school choice plan. DeVos supports private school choice through vouchers and scholarships which ostensibly promise parents a choice of learning environments, including private or religious schools for free, no matter their zip code.
Let’s pretend for a moment, that DeVos is having a similar conversation with a parent about her school choice plan….
DeVos: “Will you work with me to make private, religious, and homeschools free through federal and state efforts?
Parent: “Ms. DeVos I think that’s a really interesting idea and it’s really great to consider and think about. But I think we also have to consider the fact that there’s nothing in life that is truly free. Somebody’s going to pay for it. ”
DeVos (interrupts): “You’re right. Somebody will have to pay for it and that takes us to another issue.”
That “other issue” is who will pay for DeVos’s idea? Digging deeper in the DeVos private choice scheme, she plans to pay for it with a combination of state/federal money in partnership with business investing in students.
DeVos has already managed to convince some Michigan lawmakers that this is a good idea. Senator Colbeck wrote about an Education Savings Account (ESA) plan in a recent article posted on his website, “More money for education without raising taxes.”
“Where does the money come from if it is not from taxes? Businesses. No we are not talking about shaking down businesses for higher fees or taxes. In a free market, a customer is willing to give up their hard-earned money in exchange for something they find of equal value.
So, what are businesses looking for that could help raise $3,000 per pupil? Good employees and good information…
Pause to let this idea sink in a bit. When did business leaders become a “customer” of our students? Many high schoolers are not yet 16 years old, and not even legally allowed to work! Honestly, this idea is more embarrassing than anything Sanders has suggested.
When business and the government are the payer in this school choice scheme, each will expect a return on their investment in the form of accountability to high standards, data, and “good employees.” Our children are merely a commodity. That’s the dehumanizing effect of common core and the education reforms it has brought to Michigan and the nation. This sounds more like a modern form of indentured servitude than school choice to me. If a business wants to hire a student, they ought to be paid in real dollars and the STUDENT can direct the money to go wherever she wants it to go. They can spend it immediately or save it for the future. That’s what real choice and real freedom looks like. That’s the FREE MARKET!
There is an inherent assumption that private schools will have enough openings for all parents who want to enroll their students. What is the selection process for admission? Will it be a lottery like charters? Can a student be rejected or lose their scholarship? If business is the “customer” of our children, it is not likely for them to leave recipients of their scholarships to chance. In the end, it will be the state and business NOT the parents who will decide where children go to school, what their careers will be, and where they will work. That’s what a cradle-career seamless education system is designed to do.
When data and dollars “follow the child” so does control. Those who hold the purse hold the power and their decisions are driven by data to meet the demands of regional business and the state NOT the dreams of the child.
“There’s nothing in life that is truly free. Somebody’s going to pay for it.” Our children pay the highest price when the purpose of education becomes creating “good employees.”
Betsy DeVos you obviously saw the problem in Bernie Sander’s “free” plan, why can’t you see it in your own?
Watch as Donald J. Trump appointee for Department of Education Betsy DeVos completely embarrasses Bernie Sanders when he asks her about free education. "I've found nothing to be free"
Posted by Ron Dwyer on Monday, January 30, 2017
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