The DeVos Choice Means No Real Choice for Parents, Students, and Educators

In the prpence-devosevious post, the leadership at Stop Common Core in Michigan respectfully requested President-elect Donald Trump to “drain the swamp” and pull the plug on the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  The team at Stop Common Core in Michigan believe that Betsy DeVos is a proponent of Common Core “high standards” despite the carefully parsed statement on her recent web page that seems to have fooled some people.

Some readers pushed back and encouraged us to take a “wait and see” attitude. They want to give DeVos the benefit of the doubt that she will decouple federal funding from federal mandates. That is wishful thinking. Betsy DeVos pushes school choice, which is a nice-sounding phrase. However,  as we stated in the previous post,

“The DeVos definition of school choice is the freedom to choose which Common Core aligned charter school will test and track your child from cradle-to-career. Local and parent control do not exist in DeVos’s education reform model.  Data and government funding drive the decision.  In a nutshell, school choice is centralized control to meet the demands of the state and regional business not the dreams of the child. “

Dick and Betsy DeVos have made it a life goal to create this new vision in education.  They don’t seek to privatize education completely as some suggest but to create a public/private partnership in education, a system that uses public funds but is managed privately with accountability to the government.   Like all investors, the government spends money and expects a reasonable return on the investment.

The DeVoses first attempt to achieve this goal in Michigan failed miserably.  Despite spending millions of dollars, Michigan voters outright rejected the DeVos school choice plan of public vouchers in education.  Undeterred, Betsy DeVos regrouped and kept pushing behind-the-scenes, through Great Lakes Education Project, to allow a publicly-funded private school choice program in Michigan.  They have worked to persuade many leaders in Michigan to buy into their new vision.   In 2013, pro-common core Governor Snyder outlined this new vision he called it P-20:

“I want to emphasize a vision of P-20.  A PRENATAL to life long learning.  We have to get beyond the old models of saying there are silos for  for K12,  silos for community college, for higher ed,  for preschool.  They shouldn’t be separate.  They can be separate institutions.  not to threaten the institutions. But shouldn’t we make it a seamless system.  Where a student in that system doesn’t have to figure out all these tough choices but can just focus on success…and understanding it starts even at the prenatal stage and looking at is the expectant mother getting the right diet, the right primary care…” (emphasis added)

Like DeVos, Snyder is a strong proponent of school choice where money follows the child.  Funding and data are the fuel that allows the P-20 system to function.   In reality, school choice is no choice at all.   It is centralized education system where the state, not the parent, makes the “tough choices” about where the child goes to school and what he wants to be when he grows up.  If the parent or student wants to go to a school where the data shows he will NOT be successful the funding dries up.  After all, there are only so many openings in a private, charter, or magnet school. Admission will become increasingly  “selective” and those that don’t cut it are transferred elsewhere. If a student seeks a career in a field where the data shows he will not be successful, he doesn’t get the job.  That’s the way government funding always operates.  Currently, the feds can only manipulate states to conform to their education mandates.

When money follows the child,  the feds have an avenue straight to the student.  The feds in partnership with the state and regional business can get the student to do what the state needs for economic growth.   School choice is an incentive-based reform for a managed economy. Picture 32

Education is now for workforce development. Governor Snyder said it directly, “One of the key reasons we have an education system is to better connect kids and people to careers.”   The pro-Common Core U.S. Chamber of Commerce shares that same vision.

The Data Quality Campaign (DQC) insures that students’ education data will be connected to the workforce.

DQC encourages states to securely link their prekindergarten through grade 12 systems with post-secondary and workforce systems. This way states can better understand student pathways from early childhood programs through K–12 to post-secondary and as they enter into their careers.

When funding and data follow the child, so does control.

Earlier this year, Governor Snyder signed a budget that allowed state funding to go to private schools that follow state mandates.   The expenditure is arguably in violation of the Michigan Constitution Article 8 sec. 2 which prohibits the use public money for private or religious schools.  The DeVos funded group, GLEP, filed a amicus brief stating that the expenditure is not a violation of the Constitution.  This indicates DeVos wants state money to go to private and religious schools which follow state mandates.  The MI Supreme Court refused to offer an opinion.

Betsy DeVos is  not content to just keep her ideas and her influence in Michigan.

Betsy DeVos is chairwoman of the American Federal for Children (AFC).    The AFC is the self-proclaimed voice of the nation on school choice. Their goal is to have every state in the union create the same sort of system.  Common Core or so called “high standards” is an essential component for accountability in the DeVos public/private education system.

The map at right shows their progress. around the nation toward the centralized national education system.  Blue statesafc-map have private choice programs.  Gray states have no charter school programs.  Green states have public charter schools but no private school choice.

In early 2013, the AFC held a National Policy Summit.   The theme of the summit was “Educational Choice for Children: Go Big, Go Bold.”  In the announcement about the summit, Betsy DeVos said,

We believe strongly that reasonable accountability measures in school choice programs and providing quality information to help parents make the best school choices for their children are essential components for educational quality in America,

“Reasonable accountability” means mandates to insure that whoever is funding the school choice programs receives a return on their investment.   If school choice becomes a national program, a common national standards is necessary for any accountability.  DeVos believes the mandates or “high standards” are an “essential components” of school choice. That is why DeVos and GLEP fought our effort to stop Common Core in Michigan.

When the Trump and Pence met with DeVos prior to her nomination, transition readout reported,

“Their discussion with Ms. Betsy DeVos was focused on the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation.”

Map of states that originally adopted the Common Core.

Setting ANY national standard in education is a HUGE problem, Common Core or by any other name.  But the federal government doesn’t have to create or maintain the standard for it to become a national standard.   Remember, the Common Core is copyrighted and privately-owned by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  With the help of Bill Gates and Achieve, the intention was for states to adopt them voluntarily with the end result being 50 states with one standard — a defacto national standard.

In her recent statement on Common Core, DeVos confirms she liked the original idea,

I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense. 

What Pence, Engler, and Huckabee were pushing was a centralized national system based on high standards and accountability which are privately owned but publicly funded.  A centralized public/private partnership in education.  However Obama, through Race for the Top, incentivized them to hasten their adoption process across the nation.  That is why DeVos in her statement said, “along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.”   And he did.  But he is yesterday’s news.   DeVos will attempt to return the nation to the original plan. That’s what she was doing through her work with the AFC.  If confirmed, she will have the levers of federal power and funding to expedite the plan and expand it into higher education.  Remember, the new vision is prenatal to life-long learning.

A competency-based education system aligned to copyrighted, privately owned “high national standards” with strong accountability is not compatible with local control or educational freedom.  Such a system,  leaves no choice for parents who home educate, private schools, public schools, or universities to use a different standard for education based on their measure of success.   Those are the “tough choices” the state is taking care of for all of us, we just have to do what we’re told and concentrate on success s they define it.  That’s what happens when money and data follow the child from prenatal to life-long learning.  All children must be in the system with no child left behind.

School choice means NO real choice for parents, students, or educators.

This system dehumanizes our children.  It reduces them to nothing more than a commodity to be tested, tracked, and shipped like a UPS package to their final destination – a job in the global economy.   Bill Gates made a similar analogy, “Once you set the plug size, he said, people can go about the business of creating appliances to connect to the grid.”  The management (or state)  just needs to decide how many appliances (students) of each type to build to connect to the grid (a job).

DeVos, Gates, Engler, Huckabee, Pence, and Snyder, along with others including many Democrats are alligators in the same education swamp. DeVos will hire people who share the same vision.  Trump promised to “drain the swamp.”   It’s time to pull the plug on Betsy DeVos, abolish the Department of Education, and end federal funding in education all together.  When money and data follow the child so does control.  Until then the swamp will continue to swirl with people who want to destroy our freedom and control our future for their own gain.