January 21st, 2017

DeVos or Miley Cyrus: It's all the same

Betsy DeVos: as clueless as a cup of yogurt

Any U.S. senator who votes to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education should be jammed into a burn barrel and launched into the Potomac River.

DeVos is as qualified for the position as a paperboy is to dispose of nuclear waste at West Valley. Worse, she is foaming at the mouth for a chance to gut the American educational system to make way for profiteering at the expense of kids’ educations.

She was as clueless as a cup of yogurt at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday. As Charles P. Pierce reported at Esquire.com: “Committee chairman Lamar Alexander locked the committee into a one round of questioning in which the members each had five minutes,” adding, “The strategy of putting DeVos' nomination on a rocket sled so as to avoid exposing too much of her abysmal lack of qualifications was so obvious as to be insulting.”

Her defenders probably would support Miley Cyrus for the position had she been nominated. After all, Cyrus shakes things up! She’s an outsider! The best qualification is having no qualifications at all!
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Cyrus also has enough cash to buy confirmation votes. As Politico reported, “DeVos and her husband, Dick, have donated to the campaigns of 17 senators who will consider her nomination — four of whom sit on the Senate education committee that oversees the process,” adding, “DeVos’ contributions to the lawmakers who will decide her fate stand out in a year in which President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to ‘drain the swamp’ of Washington politics.”

DeVos ducked the dollars when Sen. Bernie Sanders asked how much money her family has contributed to the Republican party over the years. As Forbes.com reported, she said she didn’t know. Sanders said he heard it was $200 million. DeVos: “That’s possible.”

It must be nice to have so much money that you can’t be sure where $200 million went.

She responded with a barrage of bafflegab when Sen. Patty Murray asked, “Can you commit that you will not work to privatize public schools and cut a single penny for public education?" That question could have been answered with a simple yes or no—but here’s how DeVos replied:

"I look forward to working with you to talk about how to address the needs of all parents and students, and we acknowledged today that not all schools are working for the students assigned to them. I am hopeful we can work together to find common ground in ways we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them."

Those 70 words contain as much substance as cotton candy.

Fox News reported DeVos “has for decades used the family’s influence and wealth in her home state of Michigan to advocate for charter schools and promote conservative religious values.”

In Michigan, about 80 percent of the state’s charters are operated for profit, according to the New York Times. Who is going to stop profiteers from cutting costs for the sake of profits, shortchanging kids in the process?

Here’s how charter schools should work: Every child in every school district should be selected for admission based on a lottery. Districts should be required provide transportation to those schools so poorer students can get there.

In that system, let’s see what parents of the remaining students say about taxpayer dollars being diverted from public schools to charter schools.

Then there’s DeVos’ love of the idea that parents should be given vouchers—public funds—so they can afford to send their children to private schools, especially ones that promote the conservative religious values she espouses. It’s all about student choice, she says.

Here’s the choice parents should make: Choose to send your kids to a public school, or choose to find ways to afford sending them to private schools. Don’t ask taxpayers for handouts.

As for church-affiliated schools, religious values should be taught to students at home or in churches. The government has no business spending money to promote those values.

For those who fear government overreach in education, consider this from Logan Albright, writing for Conservative Review: “Yes, federal vouchers would allow you to take your child to a private or religious school you otherwise might not be able to afford, but it also hands the federal government the purse strings of those institutions. If a school teaches something the government doesn’t like, there is always the threat of reclassifying the school in order to deny it voucher money.”

If the full Senate confirms DeVos, it will be an insult to students, parents, teachers and anyone who cares about public education. Instead, she should be considered for the post of secretary of the interior.

After all, she seems to know something about bears.