You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
I think one thing Betsy DeVos has done is wake America up to what’s happening to our public schools. Now Americans will either fight for public schools, or they will go back to sleep.
I am an optimist, and I think this whole mess will keep people watching her. And they will watch the bought-off Republicans who thought more about themselves than they did about America’s children.
I have a friend who doesn’t like public schools. He and I have gotten along throughout the years by pretty much staying off topic or only discussing schools lightly. He is a good person and has volunteered as a tutor in public schools and charters.
But he sent me several articles about Betsy DeVos recently in the mail—mostly positive about her. One was from the Wall Street Journal, which hates public schools.
When I emailed him and asked if he saw the DeVos confirmation hearing, he replied that it was “good theater.” I had to agree.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Betsy DeVos is terribly unprepared to be secretary of education. It is an embarrassment. But it was fascinating watching the Democrats and their revved up adoration of public schools.
There were some Oscar-worthy performances. Maybe the Democratic senators convinced themselves that they really loved public schools.
But I couldn’t help wondering where have they been the last 30 years!
When Somebody Loves You
My mom used to play her record player when I was little. As a result I am able to tell you the names of old love songs from the 50s. One song Frank Sinatra used to croon was, “When Somebody Loves You, It’s No Good Unless They Love You, All the Way.”
Apply this to senators and their support for public schools. I think it makes sense that if they love public schools they ought to love them all the way and quit lusting after nonprofit charters.
No other country in the world pits two school systems against each other. It brings both down, and children lose. It wastes a lot of taxpayer money too.
Yet, almost every senator, against DeVos and her vouchers, professed their love for public schools while telling about the greatness of nonprofit charter schools.
They called them public schools too, when the reality is that parents usually have little say as to how charter schools are run.
For-profit charters are the culprit, not nonprofit charters, the Democratic senators stated assuredly, and vouchers are bad.
This argument is disingenuous. For-profit charters might seem terrible upfront for making money on children. But nonprofit charters make money using tax dollars too—lots of money.
New York City’s Nonprofit—Success Academy
In a 2014 Huffington Post article, Alan Singer broke down the costs of Success Academy in New York—a well-known nonprofit.
This charter school managed to pull $3.6 million out of their wallet just to place ads against Mayor Bill De Blasio—because he questioned charter schools in his campaign.
As a teacher who once was given $30 at the beginning of the school year to spend on school supplies, I can only wonder how that much money could have been better spent on children and their schooling.
Singer notes: operating non-profit charter schools can be very profitable for charter school executives like Eva Moskowitz. Moskowitz earns close to a half a million dollars a year ($485,000) for overseeing school programs that serve 6,700 children, which is over $72 per student.
By comparison, New York State Education Commissioner is paid a salary of $212,000 to oversee programs with 2.7 million students or about 8 cents per student.
In other words, Moskowitz earns about 100 times more than King for each student enrolled in a Success Academy Charter School.
Carmen Farina, New York City School Chancellor is paid $212,000 a year to oversee 1.1 million students or about 19 cents per student.
Eva Moskowitz was courted by President Trump to be education secretary before Betsy DeVos. I doubt we’d have seen any uproar over her nomination. But she is also a privatization shill.
Most of the charters in New York City are nonprofit and make money like Success Academy.
Non-Profit Charters are Stricter (Meaner), Not Better
A lot of the senators had praise for charters saying they lead in innovation. This is a faulty argument too. The only thing these charters do differently, in most cases, is that they are extremely strict “no excuses” schools.
Moskowitz’s Success Academy got in trouble a while back for suspending a kindergartener! A kindergartner!
KIPP schools are also nonprofits and they are known for their benching students and strict enforcement of militaristic rules. KIPP students are said to have to earn their desks!
And Secretary of Education, John King, Jr. appointed under the Obama administration, worked in Roxbury Preparatory Charter and supported Uncommon Schools. These schools are known for their strictness too, including high suspension rates.
When these senators praise the likes of Arne Duncan (yes he was the Chicago superintendent, but still had no experience) and, John King, Jr., were they trying to trick us?
Educators and parents know very well where these two came from and what they were all about. They also did a lot of harm to both public schools and special education.
It was quite lovely, however, to hear senators talking about their own public school experiences.
How they all loved their dear old teachers, Mrs. Snickleboble, etc., back in first grade.
Well let me remind them that their teacher probably went to an accredited college and got an honest-to-goodness teaching degree! And they weren’t pushed out of their profession at a young age.
Compare that to today, where these same politicians have opened the doors to Teach for America, The New Teachers Project, Teaching Fellows, or college students from the Relay Graduate School where they were recruited away from their chosen career areas.
These are alternate teaching programs that focus more on test scores and data collection. And they are being primed to be monitors while students work online.
The Eli Broad Irony
I also found it strange to hear philanthropist Eli Broad criticize Betsy DeVos.
Broad has done a lot of damage to public schools by training so-called leaders to go into districts to break up schools and degrade teachers and administrators.
He went to public school himself, but he is ungrateful and appears to want nothing more than to get rid of all public schools.
Why is he any different than DeVos?
Students with Disabilities and Nonprofit Charters
Sen. Maggie Hassan brought us to tears describing her child’s special needs and how students from the career-technical school came to her child’s rescue when his wheel chair wheel went flat. I think hers was the most moving speech I heard.
This is how public schools—all public schools—should be.
With DeVos, parents could lose their rights under IDEA, as Hassan emphatically stated. And she is absolutely right.
But Sen. Hassan should have stopped there. But she couldn’t. Because her constituents in New Hampshire have gotten used to charter schools.
And it doesn’t matter if they are nonprofit or for-profit because competency-based instruction, which the Senator noted briefly, where students will get non-stop testing, is hot in New Hampshire and also being foisted on students.
All-tech is the end game, whether it is voucher or nonprofit, and New Hampshire is apparently on that trajectory.
I doubt children with disabilities will be treated with the kindness Sen. Hassan noted in the schools her child attended, if students with disabilities are even permitted in New Hampshire charter schools. Most charters reject students with disabilities.
So, to sum up, Democrats talked more about the goodness of public schools in the last few weeks than they have in 30 years. But they need to tweak their message.
They need to love real public schools fully.
As for any good charters, run by real teachers, maybe they could be pulled into the system as alternative schools, and then end tax-supported charters for good!
Betsy DeVos might energize Americans to finally get behind good public schools in ways we have never seen before.
Let’s not sit back and eat our popcorn watching this flick unfold. Let’s be in this movie together fighting for America’s public schools! America’s children deserve nothing less!