Thursday, November 24, 2016

Trump Appointee Committed to School Privatization

President elect Trump has chosen to nominate probably the biggest enemy of public schools in our country to run the U. S. Department of Education! Trump announced that he will nominate Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Trump and DeVos have made it clear that their first priority will be to encourage a huge increase in school privatization by using federal funding to add more charter schools and voucher schools for high poverty students.

DeVos, a billionaire who derives her wealth by having married into the Amway family, never attended public school, her children also only attended private schools and has no formal training in the field of education. Appointment of such non-educator education reformers to top education positions has become the model adopted by many states and cities that are part of the radical education reform movement in the U. S. Please read this article on DeVos and the billionaire education deformer/privatization movement.

It is ironic however, that the truly elite private schools routinely exclude high poverty students and they will continue to do so. Trump and DeVos cannot force the exclusive elite private schools to accept minority and low socio-economic students. What we have seen instead in Louisiana and other states that have expanded "choice" in education has been the proliferation of what I have characterized as predatory charter schools and new church sponsored voucher schools  created specifically for the purpose of profiting their founders and management organizations.

These new Choice schools use advertising (often making highly misleading claims) in an attempt to recruit the more capable and most motivated students away from the real public schools. Their manager/entrepreneurs know that the true secret to school performance is the enrollment of higher performing students. Such students can make any school look good because they generally do better on state and national tests. But these new "choice schools" still usually underperform compared to our true public schools.

A case in point are the online virtual charter schools in Louisiana where the advertising promises a college preparatory eduction which students can access on a home computer. Contrary to the advertising claims, studies have shown that their students receive an inferior education compared to that provided by our public schools. But the virtual charter operators make a huge profit because they get most of the per pupil funding for each student while having only a fraction of the operating costs.

Other new "choice" schools run by entrepreneurs such as the USA Charter chain or  other charters run by former TFA alumni have found creative ways to get rich using public school tax dollars. The owner of USA Charter schools uses complex real estate transitions to lease schools from companies also owned by the charter school manager. This blog has explained how they hire the cheapest, least qualified teachers, opt out of the teacher retirement system and still receive full state funding which is diverted to profit. Yes, the new choice schools are quite creative at making profit but not so much at educating students.

What can you do if you are a public school parent or a professional educator who wants to help in the battle to stop the destruction of our public schools? Parents and educators can become part of a national group organized by highly acclaimed public school advocate, Diane Ravitch called the Network for Public Education. You can also send me and email to requesting to become part of our Louisiana Defenders of Public Education. Just include your zip code so that I can sort you according to legislative voting district.

Finally, if you are a teacher or school employee, you owe it to your profession to join either the Louisiana Association of Educators or the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. These are the only two organizations in Louisiana dedicated to defending our profession, our students, and our benefits such as our retirement system which is greatly threatened by the privatization expansion.