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Billionaire Heir Of Right-Wing Dynasty Picked For Education Secretary

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Billionaire Heir Of Right-Wing Dynasty Picked For Education Secretary

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Billionaire Betsy DeVos tapped for education secretary

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he is appointing as education secretary Betsy DeVos, the billionaire Republican who is a major champion and founding funder of the modern education privatization movement. Bringing no significant experience in public education, DeVos is a billionaire member of a family that has cultivated extensive power and influence in conservative circles thanks to its fortune from the Amway Corporation.

Trump’s appointment immediately provoked objection, with writer and historican Diane Ravitch slamming DeVos as someone who “does not hide her contempt for the public schools.”

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, declared Wednesday that DeVos has “done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers—which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.”

“By nominating Betsy DeVos,” said García, “the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”

Trump has also appointed white nationalist Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist, overt racist Jeff Sessions as attorney general and hawkish anti-Muslim crusader Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

DeVos is among a handful of billionaires who have created and underwritten the rapid expansion of charter schools since 2000. As detailed in an e-book published this fall by AlterNet’s parent organization, Who Controls Our Schools? The Privatization of American Public Education, DeVos has long supported using taxpayer funds for voucher programs, parochial schools and charters, all of which undermine and replace public schools and locally-elected school boards. She neither attended public schools nor sent her children to them. (Click here to read the ebook for free.)

The former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, DeVos backed a failed ballot initiative in 2000 to amend the state constitution to allow students to use taxpayer dollars to attend nonpublic schools. She heads the American Federation for Children, which was described in Political Research Associates by Rachel Tabachnick:

The American Federation for Children is now the umbrella organization for two nonprofits that have been at the center of the pro-privatization movement for over a decade. In addition to the renamed Advocates for School Choice, it includes the Alliance for School Choice, formerly known as the Education Reform Council. Both entities received extensive funding from the late John Walton, one of the Wal-Mart heirs. The boards of the two related entities included movement leaders Betsy DeVos–scion of a Christian Right family who married into the Amway home goods fortune–William Oberndorf, Clint Bolick, John Kirtley, Steve Friess (son of Foster Friess), James Leininger, John Walton, and Cory Booker.

In a 2013 interview, Betsy DeVos indicated that she found inspiration in the article by notorious libertarian economist Milton Friedman titled, “The Role of Government in Education.” Notably, Friedman stated in that article, which was published in 1955, that he is amenable to racial segregation in “privately conducted” schools. He wrote, “So long as the schools are publicly operated, the only choice is between forced nonsegregation and forced segregation; and if I must choose between these evils, I would choose the former as the lesser. Privately conducted schools can resolve the dilemma … Under such a system, there can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools, and mixed schools.”

But to understand DeVos’s political footprint, it is necessary to examine her powerful family dynasty, whose well-heeled members chair the Orlando Magic.

As Benjy Hansen-Bundy and Andy Kroll previously noted in Mother Jones, “Members of the DeVos family rank among the most generous benefactors of the conservative movement and the Christian right, up there with the Bradleys, the Coorses, and the Kochs. Not only has billionaire Amway cofounder Richard DeVos Sr. cut checks to anti-union and anti-tax efforts, but these days he’s also a fixture at the Koch brothers’ invite-only donor summits. Name an organization—Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, the arch-conservative Heritage Foundation—and odds are a DeVos family member has donated to it.”

Betsy DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary company Blackwater that profited off of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Four of the company’s employees were found guilty for a 2007 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, including a child as young as 9. Following bad publicity, the company has since changed its name to Academi, and Prince, no longer working there, is reportedly under investigation for money laundering.

Betsy DeVos’s husband Dick played an instrumental role in pushing in 2012 for legislation to make Michigan a right-to-work state, and disgraced Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder responded to her appointment with accolades.

“Donald Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education proves that having a shortage of experience means nothing as long you don’t have a shortage of money,” Progress Michigan executive director Lonnie Scott said Wednesday. “The DeVos family has been using their deep pockets to influence the Michigan legislature for years and it looks like they have finally bought their way into a presidential administration as well. The DeVos family education plan has been a disaster for Michigan and we are truly saddened that Trump decided to import their failed ideas to Washington D.C. Progress Michigan remains committed to holding the DeVos family accountable and fighting for all children to have access to excellent public schools.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) stands with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

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16 Comments

  1. Thoughtopsy November 25, 2016

    #FillTheSwamp

    Reply
  2. Dominick Vila November 25, 2016

    With the exception of Nikki Haley to a second tier position, the appointments that Donald Trump are all designed to accomplish an agenda that embraces the most cherished goals of the right wing. The final stage of this strategy will involve nominating ultra conservatives to the Supreme Court. When that happens, the dismantling of the “safety net” will start in earnest. From turning the Department of Education, and public education in general, into a for profit private institution, to dismantling MEDICARE, MEDICAID, the ACA, and ultimately Social Security, every institution that has been put in place to help and protect the middle class and the poor, will be replaced with for profit institutions and a system that will initially include subsidies…until the conservative dominated government decide they are too expensive and let’s everyone fend for themselves.

    Reply
    1. RED November 25, 2016

      It seems these people never ever seem to learn the lesson that desperate populations with not much to lose do desperate things. The human mind is a fascinating thing, these nutballs really believe that their birth in to these wealthy families and their use of the enormous resources and their fingers to “make” or a better word would be steal more is evidence of not only their superiority but in many cases their divine right to rule and subjugate those not born in to wealth. For all the lies and propaganda about meritocracy and democracy, it is nothing more than a new aristocracy and just as aristocracies before they carry the exact same belief systems. And once again this aristocracy will be taught the lessons of depriving millions, billions, as they live and hide in undeserved, unearned opulence. And I think history teaches that usually uprisings from below don’t usually show up at the gates to have a debate about the issues.

  3. Abdullah Oblongata November 25, 2016

    I live in Redneck Land. I have many neighbors who have school age kids and they are concerned about the decline of our local school district. Many of the folks who had yard signs for Trump had one for save our schools. Trump loves the poorly educated.

    Reply
    1. Eleanore Whitaker November 25, 2016

      There are already several multi billionaires, like Gates and Soros ready to fight back. These are not the crooks like Trump. Gates won the Medal of Freedom this past week and if the Mongrel in Chief thinks he can best Gates or Soros, he needs to think again.

      It is kind of humorous that the Mongrel has NO charitable trusts other than those that reduce the taxes he pays and then he uses those donations for personal expenses. Now, he thinks he will convert Gates, Soros and several other of the US’s righest to go the corruption route.

  4. Aaron_of_Portsmouth November 25, 2016

    “Out with the Establishment” or similar phraseology was one of Trump’s favorite and tiresome metaphors reiterated time and time again, thus luring in more saps to buy his malarkey. Draining the swamp was one such insipid slogan of his, but hapless and clueless people were too blind to notice that Trump was from the same swamp. So why would anyone expect a creature from a lagoon to drain it?

    Trump should have put out a sign in front of Trump Tower that read:
    “SEEKING CABINET MEMBERS FOR HIRE—ONLY MILLIONAIRES AND/OR THE WELL-CONNECTED NEED APPLY”

    Reply
  5. edddoerr November 25, 2016

    Betsy DeVos is the worst possible choice. A declared enemy of public schools, she never attended or worked in public schools or sent her kids to them. In 2000 she and her husband strongly supported a proposed amendment to the Michigan constitution ro allow tax support for special interest church-run private schools through vouchers . Happily, Michigan voters defeated the measure by 69% to 31%, just as they defeated a similar proposal in 1978 by 76% to 24%.

    Republicans in Congress should be urged to defeat the DeVos nomination because it would seriously harm the rural and small town voters who voted for Trump, as there are very few private schools in their areas and the whole voucher thing would reduce support for their already underfunded and locally run public schools.

    Edd Doerr

    Reply
    1. dbtheonly November 25, 2016

      Oh Edd,

      Worst ever? You ain’t seen nuttin yet.

      I’m thinking we’ll see religious racially segregated schools within the next four years.

      Destroying quality public education is a top priority of the RW.

  6. Jon November 25, 2016

    What a cabinet Trump is selecting. Neo-nazis, billionaires, politicians, incompetents, racists, sycophants, and the ulta-greedy are defining what Trump meant when he said he would only hire the best people to advise him. Betsy DeVos who, like Trump, has bragged about buying political influence, has bought herself a place from which she can destroy education for all but the wealthy.
    I can only speak from my experience with privatization of schools. It has been, to borrow one of the 200 words Trump knows, a disaster. Some have quickly and unexpectedly gone out of business interrupting their students’ education. Some have falsified records to receive taxpayer money. Some have not used certified or qualified teachers since they were driven to make a profit and not provide a quality education. Money that should be going to maintain and improve public schools is diverted to profiteers. A loss of community pride and identity, particularly in rural areas where the school is something the community rallies around, occurs when private schools drain students from public schools. Most private schools do not provide a better education than public schools and in many cases are noticeably worse.
    If Betsy DeVos and her billionaire friends and toadies want to send their spawn to private schools so they don’t have to mix with common kids, that is their prerogative. However, they should not expect taxpayers to underwrite it with vouchers and tax breaks for those who make that choice. Leave Americans alone while you live in your greedy cut-throat elitist bubble with Trump.

    Reply
  7. Zengo November 25, 2016

    Let the Oligarchy begin!!

    Reply
    1. J, Dial November 25, 2016

      Zengo, it is somewhat hopeful to me that others recognize this as well. Oligarchy, from Merriam-Webster, is in part defined as government by the few, often very wealthy, for corrupt or self-serving purpose.

      1. Zengo November 25, 2016

        Yeah, I think that is one of the FEW ideas trump actually stands by. And I don’t even believe it is an ideology for him. I think it is more about the extreme Narcissism that he is all about, and the need to surround himself with rich and powerful people

        1. J, Dial November 25, 2016

          All true — but no subscriber to oligarchy really recognizes it as such. Just clearest path to near-unbridled power. It’s going to take more than a few Democrats to stand up to him. Republicans and Independents will be key to real and ethical checks and balances in his regime. He may be all about borders but he can’t spell “boundary.” He has none.

          1. Zengo November 25, 2016

            Exactly. Everyone keeps trying to respond to Trump with some kind of decorum, and expects him to respond in kind, but that will never happen

  8. ORAXX November 25, 2016

    DeVos’ approach to public education is reminiscent of the villages we destroyed in Vietnam in order to save them. She represents a mentality that absolutely nothing in this country is worth doing unless big corporations and/or wealthy individuals are getting a slice of the action.

    Reply
  9. johninPCFL November 28, 2016

    “Under such a system, there can develop exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools, and mixed schools.”: Her orthodoxy fits right in with “No Browns” Bannon.

    Can’t wait until Agent Orange nominates Caribou Barbie to the supreme court.

    Reply

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