Betsy DeVos, Corporatism, Education — May 6, 2017

Betsy DeVos flip-flops on school choice

Secretary Betsy DeVos at CPAC 2017 Feburary 23rd 2017 by Michael Vadon

What happens when the evidence showing that vouchers do not improve student learning, or “fix failing schools”, becomes too obvious to ignore?

Well, if you’re Betsy DeVos, you just flip the rhetoric (i.e., lie).

Just as Ms. DeVos and President Donald Trump are poised to dump $20 billion into a federal voucher program, a new study shows that students receiving vouchers in Washington, DC — the only federally-funded voucher program in the nation — perform significantly worse than their peers in public schools. All while draining roughly $11 million per year from DC’s public school budget.

The D.C. program serves about 1,100 students, giving them up to $8,452 to attend a private elementary or middle school and up to $12,679 for high school. Participating private schools must be accredited by 2021 but otherwise face few requirements beyond showing that they are in good financial standing and demonstrating compliance with health and safety laws.

D.C. students who used vouchers had significantly lower math scores a year after joining the program, on average, than students who applied for a voucher through a citywide lottery but did not receive one. For voucher students in kindergarten through fifth grade, reading scores were also significantly lower. For older voucher students, there was no significant difference in reading scores.

For voucher recipients coming from a low-performing public school — the population that the voucher program primarily aims to reach — attending a private school had no effect on achievement. But for voucher recipients coming from higher-performing public schools, the negative effect was particularly large.

The analysis reviewed data for more than 1,700 students who participated in the lotteries from 2012 to 2014.

Martin West, a professor of education at Harvard, said the D.C. study adds to an emerging pattern of research showing declines in student achievement among voucher recipients, a departure from an earlier wave of research — often on smaller, privately funded scholarship programs — that skewed more positive.

“I think we need to be asking the question: Why is this happening and what should we make of it and should we care?” West said. He said weaker scores among voucher recipients may be a result of the fact that public school performance is improving, particularly in the District, where math and reading scores at traditional public and public charter schools have increased quickly over the past decade.

This new study is just the latest in a long line of research findings showing that vouchers do not have a positive impact on student learning. As I’ve written about previously here, here, here, and here, we’ve known that vouchers are a very bad, no good, horrible idea if you actually care about children, schools, or learning — and a great idea if you fear the tendency of public education to produce critical thinkers, and citizens who might question the status quo. Or if you already send your child to a private — or more likely, a religious school–and would like a federal subsidy for doing so.

Well, now it appears that even our nation’s biggest cheerleader for private and religious school vouchers has seen that the bloom is coming off the voucher’s rose. But instead of admitting that she was wrong, and that maybe the Secretary of Education for the United States shouldn’t be pimping what amounts to a Ponzi scheme to destroy and defraud public education as the central tenet of her administration, Betsy DeVos has simply flipped the switch on her core belief–that vouchers would somehow provide the silver bullet, the magic wand, the secret sauce, that would quickly and easily fuel the improvement of student learning that has somehow eluded the best efforts of generations of educational experts.

The old rationale: Vouchers will rescue children from the tyranny of attending the failing schools in their Zip Code, and unlock the potential of all students.

The new rationale: “When school choice policies are fully implemented, there should not be differences in achievement among the various types of schools,” she said in a statement.

Neat twist, that. I’m not sure how you look yourself in the mirror after you’ve devoted your entire life to destroying public schools and simultaneously boosting charter, private, and religious schools as being clearly and obviously the “better choice” for all children — and then just abruptly switch gears to “the point of vouchers isn’t that they help kids escape the schools we are destroying — it’s just about choicy, choicy choice. Because CHOICE.”

If anyone needed any proof that Ms. DeVos doesn’t care a single whit about children’s learning, or helping the public schools, or…really, anything but profits and redirecting public dollars to private bank accounts, there it is.

Choice isn’t about helping kids learn. It’s just about choice.

Let’s all hope that Ms. DeVos learns the difference between simple and simplistic.

  • CommonSense

    Another money donating conservative putz appointed by the liar in chief.
    We now have the Betty principle.


    This woman is a utter an complete idiot an sge is in deep need of being fired from her job she is just like Trump just another rich asshole looking to farther line her deep pockets with more taxpayers dollars jus as Trump does with his hotel’s an golf coarse free advertising

  • Peggy Owens

    You hope she learns simple from simplistic? She hasn’t learned the difference between Goethe and achievement- and that is how teachers are evaluated.

  • SraVigi

    I am not convinced BDeVos ever ascribed to the idea that vouchers would improve ed-achievement (for the poor, or for anybody). That was just the political meme she espoused once onboard the Trump admin, to fit in w/the right-wing ed-reform sales pitch. If you look at what she’s been supporting her entire adult life, it’s all about private Christian ed on the taxpayers’ dime, & maybe union-busting. She & hubby put much $ behind defeating MI’s attempt to get some ed-achievement monitoring/ accountability measures for MI’s charter schools.

    • George

      I’m just curious as to why these supposed conservatives thing federal and state money to pay for religious education is a good thing. How long before state and federal governments start deciding what these schools can and cannot teach? It would be the right of governments to do so at that point, since they are paying so much for them. The more people the government pays to send these children to these “private” schools, the more interest the government will take in setting the conditions on what is and is not taught in them. Trust me, if I find that my tax dollars are going to schools that teach children Earth is 6,000 years old, you better believe I will be voting and fighting to change the curriculum I AM PAYING people to teach. Forget separation of church and state. You want general taxpayer dollars, you get general taxpayer meddling.

      • SraVigi

        Correct! Some do catch on this early. There is a pastors’ group in Texas against vouchers for that exact reason. And– even tho Catholic church for the most part cravenly buys in to try to save their foundering schools, I have read articles in a couple of Catholic news against vouchers for exactly as you state.

        As for supposed conservatives, your guess is as good as mine. Everyone is small-gov, keep-yer-hands-off re: fed Dept of Ed, until Trump/BDeVos announce they’re going to force voucherism down everybody’s throat, then it’s full steam ahead.

  • Kathy Vrakas

    Drumpf an his gang of losers so pathetic.

  • Kathy Vrakas

    She gave Drumpf half a million dollars so thats why she got the job.Her brother started Black water and he was working for Drumpf to get him a backdoor channel to Putin.They are all criminal’s.

  • Jordan

    Choice is freedom from endoctrination and control leftists seek over my children. I’ll take vouchers thank you very much. The free market takes.time to work, I’m guessing​ public schools are feeling pressure and starting to compete and if the charter schools are new it may take them time to get established. You also have to compare their funding level vs the public schools they compete with.

    • Adam

      Irony: you fear indoctrination, but don’t know how to spell it correctly. Also, schools don’t compete for funding. Public schools don’t compete for students, they just have to serve their communities regardless of who lives there. Private schools and charter schools can pick and choose their students, so if they want to up their scores, they just expel their lowest performers and send them back to public schools.

      Also, do you even know what indoctrination means? Sending a kid to a religious private school means they will learn religious doctrine. Sending them to a corporate-run charter school will teach them free market doctrine in that the school will serve them horsemeat for lunch to reduce costs and increase profit from vouchers.

      • StopTheBS

        The upside is, horse is delicious if cooked properly. Better then most of the steak in Europe. But other then your example, you are exactly correct.

    • George

      So because of fears of indoctrination from “leftists,” you would accept federal and state money so your children can attend state and federal government-approved schools teaching a curriculum that must pass state and federal standards set by leftists? Sounds like you haven’t done your homework, want a free lunch, or need to homeschool your children.

      The only “freedom” from state education is to not have your children attend schools that teach what children in state-funded schools learn. Those are hard to come by, particularly because those who choose to teach generally all fall into that “leftist” category. Now if you want money to send your kids to religious schools, you should be wary of ANY government money going to them. Since when did the government not want to control that for which it is paying? Your “freedom” wouldn’t last more than 5 years.

      • Jordan

        Good point, there is a definite danger in taking public funds. Maybe a federal law can be passed blocking overreach, not sure what’s possible. I guess what I want is a world where I don’t pay for my kids education twice. Private school plus taxes.

        • George

          Well, I’d argue we all pay for children’s education, regardless of whether or not we have children. The question becomes whether or not the state should be educating children at all. I certainly think it should, mostly because our way of life would be impossible without mass education, but that means people who don’t like state schools either end up paying twice, or lose control of their children’s private education if they don’t pay twice.

          Regardless, the public middle school and private high school I attended were generally apolitical. I assume it isn’t that way everywhere, but there is only so much political theory in AP Chem or even AP U.S. History. If you want 5s on those exams, there isn’t much time to discuss gay rights or tax theory.

  • StopTheBS

    One more way for Republicans to steal money. Not all that surprising. That is really what Amway was all about, pay money now for false promises in the future. Not surprising she wants to ruin the education system in america.

  • Spot Ries

    Her only qualifications are fucking a billionaire and writing a check to another one