The Long Game of Betsy DeVos

To understand Betsy DeVos’ vision for education, you have to know where she comes from…

devos1I first laid eyes upon Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, at Campbell Brown’s forum for GOP presidential contenders. It was the summer of 2015, back when Trump was little more than a punchline, and Jeb Bush, despite drooping in the August heat that day, still seemed like the real contender. Because the event wasn’t an official debate, Bush, Walker, Vindal, Fiorina et al couldn’t appear on stage together—which meant that Brown asked the same questions of each, and got similar pablum-esque non-answers, in an endless *conversational* format. And then suddenly there was Betsy DeVos, a Brown chum, holding forth about an education *moonshot.* It wasn’t what she said that interested me so much as what she represented. Could the education reform coalition’s major selling point, its bipartisan-ness, really stretch to incorporate the extreme right-wing views of DeVos? Mightn’t it be better for her to remain in the favored domain of the DeVos family, the shadows, or at least in Michigan? Continue reading →

Awful Silence

School choice advocates have been largely silent on Trump’s awfulness—and that speaks volumes, says early childhood educator Jamila Carter

PHILADELPHIA EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATOR JAMILA CARTER.

By Jamila Carter
I recently read an opinion piece that was written by a school choice advocate who attempted to justify why so many white people voted for an openly racist, misogynist, xenophobe. The author pointed to class and the disenfranchisement of poor whites as the main drivers of the outcome, minimizing the role that racism played in the election results. But what was missing from this analysis was the fact that, of Trump’s voters, 45% were white, college educated women and 54% were white college educated.

Downplaying the fact that the foundation of Trump’s campaign was rooted firmly in fear and hatred of the *other* displays willful ignorance. And explaining the voting pattern of White America by class rather than race ignores history. Trump’s divide and conquer methods are nothing new. While those of us who are people of color, immigrants, Muslims or LGBTQ are still stunned, grieving and fearful of what a Trump Administration will mean for us, this writer and far too many others are insisting that we consider why so many white people opted to throw us under the bus.

Since America’s inception, we’ve seen elites and politicians pit working class whites against people of color in order to protect their own interests and acquire political gain. This is the very strategy that laid the foundation for a race based system of oppression. This is precisely the strategy that was used to win the election. People who voted for Trump transcend gender and class, and in some cases, race. But however deeply disillusioned Trump voters are with our economy and political system, it does not erase the fact that people voted for him despite his awful rhetoric, knowing that his proposed policies will not affect their lives.

It is hard for me to comprehend how those who paint themselves as champions for poor Black and Brown families, claiming to work tirelessly to ensure that these children have access to quality educational options, can somehow ignore the fact that Trump’s campaign othered and dehumanized, and in some cases, jeopardized the safety of these very families.

It is hard for me to comprehend how those who paint themselves as champions for poor Black and Brown families, claiming to work tirelessly to ensure that these children have access to quality educational options, can somehow ignore the fact that Trump’s campaign othered and dehumanized, and in some cases, jeopardized the safety of these very families. It’s incredibly hypocritical that education reformers see fit to appropriate the language of the civil rights movement and its most notable leaders to further their agenda, but somehow excuse Donald Trump supporters for their violent and racist attacks against anyone who doesn’t look like, pray like or love like them. There is no excuse. I’m not sure if these school choice advocates slept through the campaign, but the rest of America heard all too loudly Trump’s dog whistle uniting his supporters by invoking two emotions: hate and fear. It was at the very heart of his campaign.

Image result for trump protestsPerhaps some folks in the corporate education reform movement empathize with Trump supporters because the movement and the Trump campaign aren’t so different.  Both use disingenuous language that we have heard time and time again, never veering from the *message,* no matter how redundant or condescending. The difference is that the rhetoric spewed by the former, appeals to people who have been affected by systemic racism and disinvestment in the schools in their communities, while Trump’s rhetoric played on the fears of white people who felt that the America that they were entitled to had somehow slipped away. Hence the rallying cry: *Make America Great Again.* Unfortunately, this great America* doesn’t seem to include the children that these self-proclaimed advocates claim to want to *save.*

Trump insults us by pledging to clean up the *inner cities* through stop-and-frisk and a return to *law and order,* recycling the racist rhetoric of politicians of the past. The favored phrases of education reformers, meanwhile—grit, no excuses and accountability—may appear harmless at first, but pull back the veil and we realize that they lead to higher expulsion and suspension rates for  black and brown children, education that centers on standardized testing, and the implication that  poor children of color lack character and the ability to persevere when faced with hardship. Trump and education reformers also share an intolerance for criticism. Raise your voice against any aspect of the corporate education reform movement and you are *aiding in keeping poor black and brown children trapped in failing schools.*

I wonder how the *movement* that cloaks itself in the language of racial justice and civil rights will reconcile the fact that the President elect has thrown his full support behind school choice? Will they abandon their talking points to further the agenda? Will they in turn throw their full support behind a man who has stoked the fires of hate and fear? Or will they stand up for the families that have been systematically denied the same opportunities as their white counterparts?

No matter what the intent, the impact of this election will be devastating for our children. It’s time that privileged reform advocates acknowledge our children’s humanity and replace talking points, catchphrases and empty rhetoric with the real work of educational equity and social justice in our schools.

Jamila Carter is a mother of three and an early childhood educator in Philadelphia, PA. Follow her on Twitter at @jubimom.

Inequality is for Winners

I talk to Tom Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, about the Democrats’ break up with the working class and why education can’t save us…

listen liberalEduShyster: Your recent book, Listen, Liberal argues that Democrats are no longer the party of the working class, which now seems to have some, well, data behind it.

Tom Frank: The Democrats are now a party of the professional class: affluent, white-collar professionals. They themselves say this all the time; they talk about the professional class as being their constituency. But we don’t often try to put the pieces together and try to figure out, well what does it mean to be a party of the professional class vs. the working class? One thing it means is that inequality is seen as the natural order of things. In fact, professionals believe in inequality. They think of inequality as totally fair and the way things should be, and they think that because they themselves are the winners in the great inequality sweepstakes. Continue reading →

What Went Down in Massachusetts

Image result for marty walsh save our public schools ma

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh with parent organizer Malikka Williams.

Why the campaign to lift the Massachusetts charter cap went down in flames…

We were motoring around when the ad came on. It was one of those golden fall afternoons we’ve had a string of lately, the foliage suspended in a globally-warmed cocoon of brilliance, and suddenly there he was: Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh. Or as he pronounces it, *maeh.* Even with the mostly missing ‘r’s,’ his message was unmistakable: Question 2, the proposal to lift the state’s cap on charter schools, was deeply misguided. And he didn’t just mean bad for Boston, he meant bad for the whole state, making an already broken school funding system worse. *What were they thinking by going to the ballot?* my husband asked. Actually he said *What were they !@#$% thinking?* And for once I didn’t chide him for swearing.

I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames. It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot. Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them. #NoOn2 also tapped into genuinely viral energy. The coalition extended well beyond the teachers unions that funded it, growing to include members of all kinds of unions, as well as social justice and civil rights groups, who fanned out across the state every weekend. By election day, the sprawling network of mostly volunteer canvassers had made contact with more than 1.5 million voters. Continue reading →

Boston Parent: Why I’m voting No on 2—and you should too

Boston parent Lisa Martin was determined to keep her son from attending the Boston Public Schools, but now she’s urging parents to vote against Question 2. What changed her mind?

lisaBy Lisa Martin
Many people have asked me why I am voting no on Question 2.  The answer is both simple and complex. I believe that all children are entitled to a quality education, and no child is entitled to a better education at the expense of another. I feel compelled to share my perspective because my son has been a student in both charter and district schools, and I’ve worked in both. I can recall thinking that there was absolutely no way my son would ever attend Boston Public Schools.  No matter what it took, I was determined that he would attend a charter, a private school, or attend a suburban school through METCO.  I remember racing around with friends to drop off applications at  every charter school that admitted kids starting at K1.  I attended the lotteries of several schools and prayed that my son was one of the lucky few plucked from a lottery of hundreds of wishful families.  It felt hopeless but finally we hit the lottery.  I was ecstatic for about 10 seconds.  Then I realized that my friend’s son hadn’t been selected.  It didn’t seem fair.   Continue reading →