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The Misleading and Unverified claims of Betsy DeVos

March 20, 2017

Last Thursday, it was reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was claiming that the administration’s education budget, “places power in the hands of parents and families.”

MLive reported on this story last week, with the announcement that the Trump administration’s budget cuts would take out $9 Billion from the Department of Education.

In a statement released by Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education said:

“The budget places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children by investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs. It continues support for the nation’s most vulnerable populations, such as students with disabilities, while streamlining and simplifying funding for college and continuing to help make college education more affordable.”

The MLive article also includes some additional breakdown of the proposed budget, but beyond that there is no verification of the claims made by Betsy DeVos, nor are there any other voices or perspectives represented in the article.

The lack of verification of claims is pretty standard for stories appearing on Mlive. However, what is even more problematic about the headline and the statement that DeVos made in this story is that it normalizes the position of those who have been pushing for the privatization of public education, expanding the number of charter schools and school vouchers. This is essentially what Betsy DeVos means when she says that the proposed education budget, which increases funding for “school choice,” will do since school choice is code word for privatization, charter schools and school vouchers.

The celebration of increased funding for so-called “school choice,” was celebrated by Education Week, which posted a headline entitled, School Choice a Big Winner in President Trump’s Budget. Education Week also endorses the further privatization of education and a school choice emphasis.

The same can be said for the Michigan-based organization that Betsy DeVos helped to create, the Great Lakes Education Project. GLEP also celebrates the budget and the fact that President Trump, in his first address to Congress, spoke about “school choice.” 

A counter to the so-called School Choice narrative can be seen in a recent posting on PRWatch, entitled Trump and DeVos Push ALEC Privatization Scheme as Studies Document Voucher Failures. 

The PRWatch article is important for several reasons. First, they point out that the Trump administration education proposals are modeled on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bills,which have been adopted in at least 17 states.

The PRWatch article also points out the push to use taxpayer money to fund the expansion of religious schools, along with the fact that when the public can vote on it, School Voucher Ballot initiatives have failed.

Such a counter narrative is important if people are to have a more complete understanding of education policy and how it continues to shift in the direction that Betsy DeVos and the organizations that she and her husband have been funding for years, such as the American Federation for Children and the Alliance for School Choice.

A great example of a counter narrative, was the recent article in Rolling Stone Magazine entitled, Betsy DeVos’ Holy War.

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