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The DeVos Neoliberal Two Step: Proposed 2020 Education Budget just means more public money for private and Charter Schools

March 13, 2019

On Monday, the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced the proposed budget for the Department of Education

“This budget at its core is about education freedom—freedom for America’s students to pursue their life-long learning journeys in the ways and places that work best for them, freedom for teachers to develop their talents and pursue their passions and freedom from the top-down ‘Washington knows best’ approach that has proven ineffective and even harmful to students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

In the proposed 2020 budget announcement, DeVos highlighted several points, such as:

  • The new Education Freedom Scholarships
  • Elevating the teaching profession by personalization
  • Continued support for our nation’s most vulnerable students
  • Promoting safe and secure schools
  • Promoting Workforce Development for the 21st Century
  • Streamlining and improving postsecondary aid

The mainstream commercial media was quick to point out that the proposed 2020 Education Budget is $7.1 billion less than what was approved last year. 

Anticipating criticism of a reduced Education Budget, DeVos included in her announcement on Monday, “We have also reaffirmed our commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently by consolidating or eliminating duplicative and ineffective federal programs.”

The American Federation of Teachers responded to the proposed Education Budget with their own statement, which included the following reaction: 

“Rather than increase funding for kids with special needs or for those who live below the poverty line in both rural and urban America, or addressing the issues raised in their own safety report, DeVos once again seeks to divert funding for private purposes in the name of ‘choice.’ However, if they listened to parents, they would hear that, overwhelmingly, parents want well-funded public schools as their choice. By assaulting public education again, Trump and DeVos are defying the will of parents, educators and the American people who continue to march, rally and even strike to secure the investment our children and their public schools desperately need. 

Another public education response to the 2020 proposed Education Budget states: 

Funding for teacher development under Title II, totaling $2.1 billion, would be eliminated, as would $1.2 billion in Title IV funding for academic supports and enrichment and $1.1 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers that support after-school programs. In total, funding for 29 programs would be eliminated in the federal budget. 

On the other side of the ledger, Trump’s budget blueprint calls for $500 million for federal charter school grants, a $60 million increase from current funding levels. The president also wants $200 million for the School Safety National Activities program, which would more than double the program’s $95 million in current funding—of that amount, $100 million would be used to fund a new School Safety State Formula Grant program. There are no requirements for the grant program related to firearms, according to the Education Department. And the office for civil rights would get $125 million, the same as current funding.

On the school choice front, the department says its main proposal has already been introduced: a federal tax-credit scholarship program from Republicans. The Treasury Department’s budget proposal includes $5 billion for the cost of such a program. 

Former Education Secretary Diane Ravitch responded to the proposed budget cuts by saying: 

The administration proposes $5 billion for vouchers and an increase in the federal charter school program to $500 million. It is not clear why the federal government needs to spend any money to start charter schools, since this project is now well covered by the Waltons, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family foundations, Michael Bloomberg, the Broad Foundation, the Dell Foundation, the Arnold Foundation, the Fisher Family Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the NewSchools Venture, the Charter School Growth Fund, and others too numerous to mention.

The comments from Ravitch and the AFT president are important, especially since much of the mainstream commercial media reporting omits any real critique of the Education Freedom Scholarship plan and the increased funding for Charter Schools.

While, the 2020 Education Budget is still only a proposal, it continues to fit well within Betsy DeVos’ decades long effort to undermine public education at the expense of Charter Schools and privatized education systems, which she loves to call School Choice. However, the reality is that Neoliberal Capitalists like Betsy DeVos, who like to present themselves as fiscal conservatives, have no problem spending public money that benefits the private sector. Every time Betsy DeVos says School Choice, she really means she wants public money to fund private and Charter schools.

To read the full 2020 Education Budget Proposal, click here

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