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Betsy DeVos Watch: Making God and the Market central to Education Policy

March 24, 2019

Anyone who is familiar with the DeVos family, knows that the two central ideological pieces their family embraces are, Christianity and Capitalism.

To be clear, the kind of Christianity that the DeVos family practices is a mix of Calvinism and Christian Reconstructionism. Calvinism is evidenced by their, “we are part of the chosen, therefore God has blessed us with great wealth,” and Christian Reconstructionism can be seen in their desire to put biblical law over US Constitutional law. For more on the family’s history see our DeVos Family Reader: We’re Rich and We Do What We Want

Within the past two weeks, with two separate announcements, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, put God and the Market as talking points for recent policy decisions.

On March 11, DeVos made this announcement: 

The U.S. Department of Education, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Justice, determined the statutory provisions in Section 1117(d)(2)(B) and 8501(d)(2)(B) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that require an equitable services provider to “be independent of … any religious organization” are unconstitutional because they categorically exclude religious organizations based solely on their religious identity.

DeVos went on to say:

“The Trinity Lutheran decision reaffirmed the long-understood intent of the First Amendment to not restrict the free exercise of religion. Those seeking to provide high-quality educational services to students and teachers should not be discriminated against simply based on the religious character of their organization.”

So much of constitutional law comes down to interpretation, but what is really at issue here is not the discrimination of religious educational institutions, but the use of public funds for said institutions.

The second major announcement came on March 21st, with Betsy DeVos’ statement on the Trump administration’s Executive Order on higher education. 

We believe that these important reforms, along with the Department’s ambitious negotiated rulemaking agenda, will make college more affordable, break down barriers to innovation in higher education, and encourage new approaches and new partnerships for the benefit of students.

While this Executive Order does deal with tuition costs and loan payments, the important point to note in the statement above is “new partnerships for the benefit of students.”

What Betsy DeVos means when she talks about new partnerships, is specifically partnerships with the private sector – the corporate and business community. This focus, from the Secretary of Education was reflected a few days earlier, on March 18, when Betsy DeVos was speaking at a meeting for the National Council for the American Worker

Here Betsy DeVos is very clear about what the objective of higher education should be, when she says:

“To meet the needs of our nation’s students and our growing economy, we must rethink higher education. Right now, there are 7.3 million unfilled jobs in the United States, yet too many Americans remain out of the workforce because they lack the skills necessary to seize these opportunities. We must do better for our students and workers.”

In many ways, these two major announcements, which have occurred within the past two weeks, are a clear indication of Betsy DeVos’ desire to make God and the Market central aspects of the US education system.

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