Skip to content

While commercial media focuses on Betsy DeVos’ contempt of court case, she continues to push her Neo-Liberal Education model virtually unnoticed

October 30, 2019

There have been dozens of news stories in recent weeks about how a US federal judge is holding Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in contempt of court. According to one article, she is being held in contempt of court, “for failing to comply with an order to stop collecting loan payments from former students of Corinthian Colleges, a defunct for-profit college company that defrauded tens of thousands of borrowers.”

This is an important matter to report on, especially considering DeVos’ involvement. The judge issued an 8-page ruling, a ruling that is worth reading. The judge also ruled that the Department of Education must pay the $100,000 fine, instead of DeVos directly.

Right after Betsy DeVos was found in contempt for defrauding students, A. Wayne Johnson, who was in charge of the Department of Education’s financial aid and student loan system, resigned and is now running for the Senate in Georgia, with a major platform piece being that he wants to cancel student debt. 

Again, this is also newsworthy, especially considering how massive student debt is in the US. However, what all of this news coverage means is that the ongoing efforts on the part of the Department of Education to impose a Neo-Liberal Education model doesn’t garner the kinds of headlines that this court case has.

It was completely appropriate for news agencies to report on the recent federal court ruling that resulted in DeVos being held in contempt, but it is no less important to provide ongoing coverage and analysis of what this Neo-Liberal Education model looks like.

It is worth noting that this Neo-Liberal Education model did not begin with Betsy DeVos, it has only been accelerated under the current Secretary of Education. As Diane Ravitch has stated

Previous education secretaries, including Arne Duncan under President Obama and Rod Paige under President George W. Bush, have pushed school choice policies based on free-market ideology. But during the Obama years, the Department of Education vocally supported charter schools while pretending it could draw the line at vouchers. DeVos, to the contrary, makes no bones about her goal of clearing the path for vouchers.

Since Betsy DeVos was nominated in early 2017, we have been writing about her policy decision as the Secretary of Education in our section entitled Betsy DeVos Watch.  We have reported on the disastrous Titled IX changes her department has made, changes that provide greater protections for perpetrators of sexual assault.

However, what we have noticed over the past two and a half years, is that the Secretary of Education has spent virtually all of her time going to schools, conferences and other events that are being hosted by entities that fully embrace the Neo-Liberal Education model. The Neo-Liberal Education model includes a concerted effort to undermine public teacher unions, push public school into looking more like charter schools, a redirecting of funds towards charter schools, promoting private schools and the promotion of school voucher programs. In these past 30 months DeVos has made it her goal to virtually avoid going to public schools and just attend private or charter schools across the country.

Just as the news about DeVos being found in contempt of court was breaking, the Secretary of Education was once again at an event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program. You can read her speech from that night on October 23rd, but essentially DeVos doesn’t stray from her ongoing mantras about school choice and how education must serve parents and students. One of the talking points was to push her Freedom Education Scholarships program, which will divert more funding to private and charter schools.

DeVos needs to stick to these kinds of narrow talking points, since when she is asked questions that fall outside of her Neo-Liberal Education model comfort zone, she ends up sounding like she doesn’t know what she is talking about, as was the case with her 60 Minutes interview from March of 2018. 

The thing is, Betsy DeVos will continue to follow this playbook of promoting a Neo-Liberal Education model until, 1) there is both of movement in the US to challenge this anti-public education model, and 2) the news media provides ongoing analysis of what how this education model doesn’t work and has actually had devastating effects on communities across the country.

There is a growing movement to challenge the Neo-Liberal model. Just look at the Chicago Teachers strike is doing and what their demands are. This same reactions has been happening in numerous states in the last two years, where teachers have been going on strike with clear demands and winning. In Grand Rapids, there is the newly formed Grand Rapids for Education Justice, which is attempting to inform the community about how the Grand Rapids Public Schools have been embracing a Neo-Liberal Education model for more than a decade, along with wanting to push for policy changes.

Unfortunately, most of the commercial news media is not writing about or providing ongoing analysis of the Neo-Liberal Education model that Betsy DeVos is wanting to impose on the rest of the country. Reporting on the contempt of court case, while important, doesn’t address the larger, more systemic changes of the Neo-Liberal Education model. We need news sources and reporters who are willing to look closely at this model and to provide the public with robust analysis to understand how a Neo-Liberal Education model will impact our communities.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: