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Betsy DeVos thinks Trump is doing a great job responding to the COVID-19 crisis and she is trying to ram through more Neo-Liberal Education policies

April 1, 2020

At a Press conference on Friday, US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, had this to say about Trump and the COVID-19 response: 

Let me start by saying thank you, Mr. President, for your clear-eyed leadership during these challenging times for our country and for the world. The bold actions you have taken are making a significant difference.

Look, it is not really important whether or not DeVos actually believes that Trump is providing “clear-eyed leadership,” but what is important is that the Secretary of Education is perpetuating a narrative that the Trump administration is doing all that it needs to do in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The commercial news media is also guilty of perpetuating the same narrative. 

However, beyond Betsy DeVos’ complicity in the administration’s oppressive response to the COVID-19 crisis, it is important that we recognize how the US Secretary of Education is using this crisis to push for more Neo-Liberal Education policies.

Like most bureaucrats, DeVos uses lots of vague and lofty language in her comments from last Friday, such as providing learning opportunities and making sure that the most disadvantaged students are getting their education needs met.

However, the devil is always in the details. In her comments, Betsy DeVos said that the US Department of Education would be providing micro-grants to students and teachers. DeVos states:

One area is providing direct financial support to students, families, and teachers. We will propose Congress provide microgrants to help students continue to learn. These would be focused toward the most disadvantaged students in states or communities where their school system has simply shut down. I’ve always believed education funding should be tied to students, not systems, and that necessity has never been more evident.

We will also support microgrants to teachers, to help them pivot to supporting all of their students in a different environment than they’ve been used to. We know they are dealing with an unprecedented situation. It’s been truly inspiring to hear story after story of teachers rising to the occasion and meeting the unique needs of their students.

Unfortunately, Betsy DeVos does not provide any information about how to access these micro-grants and there is nothing on the US Department of Education’s website about these micro-grants. Now, if recent history has taught us anything, then we should be very concerned about what these micro-grants and how they will be used. Much like the Freedom Education Scholarships, which is just another way to redirect public funding for private and charter schools, we should be concerned about the micro-grants that Secretary DeVos is proposing. 

The online education news source, Chalkbeat, reported that an Education Department spokesperson said later Friday that the proposed grants could be used for tuition and fees for an online program at a public or private school. The Chalkbeat report then said:

The idea — especially the grants for students that could pay tuition — is a glimpse at how DeVos will use the upheaval to advance her ideas about education. A proponent of private-school vouchers and school choice, DeVos has long downplayed the role of the federal government and scoffed at those who see school buildings or school districts as education’s key organizing principle.

We know that after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Maria, that the Department of Education leveraged its power to push for the privatization of public education. The current COVID-19 crisis provides yet another opportunity to push the larger Neo-Liberal Education model and undermine public education.

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