What Chad Barefoot and the NC General Assembly Can Learn From Betsy DeVos About SB599

If you don’t remember this past summer, a new bill was introduced to “reinvigorate” the teacher pipeline here in North Carolina. It was called SB599 and was originally championed by Chad Barefoot.

It is not too hard to see that the need for a “teacher pipeline” has been on the minds of the NC General Assembly. It is because of a manufactured teacher shortage – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/06/29/the-stench-of-sb599-raleigh-knows-why-we-have-a-teacher-shortage-they-created-it/.

Just a quick reminder:

“The overall premise of this bill is to ensure that we have a proper teacher pipeline going into the schools.”  – Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R- Wilkes, in response to questions about SB599 on House floor in Raleigh on June 26.

Senate Bill 599 is the bill (as Alex Granados from EdNC.org reports), that,

“allows organizations other than universities to operate educator preparation programs in North Carolina. The measure includes private, for-profit organizations. And while the bill passed the full House, it did not survive without debate” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/26/educator-preparation-bill-passes-house-returns-senate/).

What that means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.

In actuality, we have already experienced a manifestation of SB599 here in North Carolina, but on a larger basis.

This fast-tracking is how we got our state superintendent. It’s how we got our secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. But that fast tracking does not adequately prepare people for what the classroom will be like.

Or the terrain of public education.

Because to be in education, you have to have some education and time to be inside of the classroom to cultivate the craft of teaching and marry it to the social science of pedagogy.

It also helps to learn how to love all kids no matter where they come from and what they bring to the classroom.

There is already talk of how much longer Betsy DeVos will stay in office. A recent Politico expose called “The Education of Betsy DeVos” in its most recent edition.

DEvos politico

It’s long, but there is one paragraph that really stands out:

In retrospect, DeVos tells me, she blames the transition team for its handling of her confirmation. “I think I was undercoached,” she says. “The transition group was very circumspect about how much information they gave me about then-current policy and … it was in their view a balance between being prepared for a confirmation hearing and not having well-formed opinions on what should or shouldn’t change, so as not to get caught in a confirmation hearing making commitments that then I wouldn’t want to or be able to keep. And in hindsight, I wish I had a whole lot more information” (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/11/01/betsy-devos-secretary-education-profile-2017-215768).

Simply put, she was not prepared.

And then this came from Salon.

Thomas Toch, director of independent education think tank FutureEd, told Politico that DeVos was ignorant of the job’s constraints when she accepted it and insiders are already preparing for her to vacate the position.

“She can’t fill her senior staff slots,” he said. “Morale is terrible at the department.”

DeVos was roundly criticized for her lack of basic knowledge about education policy during the confirmation hearing process. She blames President Donald Trump’s transition team, claiming she was “undercoached.”

One doubts most nominees for education secretary need to be coached not to cite grizzly bears as a reason for guns in schools.

“I’ll tell you, in Washington education circles, the conversation is already about the post-DeVos landscape, because the assumption is she won’t stay long,” Toch told Politico. “I think she’s been probably one of the most ineffective people to ever hold the job” (https://www.salon.com/2017/11/06/officials-expect-devos-to-resign-from-trump-administration_partner/).

Again. She was unprepared.

It’s like she was allowed to become the head of the nation’s public school system through a fast-track “teacher pipeline” like SB599.

Do we really need to know why this has not gone well?

The Pharisaical DeVastation of Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos might very well be the most “not-pro-life” person in the nation’s capital.

“It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture — to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things — in this case, the system of education in the country.” – Betsy DeVos, 2001 (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/betsy-devos-education-trump-religion-232150).

For Betsy Devos, this new Shephalah (an area in Israel known for its Biblical battled between the Israelites and Philistines), is the national public school system. And for a woman whose family has donated untold millions to movements against LGBT rights and abortion rights all while promoting “choice” in schools, DeVos has perfectly shown that her agenda is really not “pro-life” at all.

Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing

Just look what she has done to key guidelines to Individual with Disabilities Education Act this past week. As reported in the Washington Post by Moriah Balingit,

The Education Department has rescinded 72 policy documents that outline the rights of students with disabilities as part of the Trump administration’s effort to eliminate regulations it deems superfluous.

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services wrote in a newsletter Friday that it had “a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective — 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).” The documents, which fleshed out students’ rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act, were rescinded Oct. 2 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2017/10/21/devos-rescinds-72-guidance-documents-outlining-rights-for-disabled-students/?tid=sm_fb&utm_term=.d83a2dd43914).

This is after other rather discriminatory actions this past year. Again Balingit:

This is not the first time DeVos has rolled back Education Department guidance, moves that have raised the ire of civil rights groups. The secretary in February signed off on Trump’s rescinding of guidance that directed schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity, saying that those matters should be left up to state and local school officials. In September, she scrapped rules that outlined how schools should investigate allegations of sexual assault, arguing that the Obama-era guidance did not sufficiently take into account the rights of the accused.

What DeVos has done in her short and turbulent tenure is in no way “pro-life.” It’s discrimination.

It is easy to confine the labels “pro-life” and “pro-choice” to the arena of unborn children. But the issue of abortion is not really the subject of this post.

Why? Abortion is too big of an issue to tackle in a personal essay and I am certainly not convinced that declaring yourself “pro-choice” automatically means that you condone abortion in any situation. Life throws too many qualifications into its equations to make all choices an either/or choice.

When my wife and I received a pre-natal diagnosis that our son had Down Syndrome, we were fortunate enough to be able to talk to a genetic counselor at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. The state of North Carolina had at the time in its laws stated that an abortion could not be performed after a certain date in a woman’s pregnancy. If we had chosen to have an abortion, we would have had to make that decision in a rather small amount of time.

We did not seek an abortion; it was not an option for us, but it was rather surreal to receive phone calls from health providers talking about that option because they had to legally inform us of our rights/options/legal restrictions. You might be shocked to know the percentage of people/couples who choose to abort with the information we had. I was. And I am not about to judge those who did choose what is legally their right in the eyes of the law. There are too many variables in lives that I do not live to run around and make judgement calls.

I also will never carry a child in a womb. Neither will Donald Trump, Mike Pence, or all of the other “men” who stand to gain from their positions of power.

We had Malcolm and I would not trade anything for the experience of being his parent. Anyone who knows me and my family can testify to that. But he is no longer “unborn.” He is now in our world among others who need help to lead fulfilling lives. He actually needs the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and its guidelines.

I do get rather irritated when the terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are used in a polarizing fashion, especially for political gain (which applies to DeVos). And when I review quotes, interviews, and witness current actions by our secretary of education, I do not necessarily sense a “pro-life” message as much as I sense an “anti-those who don’t think my way” message.

Because “pro-life” means so much more than that.

Why are we not protecting the lives of those who are already born? I feel that being “pro-life” is not a matter reserved for the issue of abortion and the unborn, but should include those who are living and need help.

Hubert Humphrey once said in 1977, “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

If you are “pro-life” then it would make sense that you would look to the welfare of those who cannot necessarily defend themselves without help like the “children, the elderly, and the sick.”

Is it not ironic that many who promote a strict “pro-life” platform seem to be in favor of privatizing or redefining the very services that help sustain the lives of those whom they claim to champion.

Think of Medicaid that my own son has been on the waiting list for because he will need its services earlier than most people. If it becomes privatized, it may jeopardize his chances of getting the help he needs when he gets older. Within the state of North Carolina, not expanding Medicaid affects many “children, the elderly, and the sick.”

Nationally speaking, think of Obamacare that insures many who would not be eligible if such a plan was not in place. While it is anything from perfect, it has insured many people who were never insured before. And have the parties in charge of the government offered anything else except “free-market?”

Think of the use of tax payer money to fund vouchers and charter schools that are actually privatizing public schools all in the name of “choice” when there should be a push to fully fund all public schools and provide for their resources because public education is a public service and not a private entity.

It seems that many of the politicians and policy makers like DeVos who claim to be hardline “pro-lifers” are helping to privatize the very institutions that are giving “life” to many individuals. And they are doing it in the name of free-markets, where people are supposed to be able to choose what they want hoping that the “market” controls prices and quality.

How ironic that many politicians who proclaim to be “pro-life” become “pro-choice” when it pertains to those who are already born.

I would have a hard time thinking that Jesus would call himself “pro-life” and allow for big banks (look at what Wells Fargo did) and pharmaceutical companies (think of EpiPens) to literally control prices and the market without a fight.

I would have a hard time thinking that Jesus would have been willing to allow public money to fund private entities without input from the public itself.

I would have a hard time thinking that Jesus would not confront politicians and call them out for their hypocrisy in not defending or helping take care of those who needed aid.

The Jesus I know called out the Sadducees and the Pharisees for their self-righteous ways.

The Jesus I know did not canvas for votes. He came to help all of us no matter race, gender, or physical ailment.

The Jesus I know preached and practiced the Golden Rule.

When you become an elected official (or a barely confirmed one like DeVos), then your business is all of humankind. Is that not being “pro-life.”

Back to the Shephalah.

Malcolm Gladwell talks of the same area in a TED Talk about his book David & Goliath. It is the place where supposedly David killed the large Philistine with a stone and a sling. Goliath was adorned with armor and weapons of the highest quality and attended by many servants. David seemed to be from very modest beginnings, but capable of so much.

When I think of the dynamics of people like DeVos and other “reformers” who preach their brand of “pro-life,” I don’t see the youngest son of Jesse who was a shepherd like David. I see the glitz and glamor of the golden armor of a giant who wears a shield of big money like Goliath. I see that God could use the gifts of anyone who did not come from a well-known family to help others.

Even if that person was gay or even had developmental delay.

A Very Serious Thank You Letter to Betsy DeVos

Dear Secretary DeVos,

I wanted to write you a small note to thank you for what you have done in your capacity as U.S. Secretary of Education, but not for the reasons that you might think.

It is not because of your zealous crusade to expand vouchers at the expense of traditional public schools to satisfy some sort of personal agenda. The fact that I am a public high school teacher and a parent of students who attend public schools already puts us at odds.

It is not because you displayed absolutely no comprehension of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act during your confirmation hearings. The fact that I am a father of a special needs child already casts you into extreme doubt.

It is not because you have never served in any capacity as an educator, administrator, parent, or even student. The fact that almost anyone who has worked in a public school is more qualified to be secretary of education seems apparent.

It is not because you seemed to have paid your way into your confirmation. The millions of dollars that you have poured into the coffers of lawmakers, many of whom were on the HELP committee that enabled your confirmation, is well known.

It is not because you have not approved a single application for student debt relief for the tens of thousands of students who were targeted for bad loans. Your allegiance to for-profit business over actual students was apparent before you came into office.

It is not because you removed protections for LGBT students in public schools. As Donald Trump’s nominee, it would be expected that you would continue to push his political views.

It is not because you accepted a $100,000 check for the Department of Education that would have been the president’s second quarter salary. That should go a short way to helping repay the drastic cuts in the budget for public education. It should also make a rather small dent in the almost one-million-dollar-a-month bill you have accrued just for security since you were placed under protection from U.S. Marshals.

It is not because you have surrounded yourself with more neophytes in education and left a vast number of DOE jobs vacant.

It is not because you seem to only visit charter schools and other non-traditional school settings. The fact that almost 9 out of 10 students in this country attend traditional public schools should not be a reason for actually observing public schools (or maybe it should).

It is not because you are hardly a public figure when you are the leader of the public schools. Disregarding invitations to conferences and speaking opportunities to defend your policies has actually become the norm for you and totally expected.

IT IS because you have single-handedly placed public education and its importance back into the national dialogue. And the longer you stay in your office and continue your nebulous approach to privatizing public education, you will convince more people that the need to support public schooling really is important.

IT IS because more people realize that “school choice” really does not entail “choice” at all.

IT IS because more people understand that while someone may have enough money to buy herself an office in a presidential administration, that money cannot buy a true passion for educating any child who walks through the doors of a public school. That still cannot be bought.

IT IS because by your refusal to speak with the press, you actually validate the power of the free press thus confirming that the First Amendment is a foundational part of our country’s fabric.

IT IS because your timidity at talking with special education advocacy groups that many begin to understand just how complex the issue of special education is and that it should be fully funded.

IT IS because that your failures at privatizing schools in your home state become more visible on a national stage and expose the deleterious effects of your platform.

IT IS because knowing that you supposedly lead the nation’s public school without having any public education experience, you are actually confirming that when it comes to education, preparation programs really are vital.

IT IS because when you actually leave office, whether due to a new election or the fact that you are incompetent, the focus on public education will be even more keen and the next individual in the capacity of secretary of education will almost assuredly be infinitely more qualified.

IT IS because that every day that you supposedly serve our students in public schools you validate the very reasons why I advocate for public schools and all students.

But mostly, IT IS because I have never felt so much more committed to be a public school teacher if just to help combat what you stand for.

So, thank you.

I just hope the damage you inflict can be reversed.

SB599 on Steroids – The Fast Tracking of DeVos and Johnson

Teacher resume

This past month, I wrote about SB599 in a post called The Stench of SB599.

In it I stated,

“The overall premise of this bill is to ensure that we have a proper teacher pipeline going into the schools.”  – Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R- Wilkes, in response to questions about SB599 on House floor in Raleigh on June 26.

Senate Bill 599 is the bill (as Alex Granados from EdNC.org reports), that,

“allows organizations other than universities to operate educator preparation programs in North Carolina. The measure includes private, for-profit organizations. And while the bill passed the full House, it did not survive without debate” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/06/26/educator-preparation-bill-passes-house-returns-senate/).

What that means is that for-profit outfits can make money fast-tracking teacher candidates in a rather precarious preparation programs.

In actuality, we have already experienced a manifestation of SB599 here in North Carolina, but on a larger basis.

Imagine putting together a list of possible qualifications for becoming an instructional leader of a large public school system such as a state superintendent of secretary of education in a democratically controlled country.

How much experience do you think is necessary to be that instructional leader?

Does there need to be a working knowledge of the system, the curriculum, the pedagogy, the theory?

Does there need to be a perspective that is shaped by being in the classroom and serving as an administrator?

Or can you have someone lead who has never been a part of the system before?

Take a look.

Because it seems like some leaders were fast-tracked by those who will profit by them. In DeVos’s case, she already made sure to fill the coffers of the very committee (HELP) that nominated her.

Think of it as SB599 on steroids.

Criteria Betsy DeVos Mark Johnson Veteran Public School Teachers in NC Who Have Taught For Five + Years
Has a degree in education or went through a teacher preparation program at a college or university NO NO Most all of them. Lateral Entry in most states still requires that teachers take certain preparation courses.
Has teaching experience NO YES – two school years YES –
Attended public schools NO YES – graduated from Louisiana’s equivalent of a Magnet school for math and science IF 90% of go to traditional public schools, then safe to say MOST OF THEM
Sends children to public school NO NO MOST OF THEM, if they have kids
Believes vouchers hurts traditional public schools NO NO DON’T MEET MANY WHO LIKE THEM
Supports teacher unions and teacher advocacy groups NO NO MOST DO – IF NOT WITH MEMBERSHIP, THEN DO RELY ON GROUPS TO LOBBY FOR THEM
Administrated in a school NO NO Most administrators were teachers
Been through a principal change as an educator NO NO MOST OF THEM
Been through a curriculum change NO NO YES
Seen a group of students matriculate throughout an entire school experience from beginning of high school to graduation to another level of schooling NO NO YES
Managed budgets for public funds NO Served a partial term as a local school board member but was campaigning partially during that time PROBABLY NOT
Talked to teacher advocacy groups NO AVOIDS LIKE THE PLAGUE A GREAT MANY OF THEM
Talked with special education advocacy groups NO AVOIDS LIKE THE PLAGUE A GREAT MANY OF THEM
Finished an entire term in elected office NO NO NOT APPLICABLE
Oversaw a budget that expanded resources for students in traditional public schools NO NO A GREAT MANY OF THEM ON A SMALL SCALE
Displayed understanding of IDEA and IEP law. NO NO YES
Led a school in a reaccreditation process NO NO MANY OF THEM – IT’s A SCHOLLWIDE INITIATIVE
Participated in a PTSA NO NO MANY OF THEM
Coached a public school sport NO UNKNOWN MANY OF THEM
Oversaw a budget for a school NO NO ADMINSTRATION DOES THIS
Had continuing certification NO NO YES
Mentored a younger teacher NO NO YES
Had a student teacher NO NO MANY OF THEM
Sponsored an extracurricular NO NO MOST OF THEM
Written curriculum standards NO NO MANY OF THEM
Led a professional development workshop NO NO MANY OF THEM
Published scholarly work on educational issues. NO NO SOME OF THEM
Knows difference between proficiency and growth for students NO DON’T KNOW MOST OF THEM
Meet With ALL Parents Who Request Conference NO NO YES
Keeps Open Channels of Communication with students, parents, administration, and community NO NO YES
Does Not Require an Entourage to Explain Concepts of Job NO NO YES

 

Results United States Secretary of Education North Carolina State Superintendent Becoming an Endangered Species

 

 

 

Betsy DeVos and Mark Johnson – Social Vegans in a Job For Omnivores

 

I came across this picture of a restaurant’s sign located in Texas, and while I am not in any way trying to criticize people’s dietary choices, I did have to chuckle.

social vegan

God knows anyone who knows me knows the dietary adventures that I have had in my life. But what this sign is saying really has more to do with how we are part of a bigger community that has some communal tables from which we eat and socialize.

Think of a food chain, yet not consuming, but rather adding and enhancing.

It is a little humorous as well that it would seem that instead of “vegan,” the sign would say “vegetarian.”

In America, we have the right to choose our friends. We have the right to not associate with certain groups. We have the right to not be a “part of” as long as we obey the law. We have the right to eat meat products. We have the right to not eat meat products. And this post is not to debate about whether or not we should judge people on that.

But if you are an elected official who claims to work for the public, you cannot be a “social vegetarian.”

Why? Because you must not eschew “meet.” You must want to devour “meet.” You need to be a social omnivore and be willing to digest whatever as given to you and must be willing to go to all of the buffets that are offered.

Especially if you are the leader of a public school system.

This past week, Betsy DeVos was invited to speak at the Office of Special Education Programs Conference.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been invited to address the audience of an annual conference in Washington sponsored by the federal office of special education programs.

The three-day OSEP Leadership Conference starts on July 17 and draws special education experts from around the country to discuss policy issues affecting students with disabilities. Her appearance would mark the first time the secretary has met with a special-education focused audience, after a bumpy introduction to the topic (http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?cid=25920011&item=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.edweek.org%2Fv1%2Fblog%2F58%2F%3Fuuid%3D72988&cmp=soc-fb-shr).

Think she showed up or even acknowledged the invite? Nope.

She was elsewhere.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is scheduled to speak in Denver next week (July 17 – ) at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential conservative group that has successfully advocated for free-market principles at statehouses across the country (https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2017/07/13/betsy-devos-is-coming-to-denver-for-a-meeting-of-the-conservative-group-alec-and-protesters-are-ready/).

If you are a public school advocate, you may need no introduction to ALEC, but if you are unfamiliar with them, then research them and you might see why DeVos goes to get her “meet” there.

In essence, DeVos is an avowed social vegetarian. She refuses to come to the table unless she gets to choose the people who are sitting there and what they get to consume and digest. She willingly forgets that she is the one hosting the meal for all of the tables and that she doesn’t get to choose her guests. She has to serve all people.

In North Carolina, we have another social vegetarian running our public schools: Mark Johnson.

For someone who is responsible for the biggest portion of the state budget as far as education is concerned, he has successfully made sure not to show up for “dinner invitations” and makes reservations at private clubs where he cannot be disturbed by the very people he should be “dining” with.

In fact, Johnson, while being a social vegetarian, is actually allowing food to be taken away from other tables when he should be advocating for bigger portions and more nutrition.

Support for needy districts and key positions within North Carolina’s top public school agency may be in jeopardy this week as the State Board of Education mulls ways to pass down millions in legislative cuts.

Officials confirmed that the State Board of Education could vote as early as Wednesday on how to dish out $3.2 million in General Assembly-ordered funding reductions for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

State Superintendent Mark Johnson, a Republican, turned over multiple options for distributing the cuts to the state board, which has provided feedback behind closed doors, Policy Watch has learned. Neither the board nor Johnson’s office would turn over specific details given the cuts broach confidential personnel matters.

Yet programs likely on the chopping block this week include offices that provide services and support for local school districts, including intervention efforts in low-performing regions, state board Chair Bill Cobey confirmed (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2017/07/18/general-assembly-ordered-cuts-likely-hamper-services-poor-rural-schools/).

This report gets better.

Superintendent Johnson did not agree to an interview with Policy Watch for this report.

The state budget also bars school board members from making up the lost cash with transfers from various GOP-backed education initiatives, including the controversial Innovation School District—which provides for charter takeovers of low-performing schools—and other programs such as Teach for America, Read to Achieve, and positions in the superintendent’s office.

The budget reduction, which slashes operational funds for the department by 6 percent this year and another 13.9 percent (about $7.3 million) next year, comes amid years of criticisms and similar budget reductions led by the Republican-controlled legislature.

Notice which programs are not getting “less food” on the table.

It seems that when you are in public office, you need to be more than willing to “meet” with the public.

DeVos and Johnson’s choices to avoid the “meet” are not for health reasons, but rather for political motives and to hide the fact that they do not have the teeth, the stomach, and the ability to digest all that encompasses leading public schools.

Dear Secretary DeVos, From Malcolm, A Special Normal Public School Kid

Dear Secretary DeVos,

My name is Malcolm and I just finished third-grade in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system. I have vibrant red-hair and blue eyes like my mom, wear cool glasses, have a wicked follow through on my jump shot, and am quite the dancer. My dad also wears glasses, but he does not dance very well nor has much hair. My sister is in high school. She is very smart and she helps me with my homework.

I also have an extra chromosome because of a condition called Trisomy 21. You may know it as Down Syndrome. It does not define me. It just is, but I do need a little extra help in school and in learning other skills on how to be independent.

I am having my daddy write this letter for me. He is a teacher in a public high school. In fact, I spend a lot of time at his school going to games and functions. A lot of people know me there like they do at my own school. My having an extra chromosome doesn’t seem to scare them so much because in the end we are all more alike than different anyway.

But I am worried about some of the things that have happened in public schools since I have started going. I am also worried about how students like me are being treated since you and President Trump have been in office.

My daddy has noticed you like this thing called “school choice” and that the budget that you and Mr. Trump like puts more money into this. Yet it really seems to have done a lot to weaken public schools like not fully give money to them or give them resources so that all kids in public schools can be successful. It seems that some money went to this thing called “vouchers” and some has been used to help make other types of schools – schools that will not accept me.

When I got ready to go to school a few years ago, one of my grandparents offered to pay tuition at any school that could help me the most, but none around here would take me because I have a certain type of developmental delay. Doesn’t seem like I had much choice.

But the public schools welcomed me with open arms. And I am learning because of the good teachers and the teacher assistants. Imagine what could happen if my school could have every resource to accommodate my needs.

When people in power have taken away resources, teacher assistants and forced local school systems to make due with less money, then all students, especially students like me, are not being helped as much. And it’s not our teachers’ fault. It’s the fault of those who control what we get.

You and Mr. Trump control a lot of what we get.

My family is very aware of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It says that I am entitled by law to a sound and quality public education that will work to overcome my obstacles like any other student. We were surprised that you were not aware of IDEA when you were asked earlier this year. That law is my lifeline. And there are many students who do not have the advantages that I have. Some have more obstacles and more physical hurdles to overcome. They really need for you to step up for them. Part of your job is to protect that law.

But this budget that you seem to like does not really help to strengthen that.

The Individual Education Plan that I have that my school and parents put together is backed by federal law. That means that you are supposed to protect it.

But this budget and your actions do not seem to want to honor that.

I think you should stand up more for students like me. I think you should fight more for public schools. I think that you should be loud about it. Make everyone know your commitment to public school children and their teachers and the staffs at each school as many times as you can.

I can be loud. It’s easy. I let my presence be known all of the time. It’s how others know I am there. But I have to be there.

It seems that if you are the leader of the public schools in the nation, then you would be more of a champion for public schools. You would show up at places when asked to talk about what is going on in schools.

Like accepting invitations to places and conferences.

I know that you were invited to speak at the Office of Special Education Programs Leadership Conference this next week. My daddy says that you have never met with a special-education advocacy group before. Why?

Why have you not accepted the chance to talk to the very people who need to hear you talk? These are the people who help make sure that I have what I need because I depend on the public schools.

In fact, my daddy says that you do not really talk to those who really need you to explain your views on education and why you seem to like some types of schools more than others.

Why?

Shouldn’t you be willing to talk?

My daddy goes to work every school day and teaches the students who show up for school. He does not get to choose his students. But that does not matter to him.

I go to school and my teacher did not get to choose what students she got to have. But she teaches me anyway.

If you are the secretary of education for the whole country, then shouldn’t you be willing to go anywhere to talk about school?

Sincerely,

Malcolm
Special Normal Public School Kid

IMG_5325

The UnFAIR VANITY of Betsy DeVos

I have never read the William Makepeace Thackery Victorian novel Vanity Fair.

Never will. But I would like to meet someone whose middle name is Makepeace.

My understanding is that it is a somewhat satirical look at English society, but when I look at the title, I immediately think of the iconic magazine Vanity Fair which comes out monthly and has some of the best covers a magazine rack can hold.

And it has a good reputation for journalistic integrity.

Image result for vanity fair cover

This month’s issue has a small feature in it’s “Hive” section which is a nice little title for what is “buzzing” in the country.

On Betsy DeVos. It is entitled “IN SEARCH OF THE ELUSIVE BETSY DEVOS – The Education Secretary seems be ducking the press.”

In keeping with holding public figures accountable to the public (i.e. Mark Johnson – https://caffeinatedrage.com/2017/07/13/when-the-leader-of-the-public-schools-refuses-to-be-part-of-the-public/) , this offers a very good look into the purposeful reluctance to be seen with members of the press by DeVos.

It’s worth the read.

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http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/in-search-of-the-elusive-betsy-devos

 

 

 

 

 

A Thank You to Attorney General Josh Stein and Alfred E. Neuman

This past week attorneys generals from 18 states and the District of Columbia filed suit against Betsy DeVos over the freezing of an Obama-era law that protected students from predatory for-profit colleges (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2017/07/06/attorneys-general-sue-devos-over-delay-of-rule-to-protect-students-from-predatory-colleges/?utm_term=.655b1c73bf41).

One of those attorneys general was North Carolina’s Josh Stein.

And he should be commended.

With a recent budget proposal by a vindictive General Assembly seeking revenge becasue he won his election against Buck Newton, Stein is faced with a %40 reduction on his budget. Yet, he still did the right thing in protecting vulnerable students from being taken advantage of (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article159916209.html).

He’s doing something that Betsy DeVos is supposed to do – work for students.

And he’s in an office that he was elected to do by the people, not appointed because he “bought” his way into office.

And speaking of being “qualified.” DeVos was honored this year with something that no other secretary of education has ever been honored with before: a MAD Magazine expose.

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Not kidding. Here’s the link – http://www.madmagazine.com/blog/2017/02/07/a-betsy-devos-poster-wed-like-to-see.

The Interrogatophobia of Betsy DeVos – Or, The Secretary’s Kryptonite

Interrogatophobia – (noun)

  1. The fear of being asked a straightforward question

This post is not to dissect the various times that Betsy DeVos has appeared before a congressional committee to comment on her impending confirmation or her policies for protecting all students under the umbrella of civil rights. As the leader of the nation’s public school system, she has clearly shown an ineptitude worthy of remediation when it comes to answering questions about policy and law.

But she has to go to those meetings.

It’s where she chooses to go and not go that really answers a lot of questions, figuratively speaking. Why? Because Betsy DeVos chooses to go places where she does not have to answer questions.

Straightforward questions are her kryptonite. She’s deathly afraid of them.

large-feature-kryptonite-wallpaper

She avoids them like the plague which is why she declined an invitation to the recent Education Writers Association convention in the very town where she works, Washington D.C.

Mind you that every other secretary of education has addressed the convention (albeit not every year). It would have been an opportune time for DeVos to clarify some of her policies and positions.

But alas.

As reported on The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss,

Every U.S. education secretary has found time to address the Education Writers Association convention, and the organization was hoping that Betsy DeVos would agree to do the same thing at its 2017 convention in Washington. It’s not happening.

Caroline Hendrie, EWA executive editor, said the association invited DeVos to speak at the convention right after she was confirmed by the Senate as education secretary on Feb. 7 (which, you may remember, happened only after Mike Pence broke a tie in the Senate, becoming the first vice president in history to do so for a Cabinet nominee).

When no response was forthcoming, Hendrie said the invitation was renewed several times, but it was not until late April that a staff member at the Education Department called to decline. Why? According to Hendrie, “They couldn’t make it work for her schedule.”

The Education Department did not respond to a query about why they couldn’t make it work (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/05/12/betsy-devos-was-asked-to-address-education-reporters-at-their-annual-convention-she-said-no/?utm_term=.78cb4cf55585).

It does not take a mental stretch to know why she did not show; it is filled with reporters. Reporters ask questions.

Damn questions.

And those questions demand answers.

Strauss continues,

DeVos has not made herself easily available — or available at all — to reporters who are covering her, and the Education Department does not always respond to questions posed by education journalists. Now she is declining an opportunity to address the journalists who cover her.  Some would call that a missed opportunity.

Think of DeVos as a teacher and reporters as students. We like to think that students should be inquisitive. If DeVos is the leader of the public school system of the nation, should she not be the first to be willing to answer a question or two?

If not, then she opens herself to scrutiny. JUST LIKE A TEACHER. Imagine if the teacher refuses to answer the questions posed by a parent or guardian? An administrator? A school board member? A legislator?

But DeVos is totally ready to present herself as a speaker at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Denver summer conference this July.

According to a press release,

ALEC is pleased to announce that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be joining us for our 44th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

“Secretary DeVos has been a stalwart champion of educational choice in the states, elevating the outcry over the status quo to the highest levels of government,” said Inez Stepman, Education and Workforce Development Task Force Director.

DeVos is serving as the 11th United States Secretary of Education. She was confirmed by the Senate on February 7, 2017. Secretary DeVos has been involved in education policy for nearly three decades as an advocate for children and a voice for parents.

DeVos served as an in-school mentor for at-risk children in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Public Schools for 15 years.

Don’t miss your chance to hear Secretary DeVos speak and all of our great speakers at our annual meeting July 19-21 in Denver, Colorado.

If you don’t know what ALEC is then do some research, especially if you are in North Carolina because here in North Carolina, your General Assembly is literally enacting every policy in public education that ALEC has conceived. Think:

  • Vouchers
  • Charters
  • School choice
  • Education Savings Accounts
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.

Mercedes Schneider, a leading voice in public school activism and a wicked researcher, published a book in 2014 called A Chronicle of Echoes in which she explains the various forces that are working in the education “reform”ing movement. One chapter deals with ALEC.

It opens,

If the education reform movement were reduced to a single organization, that organization would be the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC has existed for decades and is omnipresent in reformer circles, yet this colossal engine for privatization has managed to elude exposure until 2012. Though it might seem incredulous, through its membership, ALEC is present in every chapter in this book. Make no mistake: Privatization belongs to ALEC.

ALEC was formally organized in September 1973 in Chicago, Illinois, and received its 501(c)3, “nonprofit” designation in 1977. ALEC describes itself as, “a nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty” Chapter 24).

ALEC won’t ask DeVos questions. ALEC gives DeVos direction on how to privatize a public institution.

ALEC fills DeVos’s coffers with money and resources. ALEC validates DeVos and in return she validates them.

This is akin to the teacher who refuses to answer questions pertaining to the curriculum for inquiring, intellectually thirsty students during class, but incoherently rushes straight to the bell so she does not have to interact with students beyond a cursory level.

That’s not just fear.

That’s abominable.

Dodgeball – Another Thing Betsy DeVos Is Really Bad At

In defending Donald Trump’s horrific budget proposal today for education on Capitol Hill, Betsy DeVos proved that she had not really learned anything about giving straightforward answers to deservedly pointed questions since her historic confirmation hearing.

The video below is from an exchange with Rep. Katherine Clark of Mass.

It is eye-opening.

Judge for yourself.