Saturday, February 11, 2017

Irony surealism: I’m Just Wild About Betsy (sort of) - Norm in The Wave

Published Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 at

I’m Just Wild About Betsy (sort of)
By Norm Scott

While most of my colleagues rend their clothes in anguish over Betsy DeVos becoming education secretary after VP Mike Pence had to break a tie vote in the Senate, the first time in history, I am seeking out the positives, one of which is the negative reaction to DeVos of so much of the pro-charter, pro-choice movement for which on the surface, this should seem to be a slam dunk.

Pro-choice advocate Marco Petruzzi writes:

Following DeVos’ controversial congressional hearing, on the eve of the Senate’s vote to confirm her nomination, charter supporters and leaders like myself must pause and consider what it means to be an Education Reformer. A wholesale embrace of Betsy DeVos and President Trump’s pro-choice policies ­ — and whether they include vouchers, for-profit charters, and more freedom from transparency and accountability as has been hinted — poses serious threats to our movement and potentially to public education in America…..

He wants do defend public education from DeVos. The difference between us is that he views charters as public schools. I don’t since public schools are open to all and managed by a public agency accountable to elected officials. But some important elements of the charter industry are clearly nervous about DeVos and Trump.

When billionaires like Eli Broad, who helped found and support so much of the anti-teacher, anti-union rhetoric came out against DeVos I knew something interesting might end up brewing ¬ – that an aggressive move to voucher the nation and undermine the entire concept of the public school system might actually lead to the public turning away from the entire concept of a free market approach to education and return to supporting the concept of making sure every neighborhood has a quality zoned public school that has the support of the community.

In fact, to some extent that is already happening as the battle over DeVos brought a lot of people to start thinking of their own public school experience in their own neighborhood and how they were not willing to throw that away. For two Republican Senators from Alaska and Maine, both women who represent mostly rural states where there is no budget to put competing schools all over the place, voted against DeVos, that was ground-breaking as a few others on the fence were besieged by calls and emails from around the nation. Anytime DeVos does something dumb they will be reminded. For a change the Democrats hung together, many of them in fear of their own base rising up in a left version of the tea party. There were actually hundreds of people marching to Chuck Shumer’s house to protest his voting for some of the cabinet appointments.

What I think is happening is that the charter industry is trying to continue to brand itself as part of the public schools and get the benefits of their sudden popularity. Our job is to point out that putting competing schools across the street from each, with the charter having enormous outside resources for ads and recruitment while the public schools had to use every resource internally, is an existential attack on public schools.

What is interesting about DeVos is that she doesn’t care about school quality or even spending much time or money monitoring schools. She cares more about profit than performance. Her attitude is “It is not our job to tell parents their school sucks. Let the market decide. If parents don’t like the school, they can vote with their feet. We will offer them some money towards a private school.” I know this may make sense to some but wherever it has been tried it hasn’t worked. DeVos’ own state of Michigan where her family has enormous influence is a disaster area for education.

Petruzzi expresses his fears:
There is real danger in conflating the idea of choice and quality. What makes charter schools successful isn’t a free market approach of unregulated education…. a dramatic acceleration of charter growth is likely to lead to a decrease in quality…. Any effort to grow charters by deregulating the sector would spell long-term doom…

From his mouth to you know who’s ears.

Are we entering a zone of surrealism where Trump/DeVos ed policy in some weird ways end up dovetailing with the anti-testing movement? We do seem to have some right/left alignment on the interference of the feds that we saw from the Bush and Obama administrations. There is a lot of irony in that it has always been the Democrats and the left that wanted the feds involved to address racism and segregation and other ills perpetrated by some states. Having seen the abuse by the feds, now the left is advocating for more state controls. NY State and Massachusetts and California – Hillary territory -- have generally had the higher performing schools and the past 16 years of both Dems and Rep have been disruptive.

The south and rural areas --- Trump support ---- have always suffered. Think having teacher unions have anything to do with that? But even that may not last much longer as the Trump admin aims its arrows at unions, especially teacher unions. The outcome for all will not be good but things weren’t going too well anyway.

At least the beast is rising.

Norm feeds the beast at


  1. Predicted this months ago're late for the party.

  2. Outstanding analysis!

    Abigail Shure


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.