Well, this went well.
Disastrously embarrassing performance by DeVos this morning. pic.twitter.com/4ZGSpRwItK
— Jamie ?’Grady ? (@JamieOGrady) July 12, 2020
In brief, she is demanding that schools fully open at their regularly scheduled time, but she wants local school districts to come up with their own plans for how to keep children safe.
“Every school should have plans for that situation to be able to pivot and ensure that kids can continue learning, at a distance if they have to for a short period of time,” she said. What’s the plan? The plan is to have plans. It’s a plan plan.
Bash followed up: “Why do you not have guidance…just weeks before you want those schools to reopen,” she wondered, “and what happens if there’s an outbreak?”
“You know, there’s really good examples that have been utilized in the private sector and elsewhere, also with front line workers and hospitals, and all of that data and all of those examples can be referenced by school leaders,” DeVos said.
Private sector office buildings are not schools. Meat packing plants are not schools, Hospitals are not schools. Warehouses are not schools. Schools are different from those places in a lot of ways. Schools involve large numbers of children, some of them quite small, for one thing. Certainly a big city school will have different issues from a small rural school, but will the administration not even provide some baseline criteria? And what about appropriating some money for schools that need to find more space in order to keep students further apart? And what about covid-19 tests?
WALLACE: And President Trump tweeted Friday: Schools must be open in the fall. If not open, why would the federal government give funding? It won’t.
Two quick questions and I need a quick answer if I can from you, Secretary DeVos.
One, under what authority are you and the president going to unilaterally cut off funding, funding that’s been approved from Congress and most of the money goes to disadvantaged students or students with disabilities? And secondly, isn’t cutting off funding exactly the wrong answer? Don’t you want to spend more money to make schools safer, whether it’s with plastic shields or health checks, various other systems? Does it make more sense to increase funding for schools where it’s unsafe rather than cut off funding?
DEVOS: Look, American investment in education is a promise to students and their families. If schools aren’t going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn’t get the funds, and give it to the families to decide to go to a school that is going to meet that promise.
WALLACE: Well, you can’t do that.
DEVOS: It’s promise to the American people. That’s —
WALLACE: I know you support vouchers and that’s — I know you support vouchers, and that’s a — that’s a reasonable argument. But you can’t do that unilaterally, you have to do that through Congress.
DEVOS: Well, we’re looking at all the options because it’s a promise to the American people, to students and their families, and we want to make sure that promise is followed through on. …
…WALLACE: But, Secretary, I want to get — I want to get to this issue of — because the president of the United States said that the CDC guidelines were tough, expensive and impractical. I want to look at some of the other CDC guidance. They talked about putting up shielding in places where six foot — six feet of distance is not possible, plastic shielding. They talked about staggered drop-offs and pickups. Is that tough, expensive and impractical?
DEVOS: Well, again, all of the guidelines are meant to be helpful, to help local education leaders decide and work on how they are going to accomplish what they need to do, and that is getting kids back in school based on their situation and their realities. We know that schools across the country look very different and that there’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to everything. But the key is, there has to be a posture of doing something, of action, of getting things going, putting a plan together for your specific school, for your specific district or for your classroom that ensures that kids are going to start learning again this fall.
Today the Los Angeles and San Diego school districts announced they would be online only in the fall. I suspect there will be more such announcements. I also anticipate a lot of school districts opening up and then closing back down again when a child tests positive and parents decide to keep their kids home.
But DeVos, like Trump, doesn’t think rules apply to her. Last October she was held in contempt of court for trying to collect student loan debts from people defrauded by for-profit college chains, notably ITT Technical Institute, and Corinthian College, that had collapsed. An injunction had been placed on collecting the debts by a U.S. District Court Judge; DeVos tried to collect them, anyway. She argued that the students still had gotten some value from the schools even though the schools are so notorious now that credits from them are worthless.
This is an ongoing issue. Most recently, the Department of Education has been mailing out letters to people who had filed claims for debt relief. The letters say their claims were accepted but they get zero relief, because they had suffered no financial damage, even though they can’t even put their ITT credits on their resumes.
DeVos also has been using the pandemic as an excuse to funnel public school money into private and religious schools. This is from May:
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, signed in late March, included $30 billion for education institutions turned upside down by the pandemic shutdowns, about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, and the rest for state governments.
Ms. DeVos has used $180 million of those dollars to encourage states to create “microgrants” that parents of elementary and secondary school students can use to pay for educational services, including private school tuition. She has directed school districts to share millions of dollars designated for low-income students with wealthy private schools.
And she has nearly depleted the 2.5 percent of higher education funding, about $350 million, set aside for struggling colleges to bolster small colleges — many of them private, religious or on the margins of higher education — regardless of need. The Wright Graduate University for the Realization of Human Potential, a private college in Wisconsin that has a website debunking claims that it is a cult, was allocated about $495,000. All of the colleges could apply for the funds or reject them, and Wright officials said the school did not claim the funds.
This is from last week, after Trump demanded that all schools must open in the fall.
Trump then threatened that if schools don’t reopen for in-person instruction in the fall, the federal government might withhold the billions and billions of dollars it sends to primary and secondary education each year. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos later clarified that the federal government would not withhold public education funding entirely but instead convert grants to schools and districts that don’t open sufficiently into private education vouchers for families. …
… DeVos also initially pushed to tilt coronavirus relief funds away from public schools and toward private schools. In the face of widespread opposition, her department modified that proposal, though public school advocates continue to express skepticism. She also announced plans to use some of the Cares Act funding to provide “microgrants” to support home schooling families.
Also this week, DeVos has been slammed for scheduling more time for meetings with the Federalist Society about ways to protect young men from sexual assault allegations instead of addressing the looming school opening fiasco.
And there have been news stories that children taken from parents at the border have been given to a “Christian” adoption agency with ties to DeVos. With all the other crises going on, that one keeps getting lost.
Chris Koski at a Lawyers, Guns, and Money notes that DeVos is someone horrible enough to have stayed in her position the entirety of the Trump Administration — incompetent, evil, and servile. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in business economics from Calvin College in Michigan, did not go to graduate school, and has never been a teacher, so she has no qualifications whatsoever for her position. She does appear to have a deeply held animus against public schools, which of course would make her a logical choice to Trump.