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Education Secretary Betsy Devos
Goes To Harvard
Where things were not exactly warm and fuzzy for the Trump appointee

September 30, 2017

Top photo: Betsy Devos speaking at Harvard on Thursday. Bottom: one of the student protest signs written on a sheet and unfolded so Davos could see it from the podium. Photos: YouTube. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Chronicle staff

(CAMBRIDGE, MA.) -- America's billionaire Education Secretary Betsy Devos went to Harvard this week to pitch the Trump administration's promotion of for-profit schools.

It didn't go well for Devos, a woman who was hired for the job by President Trump lacking any upper or lower executive level management experience in America's public school system.

Ms. Devos and all her children attended only private schools.

One might have thought that speaking before the privileged sons and daughters of America's upper crust - many coming from extremely wealthy families - that the Devos pitch to privatize education would have been well received.

Instead, Devos stood and talked to an eerily silent crowd that employed that silence as a protest tool. Some in the audience also held up signs written on sheets. One of them read "White Supremacist" and another read, "Our students are not 4 sale."

According to a report in the Harvard Crimson, Devos's appearance at the Harvard Kennedy School Thursday "Met vocal protest from hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside—and silent disapproval from students indoors, many of them hoisting banners made from bedsheets."

Devos went to the historic campus to talk with students and invited guests in a forum titled, “A conversation on empowering parents” hosted by the school's Institute of Politics.

During the hour-long event Devos gave a brief talk and answered some questions from the roughly 100 attendees, most of them Harvard students.

But according to the Crimson report, "She faced repeated interruptions. With shouts from the hundreds-strong crowd outside—“Education is a right, not just for the rich and white!”—echoing in the brightly lit John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, protesters in the audience periodically stood and silently unveiled large posters."

The report says Devos "fought to keep the attention of the room."

Devos spoke for about 20 minutes promoting "school choice," a movement she and President Trump favor. It seeks to come up with alternatives to public schools.

The Devos record in Michigan

A December 2016 report in the Washington Post describes Devos as, "A former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan and chair of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children...she has been a shining light to members of the movement to privatize public education by working to create programs and pass laws that require the use of public funds to pay for private school tuition in the form of vouchers and similar programs. She has also been a force behind the spread of charter schools in Michigan, most of which have recorded student test scores in reading and math below the state average."

The same report notes that "public education advocates say that they fear she will help propel America’s public education system toward destruction."

Also contained in the Post report is a reprint of a story written by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press which has written a number of articles about DeVos’s "education record" in Michigan.

Henderson's first few paragraphs read:

"In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation’s largest urban network of charter schools.

What remains in short supply is quality.

In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.

On the west side, another charter school, Hope Academy, has been serving the community around Grand River and Livernois for 20 years. Its test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades; in 2013 the school ranked in the first percentile, the absolute bottom for academic performance. Two years later, its charter was renewed."

It's a fascinating read on the world of American education as envisioned by millionaires and billionaires, the one per centers in the country who perhaps, like Devos, have never attended a public school in their lives. You'll find both the Post report and Henderson's piece here .

STORY TAGS: Education Secretary Betsy Devos, privatize public education, charter schools, Harvard, Washington Post



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