Congress and Cabinet Watch II: Betsy DeVos

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a name people are beginning to recognize from the news. President Trump appointed her to the Cabinet position overseeing the U.S. Department of Education.

DeVos is mega rich. She is an heir to the family business Amway, one of the world’s largest direct selling businesses, operating in over 100 countries.  Her father was the founder of the politically conservative organization Family Research Council, and her brother founded the military contracting company Blackwater USA (now known as XE Services) which is currently the largest military contractor hired by the United States.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), DeVos has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over decades to conservative special interests and causes, especially in Michigan, where she is from.  She is high-profile and active in corporate legislative circles, known mostly for her advocacy for privatizing public schools and colleges.

Upon hearing the name Betsy DeVos as Trump’s Education Secretary, many officials and activists knew what the new Trump/DeVos agenda would be: corporate legislative attempts to privatize schools and colleges to operate for profit and create a voucher system for students.

Trump himself had promised to “demolish the Department of Education” and be “the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.” Since her strongly opposed confirmation, Secretary DeVos has been working diligently on that agenda.

In April, DeVos abruptly halted an Obama-era rule, which took years to create and plan—a revision of the Student Loan Program. The Obama revisions strengthened student’s protection from predatory lenders and streamlined the entire process. DeVos swiftly rescinded the rules and canceled those student protections.

What people might not have foreseen, also on the Trump/DeVos agenda is to rescind the Obama administration 2011 rules that strengthened protections for college campus sexual assault victims. They required a tougher response to campus sexual assault accusations under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

In a speech DeVos gave to a group known as The Federalist Society on September 7, DeVos used cryptic, vague and even misleading language to explain how the Department of Education and the Trump administration “would rewrite the [2011] rules”.

DeVos stated that our current system is a “failed system”. She implied that the current rules were not protecting both the victim and the accused. DeVos also stated that the Obama administration had overreached when adopting its rules on the subject matter.

“Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach,” DeVos said. She also called the current hearing process for victims “kangaroo courts”.

According to reporting by Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the two largest groups helping push and finance the school privatizations for profit effort are the American Federation for Children (AFC) and K12 Inc.

CMD reported in detail about other goals on the legislative agenda of the corporate giant’s group called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). Some of the plans that would affect schools and colleges are:

Education Savings Account. CMD describes the plan as a voucher program that is all about diverting public school money to private and religious institutions to operate for profit, free from regulation.

The Great Schools Tax Credit Program Act (Scholarship Tax Credits) – The plan reportedly would give tax credits to individuals and corporations who “donate to non-profit private school tuition organizations.” Opponents say that is code for just another way to take money from public schools and give it to corporations to run schools for profit.

Crack Down on Campus Protests – This plan to crack down on campus protests is being touted under the guise of “protection of free speech.”

Considering the controversy that surrounded her confirmation to the Cabinet position (a tie-vote in the Senate that the Vice President had to break), one would expect Betsy DeVos to heed the protests and warnings against her plans for schools and colleges. No sign of that happening…yet. As with all the other radical Trump plans and dreams, the protests against them rage on.