Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is praising President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education.
Bush described DeVos, who is a major contributor to the Republican Party, as an “outstanding pick” for the cabinet position, reports The Hill.
Bush said he looked forward to DeVos’ “bold leadership.”
“I cannot think of a more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision, one in which students, rather than adults and bureaucracies, become the priority in our nation’s classrooms,” he said.
DeVos, who supports school vouchers for charter schools as a means to bring about school choice, is chairwoman of the American Federation for Children (AFC), a charter school promotion group, and is also a board member of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE). Bush and his foundation have served as champions for the Common Core standards.
Dick and Betsy DeVos are also major donors to FEE. In 2015, they donated between $50,000 and $100,000.
Bush was severely criticized by Trump during the primary for the former governor’s support for Common Core, which Trump described as a “disaster.” Trump vowed to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education to get Washington, D.C. out of education. “The last thing we need is another Bush,” Trump said in January. “He’s totally in favor of Common Core – that’s a disaster – it’s bad. It should be local and all of that.”
In announcing his nominee, Trump said, “Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate.”
“Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families,” he added.
Trump did not mention in his announcement the two things he vowed repeatedly to parents he would work to eliminate: the federally coerced program known as Common Core, and the U.S. education department.
No mention was made that DeVos shared his vision of Common Core being a “disaster” and that the days of the U.S. Education Department were now numbered.
Trump transition team spokesman Jason Miller, however, said in a statement, “The President-elect has been consistent and very clear in his opposition to Common Core. Anybody joining the Administration is signing on to the President-elect’s platform and vision for moving America forward.”
Trump’s transition team said Saturday, however, the discussion between the president-elect and DeVos when they met “was focused on the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation.”
“That’s an education establishment euphemism for Common Core,” writes The Federalist’s Joy Pullmann at Conservative Review. “National standards are what Common Core was designed to be. Pursuing them is how we got Common Core.”
Pullmann continues, explaining how the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers to bring about school choice brings about more regulation into the private and charter schools that accept them:
Setting “high standards” is the job of parents and local communities, not the U.S. education nanny. Tying “high standards” to school choice is also troubling, because this is again bureaucrat-speak for “requiring all private schools to teach Common Core using the control mechanism of tests.”
When DeVos touts “school choice,” she’s pushing an education agenda that includes requiring all the schools that take voucher money to use state-determined curriculum, like Common Core. This is how she has used her millions of dollars in the past. If she’s education secretary, we have every reason to believe it’s how she’d use even more power.
On what appears to be a new website, DeVos answers a question about whether she can “provide some straight talk” on the topic of Common Core. She responds:
Certainly. I am not a supporter—period.
I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense.
Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.
However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.
Many of you are asking about Common Core. To clarify, I am not a supporter—period. Read my full stance, here: https://t.co/qB2nAXvX0B
— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVos) November 23, 2016
Gov. Mike Huckabee and now Vice President-elect Mike Pence both got into hot water with anti-Common Core activists as well. Huckabee became known for recommending that the Common Core standards simply be “rebranded” with a different name since the reform had grown so politically “toxic.”
Gov. Pence apparently heeded Huckabee’s advice and then drew the ire of parents in his state of Indiana when he turned around and approved a “rebrand” of Common Core soon after achieving a repeal of the standards.
It’s not clear how DeVos can respond “certainly” and with a definitive “period” that she does not support Common Core when she never articulated such views against it in the past, or came to the aid of parents fighting the “boondoggle” in her state of Michigan.
Though DeVos minimizes her associations with pro-Common Core organizations, they are readily visible and most would assume if she gives considerable financial and time and talent support to a group of people, she probably believes what they believe.
As a member of the board of Jeb Bush’s national education foundation, DeVos was likely aware that the “reform agenda” of the organization she has been helping to guide includes college and career readiness; digital learning; utilizing student standardized assessment to determine teacher performance ratings; outcome-based funding; and standards and accountability – which include “high academic standards with their progress measured.” This agenda is nearly identical to that of the Common Core “reform” and is what Bush’s foundation has sought to thrust upon the nation.
And Bush has been an ardent supporter of the Core in other ways. Another of his education groups – Chiefs for Change – a bipartisan coalition of state education chiefs – consisted of some members who were also members of the PARCC Common Core test consortium – one of the two federally funded interstate groups that developed tests aligned with the Common Core standards.
A report at the Detroit News in July states that DeVos was also an at-large delegate for pro-Common Core Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Kasich – like Jeb Bush – received a grade of “F” at The Pulse 2016 for his support of the controversial standards. The Ohio governor referred to parent activists in his state fighting against the Core as a “runaway internet campaign,” just as Bush said Republicans didn’t need anti-Common Core conservatives to win the White House.
Buzzfeed also reported DeVos has “close ties to many on Capitol Hill” and “is closely aligned to Republican education officials like Sen. Lamar Alexander,” an association that is not likely to endear her to grassroots parent activists. Alexander rammed through a massive “bipartisan” bill to replace No Child Left Behind that gives the U.S. Education Secretary significant control over standards and testing. President Barack Obama took such a liking to Alexander’s legislation that he signed it immediately into law last December, praising it as a “Christmas miracle.”
Pullmann observes about DeVos’ claim she is “certainly” not a Common Core supporter:
That’s sure news to all the grassroots folks she pit her big money against during their legislative battles to reject Common Core. Grassroots folks report to me that DeVos’ husband personally called state senators in Michigan to get them to vote against a Common Core repeal bill. DeVos’ American Federation for Children also contributed huge sums of money for state school board races in Alabama on the side of Common Core supporters trying to oust Common Core opponents.
Not so brilliant when she was championing Common Core. If she's a figurehead, who will really run the show? Parents need to know. https://t.co/OwyXnot0kp
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) November 23, 2016
Michigan parent activist Karen Braun tells Breitbart News DeVos never used any of her time or wealth to assist parents in her state in their efforts to repeal Common Core. “DeVos prefers to be out of the limelight and let others like the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP) do the heavy lifting,” Braun says. “But activists and lawmakers in Michigan know her pro-Common Core position very well.”
I had a discussion with former Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin about the DeVos appointment. He and I worked closely to try and get Common Core out of Michigan. He said he had a terse conversation with her in 2013 in the heat of our efforts to repeal Common Core … she was very clear she loved Common Core and all the high-stakes testing and central planning. Her recent statement claiming to be against it is disingenuous. She never did anything to help the efforts to get rid of Common Core and did many things behind the scenes to hinder us. We have a repeal and replace bill in Michigan that GLEP opposes and have worked over lawmakers to make sure it doesn’t pass. We’ve done our homework and we know that DeVos is pro-Common Core despite any statement she puts out today.
Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education confirms, “Former Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin said to me, ‘[DeVos] and GLEP were one of the main leaders defending Common Core when I was fighting it in the legislature. In 2013 I know she was strongly supportive of Common Core and high stakes testing.”
Perhaps parent activists can take heart that DeVos has suddenly turned over a new leaf and is now against Common Core and the federal control of education it represents since her new boss says he is committed to its demise.
In that case, talk of “nationalized high standards” will need to disappear, and instead take a turn toward Trump’s plan to finally dismantle the U.S. Department of Education and return education policy to the states and local school districts where the Constitution says it belongs.