Grassroots activists who have been battling against federal control of education in the states say the list of staffers already working for the Trump administration’s education department looks much like a cross between what a “President” Jeb Bush would have ordered and what President Barack Obama left behind on his way out.
Indiana education activist Erin Tuttle says the nomination of Michigan school voucher supporter Betsy DeVos as department secretary and the cast of other Trump administration education staffers has turned out to be a “huge disappointment” to parent and citizen activists. These members of the Republican base voted for Donald Trump based on his promises to get the federal government out of education and back into the hands of local school districts and parents.
Writing at Truth in American Education, Tuttle notes the pleas of the grassroots who put their faith in Trump “were not heard.”
“A list of education staffers sworn in this past Friday indicates that the Department of Education (ED) will be aligned to DeVos’ agenda, not Trump’s,” she explains. “Even if DeVos is not confirmed, likeminded people will be controlling White House education policies.”
Though on the campaign trail Trump lambasted Jeb Bush for his promotion of Common Core, it turns out Bush couldn’t be more “excited” that DeVos, both a contributor to and board member of his Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), is Trump’s pick to run the federal education department.
Somewhere toward the end of Trump’s campaign, the candidate’s rhetoric changed from referring to Common Core as a “disaster,” and getting rid of the Department of Education, to school choice. And, while parents deciding their children’s education is a goal for the grassroots, DeVos’ statements about the topic indicate she is more concerned about parents choosing the actual physical location of their children’s school, but not the content of what they learn.
Tuttle writes that while DeVos is still in the midst of being confirmed as secretary, many of the new staffers already on board at the education department have connections to Bush and even Bill Gates, the philanthropist who served as the main source of private funding for Common Core – which Barack Obama supported and funded in his 2009 stimulus bill.
The grassroots are beginning to fear that Trump’s criticism of Jeb’s support for Common Core was all an act. Why wouldn’t they? Jason Botel, executive director of the Maryland education advocacy group MarylandCAN (financed by Bill Gates), also joined the Trump administration as senior White House adviser for education. Like DeVos, he has a long history of supporting Common Core. Unlike DeVos, there is video to prove it. During a forum held by the Maryland Public Policy Institute in 2014, he stated that, not only was he “excited about Common Core,” but that he would “insist on it” as a tool to compare student data from state to state.
Politico provides a list of new staffers in Trump’s education department. Acting education secretary Phil Rosenfelt says Tuttle, is “a career educrat who has worked as general counsel for the department for 40 years.”
Rosenfelt “is considered to be the legal mastermind of No Child Left Behind’s Title 1 program, Race to the Top, and the Obama waiver program which forced states into adopting Common Core,” she adds. “As Arne Duncan’s chief of staff once commented, Rosenfelt’s “fingerprints are all over education law and the federal role of education in this country.”
Also on board is Jim Manning, who worked in both the George W. Bush and Obama education departments and helped with the Trump transition team. Andrew Kossack, the former Indiana Department of Revenue commissioner and another former Jeb Bush foundation connection, is coming to work at the education department as well.
“These people are not the change agents Trump promised,” Tuttle writes. “Unless something changes, education policy under a Trump presidency isn’t going to be much different than Obama’s.”