The Betsy DeVos Message

Vice President Mike Pense cast the tie breaking confirmation vote clearing the way for billionaire Betsy DeVos to become Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education. Did the first time in history tie breaking vote by the Vice President send a message? And if so, what was it?

Without a doubt Vice President Pence’s vote signal that the greater Republican team won the Presidency and Congressional control and the new sheriff is going to have his way.

What else could the Vice President’s action signaled?

Any previous nominee who had engendered so much criticism and faced the prospect of not even receiving unanimous Senate republican support would have withdrawn their name to minimize the embarrassment to her party. But not Betsy DeVos.

Ms DeVos is an extremely wealthy evangelical zealot. Not only does she hold religious views, she is wealthy enough to force them on others by the strength of her wallet. DeVos’ career has coupled frequent generous donations to politicians and a well financed advocacy for charter schools and education vouchers. DeVos, herself, is not an educator. She is a advocate.

So what is wrong with an advocate having a turn as Education Secretary? Aren’t the real controls of public schools held by the States and local school districts?

The Secretary of Education has very little statutory authority. The position’s power lies in recommendations and promises (or denial) of Federal dollars to induce States and School Districts to follow her recommendations. Simply being an advocate is not IMO a good enough reason to deny Ms DeVos the cabinet post. Being a religious zealot is, unless there is some way Ms DeVos could and would recuse herself on education matters involving religion.

That’s not going to happen, largely because that was the main purpose of nominating DeVos in the first place… a polite thank you to evangelicals and conservative Catholics.

So again, what was the DeVos confirmation message?

How’s this for the message. “The Republican Party is prepared to support legislation which advantages certain distinct groups of supporters regardless of the impact upon everyone else”.

Remember that message and watch what will emerge as the “replace” component of “repeal and replace”. You can go the bank right now that Republican healthcare legislation will cover fewer Americans, provide less coverage, and offer the wealthiest significant tax savings.

Unlike healthcare, Federal Education Policy is far less likely to produce profoundly adverse impact upon American students’ educational experience in the next four years. States and local districts play too significant a role and Federal money which might sway local districts is still small compared to districts’ total budget.

The Trump/DeVoss Education Policy will attempt to reward supporters, be neutral to most Americans, and not surprisingly, ignore the needs of the most vulnerable. Remember that when one third of the Senators come up for election in 2018.

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