4 Reasons to Oppose Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education

Jan 13, 2017 by

 

by Brian Washington

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Tell Your Senators: Vote NO on Betsy DeVos for Ed Secretary (Remember to use private contact information and email addresses NOT school district, state or government issued email) Tell your KS Senator to VOTE NO on Betsy Devos

Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, will get a hearing before senators this week (Wednesday, January 17th).

Let’s take a closer look at this surprising pick—a lobbyist and political donor with no education experience. DeVos has never served as a teacher, a school administrator, or a school board member.

DeVos’ track record of using millions of her own money to support for-profit charters and private-school voucher programs that divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools signals to parents and educators that they need to be on guard.

DeVos has been described as a “four-star general in the privatization movement.” Below are four reasons why.

1. DeVos has spent millions to promote school vouchers

DeVos and her husband, a member of the family that made its fortune selling Amway products, contributed millions of dollars to voucher campaigns across the country. In 2000, in their home state of Michigan, they spent $5 million on an unsuccessful bid to remove the state’s constitutional ban on vouchers. Sixty-eight percent of voters rejected the DeVos’ voucher scheme.

2. DeVos designed Detroit’s failed charter-school system

DeVos has been described as “one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system”—a system that even pro-charter forces describe as “one of the biggest school reform disasters in the country.” Charter schools are privately managed, taxpayer-funded schools exempted from some rules applicable to all other taxpayer-funded schools.

The unchecked growth of Detroit’s charters has outpaced the student population and is failing the city’s kids, who are among the poorest in the nation. According to a recent report, 8 in 10 charters had academic achievement below the state average in both reading and math.

The city’s glut of charters has also created a situation where the competition to recruit students—and the public dollars that follow them—is extremely intense. Charter companies have resorted to offering cash bonuses, laptops, and iPads to families to get students to enroll. Educators say the competition and the limited amount of resources available have created an environment where very few students can thrive.

3. DeVos supported legislation allowing failing charters to expand

In 2011, the DeVos family successfully lobbied to lift Detroit’s cap on charter schools and managed to kill off a provision that would have prevented failing charters from expanding. After the cap was lifted, several charter companies opened up new schools even though they already operated schools deemed to be failing.

4. DeVos opposes oversight for charters

In 2016, the Great Lakes Education Project, which is founded and funded by the DeVos family, was described as being instrumental in getting state politicians to kill a plan to create a citywide commission in Detroit to regulate the opening and closing of charter schools. City leaders said the commission would have provided oversight, set standards on how to open charters and close the bad ones.

TAKE ACTION: 

Contact your U.S. Senators and tell them to reject the DeVos nomination. Tell lawmakers that educators believe all students have the right to a public education that helps them reach their full potential, and their opportunity to succeed should not depend on winning a charter-school lottery, getting into a private school, or living in the right zip code. Our kids deserve the best America has to offer—including an education secretary who understands that all students deserve a quality public education.

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The Art of Denial – Governor Brownback Delivers State of the State

Jan 11, 2017 by

Article Highlights- Click the Arrow to the Right

  • Governor gives State of the State address and promises that KS is “leading the planet” by many measures of success.
  • Governor promises to hold to his failed tax reform policies.
  • Governor’s education policies outline a litany “reforms” that have failed elsewhere promising they will work in KS: merit pay, uncertified teachers, and more tax credits and vouchers for unaccountable private and for-profit schools.
  • Article includes links to full text of Governor’s address along with response by Senator Anthony Hensley.
  • Governor’s budget as outlined by Budget Director Shawn Sullivan includes more of the same, robbing from highway funds, sell-off of Children’s Initiative Fund, and sin taxes.
Brownback State of the State

Brownback State of the State- McClatchy

 

Where to begin…

Governor Sam Brownback gave his annual State-of-the-State address last night and what a work of art that was.

He started off by reminding all of us of how great things are in Kansas now that his 2012 tax plan has taken full effect. He says we have created thousands of jobs, quality of life is better than ever, and, well, the sun is shining in Kansas. It’s the mantra he and his staff and allies have been chanting repeatedly as revenue estimates continue to collapse and every state service is decimated by budget cuts or highway robbery.

This sunshine, he says, is why the legislature must not back off one bit on his tax plans. Not even on the patently unfair and irresponsible elimination of all income taxes on more than 330,000 businesses in Kansas. No, he told us, those tax breaks are creating jobs; jobs that only he apparently can see.

Next, he launched into his great joy at the election of Donald Trump and his delight at the strong possibility of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). It’s going away, he proclaimed, and so this is the wrong time to expand Medicaid. Yes, Governor Brownback continues to refuse to take millions of dollars offered by the federal government – dollars that Kansans are sending to the federal government in taxes – and provide a modicum of health care security for the working poor of our state.

He had plenty to say about education too.

Just as he proposed in 2012 that Kansas adopt Arthur Laffer’s discredited trickle down economic tax theory, he now has a set of discredited education “reforms” he wants the legislature to enact.

In this odd Brownback world, ideas that have been tried repeatedly elsewhere and found to be failures, are sure to work if implemented in Kansas. Trickle down economics for example. Now he wants to try school grading systems, merit pay, untrained teachers in rural schools, and more money to unaccountable private schools. The thing we really need people to understand is that Kansas schools have been great precisely because Kansas has REFUSED to adopt these failed “reforms.”

Well, Governor Brownback has had his chance. He has had six years to enact good policy. In that time he has gutted the state budget, decimated state services, robbed our highways of needed funds, and boosted our sales tax such that Kansans pay the second highest food sales tax in the nation. He eliminated a constitutional, effective school finance system for a block grant system that harmed every district budget. But now he says he wants to lead on education.

Too late, Governor Brownback. The people of Kansas have seen what his policies have accomplished and they want no more of them. That’s why they tossed so many of his allies out of the legislature in August and November. It’s time for Brownback to step aside and leave the work to the new legislature; the legislature that was elected specifically to reverse the damage Brownback has done.

Read the full text of Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address by CLICKING HERE.

Senator Anthony Hensley’s Response to Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address follows:

Budget Director Briefs Committees on Brownback’s Budget

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan appeared before several committees today to share the details of the Governor’s budget proposal.

In a nutshell: more of the same.

The proposal shifts money around, raises a tiny bit of new revenue, steals more out of the highway fund, and proposes selling off future tobacco settlement payments for some short term cash.

It also appears the Governor would like to make a 4th attempt to securitize the Children’s Initiative Fund.  Read Kansas Action for Children’s response to this latest attack on our youngest Kansans by CLICKING HERE.

He raises something less than $200 million in 2018 and 2019 by

  • Taxing passive income such as rents and royalties,
  • Freezing the bottom income tax bracket at 2.7% (scheduled to drop to 2.6%),
  • Increasing a business filing fee from $40 to $200,
  • Increasing the cigarette tax by $1.00,
  • Increasing the tobacco products tax from 10% to 20%, and
  • Increasing the liquor enforcement tax from 8% to 16%.

The most surprising part of his education budget proposals is to save money by consolidating all school districts into one state-wide health insurance plan. He says this was a recommendation from the Alvarez and Marsal Efficiency Study from last year. It was, but A&M was clear that this should not be done until there was a thorough examination of the implications for districts and employees.

There is a study being conducted, as we speak, by the Division of the Legislative Post Audit to do just that. That study is due in March. It seems the Governor is jumping the gun on this one!

None of these proposals are done deals. The presentation has not been met with particular enthusiasm in a legislature tired of budget gimmicks and focused on how to solve the long term mess brought about by the Governor’s tax policy.

We’ll keep you posted on how all of this proceeds. It will all take some time.

K-12 Budget Committee Hears from Dale Dennis

Guru Emeritus of School Finance, Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis briefed the K-12 Education Budget Committee on the reality of school funding in Kansas – past history and present experience.

True to his word in convening his committee, Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) is providing the best resources to educate his committee members on the challenge of school finance before launching into the design of our next system.

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