Browsing articles in "Federal Education"
Jan 29, 2017
ELW

Senate Committee Vote 1/31 – The Betsy DeVos Record on Pro-Islamic Curriculum, Common Core, Data Mining & Marriage

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

The US Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee is voting Tuesday, January 31st at 10 AM on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. Members and contact information for the committee members is at http://www.help.senate.gov/about/members  and information for the full Senate is at: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/ or at the Senate Switchboard 202-224-3121. Please make the HELP Committee and your own senator aware of this concerning information and urge a NO vote!

Here is new information about the DeVos record along with summarized information on Common Core and data mining.

[A PDF version of this information is available at http://bit.ly/2jDvtcp]

DeVos Support of Pro-Islamic Curriculum

This screenshot shows that the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation funded curriculum used in many states, including Florida, promoting global citizenship and favorably comparing Islam and the Arabian culture with America when the Sharia law of Islam is not at all compatible with the US Constitution or our free society. http://teachmideast.org/about/featured-partnerships/

More specifics of this above curriculum are available at: https://www.nextlesson.org/project_details/bridges-at-school-a-snapshot-of-the-arab-world/42e154d251f1f0a990862ceb5e75156216474d28434d0161f01b17b6

Lessons Plans and Activities -There are eleven (11) Classroom Lesson Activities for the teacher to use. These activities are:

Arab Literature: Poetry Paired Texts — Pairing two poetry texts, one Arabic and one non-Arabic, students will analyze points of similarity, difference, and meaning, in particular looking at issues of family, love, and friendship. The students will write short essays on these two texts. Arab Literature: Values-Based Paired Texts — Pairing two values-based texts, one Arabic and one non-Arabic, students will study the topics of service and charity in both Arab and Western cultures. This will examine the values affinity between Arabs and Americans in particular and will compare texts about charity from the Quran and the Bible. 

Common Core – Betsy DeVos’ first statement against Common Core was the day she was appointed. She never worked with and frequently opposed Stop Common Core in Michigan, the grassroots parent organization. All of the organizations she has founded, funded, chaired or on the boards of which she served have been strong supporters of Common Core. Michigan Republican legislators knew to not to oppose Common Core because they could expect a primary challenge by DeVos-funded groups. The charter, voucher, and Title I portability programs she supports most, all require the state Common Core tests. For details, see:

National Parent Coalition Letter with Questions for Betsy DeVos on Common Core and School Choice: http://edlibertywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Letter-to-Senate-with-Questions-for-DeVos-online-version.pdf

 The Philanthropy Roundtable that she chaired put out a report strongly in favor of massive data mining of students

The Philanthropy Roundtable, which you chaired, published a report called Blended Learning: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching that lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour” (p.33 of pdf) and does not contain a single use of the words “privacy,” “transparency” [as in who receives that data and how it is used to make life-changing decision for children], or “consent.” Will you continue to promote the corporate data-mining efforts of enterprises such as Dream Box and Knewton, whose CEO bragged about collecting “5-10 million data points per user per day,” described in your organization’s report? [From  question letter to the Senate with questions for DeVos cited just above]

Despite being attacked by the LGBT movement, Betsy DeVos imposed transgender bathroom access to a biological male over the objections of her employees while chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, which brings into question whether she will try to continue to enforce the dangerous Obama Title IX guidance. If she did not protect the privacy and safety of her employees, what will happen to the privacy and safety, not to mention the free speech and religious rights of America’s school children? There is already a lawsuit in Minnesota brought by parents whose daughters were subject to sexually harassing behavior by a male to female transgender in a girl’s locker room allowed because of this guidance. Schools are denying parental rights due to this guidance:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/28/us/politics/betsy-devos-gay-transgender-rights.html?_r=1 

Ms. DeVos’s personal experience with the debate over gender identity and bathrooms dates back decades. As chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, she came to the aid of a transgender woman who wanted to use the women’s restroom at a call center, upsetting some of the other women there, according to two associates at the time — Mr. McNeilly, who was the party’s political director, and Eric Doster, the general counsel.

“We made the accommodation, and that was Betsy’s call,” said Mr. Doster, who did not recall the woman’s name but said this happened in an office near the Michigan State University campus in 1997 or 1998. “A lot of the co-workers weren’t happy with it. But that’s who Betsy is.” 

In addition, she worked against a marriage protection ballot initiative also while chairing the Michigan GOP:

Prominent gay Republican said DeVos stood up for him

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/12/03/prominent-gay-republican-said-devos-stood/94866284/

“At the time DeVos, who was Republican Party’s chairwoman and policy makers of the party, decided to oppose adding the marriage amendment to the ballot.”

Jan 22, 2017
ELW

Breitbart Covers Vote Delay & ELW Report of DeVos Hearing

Dr. Susan Berry of Breitbart News covered several major policy analysts’ and activists’ comments on the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing as she also announced that the final U.S. Senate HELP Committee vote was delayed until January 31st due to significant concerns with one of DeVos’ many complicated financial holdings:

The Office of Government Ethics released its report for DeVos after her hearing last Tuesday. One of the concerns reported by the NYT [New York Times] is that while DeVos said she had stepped down from the board of Neurocore, a Michigan company that operates biofeedback “brain performance centers” that offer alternative treatment for children and adults with diagnoses of attention deficit disorder and autism, she says she will still keep her financial interest in the company, valued at between $5 million to $25 million…

…“This is not an appropriate investment for the secretary of education,” Richard W. Painter, an ethics adviser to former President George W. Bush, reportedly told the NYT

Here are some quotes from Dr. Effrem that parallel our report on the hearing:

Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Florida-based Education Liberty Watch, observes to Breitbart News there was only one mention of the Common Core standards during DeVos’ hearing, during a question posed by Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, who asked DeVos if she intended to coerce Common Core in the states. The nominee answered, “No.”

While pleased with DeVos’ answer to that single question, Effrem explains why it is not enough for the thousands of grassroots parents and other citizens who have been battling against the Common Core in their individual states:

As stated in numerous writings by many anti-Common Core experts and activists, the foundation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) mandates the Common Core by imposing secretarial veto of state plans and requiring states’ compliance with eleven different federal laws all mandating statewide standards and tests that are Common Core even if not labeled such.

Effrem continued that while DeVos said she would not support a federal school choice law, that response is in conflict to her other answers regarding “accountability.”

Those answers “combined with her record of support for very regulated voucher plans in Indiana and Louisiana that require administration of the state (Common Core) tests … is extremely concerning for the autonomy and viability of private schools,” she adds.

Effrem says if DeVos is confirmed, she and her organization will closely monitor how she implements ESSA; the ease with which she grants waivers for “state plans that seek to truly eliminate Common Core” and its associated tests; and the degree to which she resists implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL) accountability schemes.

“The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was gutted by regulatory fiat during the Obama administration,” Effrem notes. “At the very least, those privacy protections must be restored and preferably expanded to deal with all of the online data mining that is happening with technology-based education. Privacy was mentioned by Mr. Trump and was one of our questions.”

Karen Braun of Stop Common Core in Michigan was quoted also:

She notes that DeVos seems most concerned about parents’ choice of the “learning environment” for their children, while the content of what is learned cannot be chosen. She continues:

In her opening remarks DeVos made it clear what she believes:

[DeVos said then,] “Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children? I am a firm believer in parents choosing the learning environment that’s best for their individual children.”

Choosing the learning environment is NOT true choice. For example, parents in a DeVos charter school in Grand Rapids wanted Common Core OUT of their school. The administration said it wasn’t going to happen because “what the state and Mr. DeVos want they are going to get.”

Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project summed up the major issue with the DeVos hearing quite well when she said:

“I would have hoped to hear Mrs. DeVos say, in response to almost every question she was asked about education policy, ‘That’s none of my business — it’s a state and local issue,’” … “She gave the occasional nod to local control but didn’t make it clear that under her guidance, the federal education establishment will be dismantled. That’s disappointing.”

Jan 22, 2017
ELW

DeVos Confirmation Vote Delayed Until January 31st!

According to Politico, the final Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee vote for Betsy DeVos to serve as President Trump’s Secretary of Education has been delayed to from January 24th to January 31st.

The delay comes as Democrats have argued that they haven’t had enough time to examine DeVos’ complicated financial holdings or ask her questions. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, has said she’s concerned that the committee was moving too fast with DeVos’ nomination.

 

Jan 20, 2017
ELW

Review of the DeVos Confirmation Hearing

Karen R. Effrem, MD – President

Betsy DeVos at her 1/17/17 Confirmation Hearing

I strongly agree with Shane Vander Hart at Caffeinated Thoughts that Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Education was not terribly informative. Aside from a brief mention of Common Core by Senator Cassidy (R-LA) where she said she wouldn’t mandate it from the secretarial level and her answer to a question from Senator Alexander (R-TN, chairman of the HELP Committee holding the hearing) that she wouldn’t implement school choice from the federal level, none of the major concerns in our national parent coalition letter about Common Core, privacy, and school choice were asked or answered.

Here is a brief discussion of several issues that did come up and those that should be closely monitored during her control of the U.S. Department of Education:

Common Core – Mrs. DeVos answered Senator Cassidy’s brief yes or no question, that she would not continue Common Core from the federal level. it is interesting that she said in her prepared opening statement:

And every teacher in America dreams of breaking free from standardization, so that they can deploy their unique creativity and innovate with their students.

If she wants teachers to “break free from standardization” how is it that she has supported national standards and standardized tests that require “standardized” teaching for so long?

However, as stated in numerous writings by many anti-Common Core experts and activists, the foundation of the Every Student Succeeds Act mandates the Common Core by imposing secretarial veto of state plans and requiring states’ compliance with eleven different federal laws all mandating statewide standards and tests that are Common Core even if not labeled such. How she implements ESSA will be critical.

Federal School Choice – While it was somewhat reassuring that she said that she would not support a federal school choice law,  her answers about wanting accountability combined with her record of support for very regulated voucher plans in Indiana and Louisiana that require administration of the state (Common Core) tests along with that strong push by her allies John Engler of the Business Round Table and Michael Petrilli of Fordham as well as most of the Democrats is extremely concerning for the autonomy and viability of private schools. Education freedom groups across the nation, including Education Liberty Watch, Eagle Forum and the Cato Institute are all very concerned.

Implementation of ESSA

  • We hope that she is extremely liberal with waivers for state plans that seek to truly eliminate Common Core and the associated federally mandated state tests in favor of various state options or changes the regulations altogether. This is the best way in our view that Donald Trump can keep his promise to get rid of Common Core.
  • It is also critical that she not favor or implement any kind of social emotional/21st Century skills standards or assessment programs in ESSA or its accountability scheme. This was one of our questions and is also an issue in the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) and the subject of a national commission.

Data Privacy – This topic did not come up during the hearing. Betsy DeVos  chaired the Philanthropy Roundtable, which published a report called Blended Learning: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Tech-assisted Teaching that lauds the Dream Box software that “records 50,000 data points per student per hour”

  • Senator Hatch seemed to be promoting the lifting of the prohibition on the student unit record system which would then allow data mining and a federal dossier on students from cradle to career. This was one of our questions and this idea must be firmly resisted.
  • The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was gutted by regulatory fiat during the Obama administration. At the very least, those privacy protections must be restored and preferably expanded to deal with all of the online data mining that is happening with technology-based education. Privacy was mentioned by Mr. Trump and was one of our questions not addressed during the hearings. It would be a huge improvement even to return to the previous regulations.

Preschool – Senator Isakson (R-GA) made the following very alarming statement during the hearing (1:02:55):

“She [Senator Murray] talked about her goal and my goal which we’ve shared with each other, that is to work toward requiring 4 year old prekindergarten for every student in the country…” (Emphasis added).

Thankfully DeVos demurred with her standard, “If confirmed, I look forward to working with you on…” statement. However, given how ineffective, harmful, invasive and expensive these programs are, including in Georgia, expanding preschool like this would be a “disaster” of Trumpian proportions.

GLBT issues – This was a key issue pushed by the Democrats and while we agree with her that no student deserves discrimination or harassment, we would have felt much better if she had also said that she also cared about protecting the First Amendment free speech, freedom of assembly and religious rights of all students and families. It will be important to see how she deals with the Title IX guidance.

Guns in Schools –  Her response on guns in schools satisfied no one. While right that it is a states’ issue, the “grizzly bear” response was quite ineffective. Far more satisfying would have been a mention that almost all school shooters have been on psychotropic medications at the time of their crimes, including Knewtown, Connecticut, the home state of Senator Murphy (D). These drugs have the well-known side effect of violent, murderous reactions in certain individuals and that guns in the hands of responsible concealed permit holders would likely reduce the carnage in these incidents as it did in Pearl, Mississippi and other mass shootings.

What’s Next – Betsy DeVos was required to have her letter from the government ethics agency documenting that she would serve with no financial conflicts of interest by the end of today as President-elect Trump takes the oath of office in order to have her committee confirmation vote on January 24th. We will see if that happens and what comes next. Please consider contacting the Senate HELP Committee members and your own senators with the concerns we have listed.

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