Feb 10, 2017
ELW

DeVos Confirmed by Historically Narrow Margin

Thank you to all who contacted the U.S. Senate. Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the full U.S. Senate on February 7th by a razor-thin one vote margin of 51-50 and only after Vice-President Mike Pence was called on to break the tie for the first time in  American history.

Jeb Bush and the Establishment wing of the GOP were thrilled with her confirmation, while there was much disappointment from all points on the political spectrum, but especially by the “grassroots education activists from across the country who were looking to Trump to begin the dismantling of the federal education department,” the “constitutionalist base of the GOP,” as noted by Dr. Susan Berry at Breitbart. She reported the comments of several important experts and leaders of that group and their recommendations for now Secretary DeVos:

Jane Robbins of the American Principles Project:

DeVos should make it clear that states won’t be penalized in any way if they ditch the Common Core national standards and the aligned tests. She should minimize the federal influence on state education policies any way she can, letting states chart their own courses as they’re entitled to do under the Constitution. She should eliminate the policy of federal bribery and threats to get the states to adopt certain policies. If the federal ESSA law gets in the way of this, or of her winding down the US Department of Education, she should recommend legislative changes to reinstate local control.

Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute:

“The best things DeVos could do to demonstrate a commitment to scaling back federal involvement in education would be to issue ESSA regulations that really leave decisions up to state and local governments, and refrain from endorsing big federal school choice initiatives…The former is the right thing to do no matter what, and the latter would show that she knows that even something demonstrably good—school choice—is not something that Washington is either constitutionally permitted to advance (outside of DC itself, for military families, and on Native American reservations), nor is it wise to extend federal tentacles into truly independent schools.”

Dr. Karen Effrem, President of Education Liberty Watch and Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition:

Dr. Karen Effrem, president of the Florida-based Education Liberty Watch, tells Breitbart News parents want DeVos to fulfill Trump’s promise to stop Common Core, shrink the federal education department, and protect student data privacy.

“Parents do not want Betsy DeVos to implement the views and philosophy of Jeb Bush, who was soundly defeated because of his support of Common Core and highly regulated school choice,” Effrem asserts, and suggests that DeVos “does everything she can to work herself out of a job by shrinking the USED.”

Additionally, Effrem recommends DeVos “promptly accept any state plans as is her purview under ESSA even if they totally repeal Common Core and defer to parents about opting out of the state tests.”

“At the very least,” she continues, DeVos should also “make sure that any kind of school choice effort coming from DC to the states does not require the states to implement the Common Core/state tests on private or home schools.”

Anne Marie Banfield, parent activist and education liaison for Cornerstone in New Hampshire

“People like Bill Evers, Sandra Stotsky or Peg Luksik have been fighting against the Common Core reforms, supportive of parental rights and understand the problems with the federal overreach we’ve been fighting against,” she says. “Any one of those three would have been a huge improvement over DeVos based on her record of supporting Common Core in the past. Now we have to ‘hope’ for the best when we had the best available for this position.”

At the same time Mrs. Devos was being confirmed Freedom Caucus member and Kentucky Republican was offering a bill, HR 899, that seeks to abolish the USED. In a statement, he said:

“Neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn.”

Secretary DeVos said in her first speech at USED:

“I am here to serve – with you. I am committed to working with everyone and anyone – from every corner of the country, from every walk of life, from every background, and with those who supported my nomination and with those who did not – to protect, strengthen, and create new world-class education opportunities for America’s students.”

Let us hope this is more than rhetoric and that she will follow through on that commitment while she is serving as the last US Secretary of Education.

Feb 6, 2017
ELW

Final DeVos Vote Tuesday 2/7 – Make Your Voice Heard!

 

 

After skating by with a one vote margin in her HELP Committee confirmation vote, two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME), have announced their opposition to her confirmation. Unless another Republican joins them, the vote will be 50-50 and the tie will be broken by Vice-President Pence. Michelle MalkinSusan Berry  at Breitbart, Jane Robbins at APP, and Joy Pullman at the Federalist, there has been near silence in the media. DeVos and the Jeb Bush team being placed at USED will undermine the Trump education promises to the grassroots parents.

Please send the talking points HERE or in this document to any Senate Republicans in your own state and to any of the rest at this Senate contact information and social media directory from PatriotJournalist.com or to the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Thank you!!

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.”

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