Betsy DeVos: 'Government Sucks' And 'We Don’t Fire Teachers Enough'

Betsy DeVos: 'Government Sucks' And 'We Don’t Fire Teachers Enough'
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<p>US Ed Sec Nominee Betsy DeVos</p>

US Ed Sec Nominee Betsy DeVos

Huffington Post

In March 2015, U.S. secretary of education nominee gave this 9-page speech entitled, “Competition, Creativity and Choice in the Classroom,” at the SxSW conference in Texas.

Some excerpts:

As a kid I grew up middle class, but my father was a great innovator with an entrepreneurial spirit, and it wasn’t long before my family became part of the infamous 1%. ...
So, I am not only a Republican, even worse, I’m a well off Republican. …
I won’t waste your time with lofty rhetoric. I’ll be blunt....
Let’s start by being brutally honest about the status of K-12 education in America today. …
Inconvenient Truth # 4. Government really sucks. And it doesn’t matter which party is in power. Having been around politics and government my entire adult life, I have five observations about government for you:
Government tends to believe in top down solutions and government fears of bottom up solutions.
Government tends to stifle innovation and it abhors improvisation. Any good military strategist will tell you that a battle plan rarely survives past the first engagement. After that, you have to improvise to survive and to win.
Government tends to favor one size fits all solutions handed down from central command.
Government likes committees…a lot. Committees kill all the really good ideas and generally all the really bad ideas. They produce middle ground mush.
Government prefers control and tightly-defined systems. It fears entrepreneurs, open systems, and crowd sourcing. All of which they find threatening.
Inconvenient Truth #5 — We don’t pay teachers enough, and we don’t fire teachers enough.
In that one sentence, I have raised the ire of both the Republican and Democrat political establishments.
The Republicans don’t want to pay our best teachers enough, and the Democrats don’t want to reform tenure laws. It’s another partisan standoff.
But I am willing to bet that every one of you had one or more teachers who made a big difference in your life, who opened your eyes to possibilities and to opportunities. You probably recall them in your mind’s eye right now.
And likewise, I am pretty sure that every one of you had one or more teachers who should not have been teaching. That doesn’t mean they were bad people, or maybe they were, but regardless, they weren’t any good at teaching. You are probably thinking of those teachers right now.
And by the way, teaching is hard. It takes a lot of skill. Not everyone who tries can do it well. We need to admit that and act accordingly.
We should reward and respect great teachers by paying them more, and we should stop rewarding seniority over effectiveness.

DeVos is in line to be fed-ed “government in education.” Furthermore, she has spent much of her adult life manipulating government via her “infamous 1%” perch; she has contributed to 10 out of 12 Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee— who will decide upon her US ed secretary nomination.

As for her wanting to “act accordingly” to “fire” more teachers: Ed reform test-and-punish is unable to distinguish between the teachers individuals might deem to b best and worst. Test-and-punish fires teachers, that is true; however, the testing farce encourages system gaming, and the good gamers are not necessarily good teachers.

Notice also that DeVos assumes that her entire audience has had good and bad teachers– whether in public or private school. Private school educated all the way, DeVos herself has stated that she was “bored” throughout high school.

Surely not every teacher DeVos had in her private high school was failing her. Should they all have been fired for letting her down?

Was Betsy DeVos’ high school education only the responsibility of her private school teachers? Of course not. Is it possible that those teachers were good despite her boredom, and is it also possible that not all private school teachers are good simply because they are private school teachers? Of course.

But I doubt that there was any “infamous 1%” crusade to fire those private school teachers.

DeVos has zero firsthand experience regarding what it takes to teach– and no clue what it takes to teach whoever walks through the door.

Private schools might allow “whoever” to enroll, but they reserve the right to kick “whoever” to the educational curb if educating “whoever” becomes inconvenient.

It is a given that many among the public will be inconvenient to educate. They wouldn’t last under a private school voucher system. They would be dismissed– and they would need a public school to take them in.

That is reality if America is to continue supporting compulsory education.

As for not “rewarding seniority over effectiveness”: If by “effectiveness,” DeVos means high test scores (which she apparently does based upon her previous points– read for yourself), then I would have lost my job years ago, not because I am not a skilled teacher (and largely a product of my years in the classroom), but because I don’t game the test score system.

I am not in the “infamous 1%.” Far from it. And I am tired of people of privilege like DeVos believing that her view from the soft seats means that she understands American public ed.

DeVos needs to write 9 pages about how “hard” it is to teach and how much “skill” it takes. But to do so, she would actually need to have the firsthand experience of a classroom teacher– a traditional public school teacher.

All DeVos knows is life by a billionaire’s checkbook, and she is in line for US ed secretary.

Another clueless, ed reform-wielding, anti-public-school, US ed sec.

Now that sucks.


Longer version originally posted 01-14-17 at


Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

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