Carol Burris: The Big Lie Behind Vouchers

Carol Burris analyzes Betsy DeVos’ narrative about vouchers in this post.

What she describes goes far beyond the whims of a billionaire zealot. She describes the step-by-step plans of rightwingers who have long planned to undermine the very idea of public education as a civic responsibility.

DeVos said when she spoke at Brookings a few weeks ago that she in “not a numbers person.” She is also “not a facts person.”

First, she slimed those who defend public education from privatizers as “flat earthers.” Very likely, her family foundation has supported “flat earthers,” as they have supported creationism, quack science, and anti-gay organizations.

Then, she went on to attribute the origin of the modern voucher movement to African American Democrat, Polly Williams of Milwaukee. She forgot to mention that Polly Williams came to realize that she had been used by conservative rich people, and she renounced her support for vouchers. Not a small detail.

The great lie of the voucher movement is that it is built on the spurious claim that vouchers will “save” poor black and brown children. Faced with that claim, fraudulent though it is, liberals collapse and go along with the rightwing plan. But it never ends with the neediest children. That is only the beginning.

“And that, of course, was what Williams came to understand. Vouchers for the poor were the gateway; they were never the goal. That same pattern of starting small and going big repeats itself over and over. Educational savings accounts, tax credit scholarships and the like begin with student groups that evoke public sympathy — students with disabilities, low-income kids, the children of parents in the armed forces — but the goal is vouchers for all.

“DeVos and her allies are playing the long game. Each legislative season, the selected groups expand and the caps are raised. It happened in Indiana, where DeVos spoke to the American Federation for Children, and it is happening in other voucher states, as well.

“There is no better example than Arizona. Vouchers, disguised as the Empowerment Scholarship Account program (ESAs), began 2011. The program was designed for special-needs students. Then it expanded — foster-care students, children of military families, students on reservations, or students living in districts with schools rated a “D” or an “F” were eligible, as well.”

Now we know that vouchers don’t “save poor kids from failing schools.” In recent years, evaluations of vouchers in Louisiana, Indiana, and D.C. show that poor kids who use vouchers actually lose ground.

DeVos doesn’t care about evidence or facts or numbers. She is a choice zealot, and she will exploit her role in the government to push her lifelong passion to take public education away from the communities and families who support them. She doesn’t understand why people like their public schools. She never will.

from novemoore


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