Y’all remember when I made an appeal to the distinguished gentleman from the great state of Tennessee, Sen. Alexander? Here’s the very canned response:
January 30, 2017
Ms. Alvesia Wilson-Hawkins
Hermitage, TN 37076-1370
Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and letting me know what’s on your mind regarding President Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos to become the next Secretary of Education.
Betsy DeVos is an excellent choice. The Senate’s education committee will move swiftly in January to consider her nomination. Betsy has worked for years to improve educational opportunities for all children. As Secretary, she will be able to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new law fixing No Child Left Behind, just as Congress wrote it, reversing the trend to a national school board and restoring to states, governors, school boards, teachers, and parents greater responsibility for improving education in their local communities. Under the new law, the federal government may not mandate or incentivize states to adopt any particular standards, including Common Core.
I also look forward to working with her on the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, giving us an opportunity to clear out the jungle of red tape that makes it more difficult for students to obtain financial aid and for administrators to manage America’s 6,000 colleges and universities.
Improving our schools has been one of my top priorities in public service, both as a U.S. Senator and during my earlier service as governor, president of the University of Tennessee, and U.S. Secretary of Education. Better schools mean better jobs, which is why I have worked to support states and school districts in improving education so that our students have the tools they need for success.
We are unleashing a new era of innovation and excellence in student achievement—one that recognizes that the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability is classroom by classroom, community by community, and state by state—and not through Washington, D.C. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know where you stand. I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind as this issue is discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.
So here’s how I see it, DeVos is happening whether we like it or not. Which means now more than ever we must stay vigilant in the educational environment we currently find ourselves. No Child Left Behind has been – ahem – left behind and is now the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA is the product of a colossal bi-partisanship effort that can be boiled down to three words – increased state authority. Scary.
Think of it like this, if someone like Betsy DeVos becomes the queen of education and you’re in a state that champions her ideology (and as in TN’s case serves as the power to the throne) against the backdrop of increased state control, we have ourselves a very real game of royal cat and mouse.
While the cat’s off ensuring photo opportunities have the perfect balance of children of color and poverty, the mice will be busy distributing vouchers to their deep-pocketed peers and holding the door open for money-hungry for-profits. We cannot stand for it.
Sen. Alexander states in his letter:
“…real accountability is classroom by classroom, community by community, and state by state—and not through Washington, D.C.”.
The president’s nomination of DeVos coupled with the good senator’s fervent push for her confirmation is in stark contrast to the statement above. DeVos is far from being the poster child for accountability and without robust oversight, we lose.