ALEC Chooses to Omit US Ed Sec Betsy DeVos from Its 2017 Conference Speaker Listing

By Mercedes Schneider | From Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog | 2017 | Follow Mercedes Schneider @deutsch29blog | Photo credit: Gage Skidmore | Syndication made possible through Patreon.

By Mercedes Schneider

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding its 44th Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, from July 19-21, 2017.

US Ed Sec Betsy DeVos is supposed to speak at ALEC on Thursday. However, ALEC has chosen to exclude her from its listing of conference speaker profiles.

DeVos’ name is also missing from ALEC”s conference agenda posted on its website.

Perhaps this is one means of ALEC’s trying to hide DeVos from expected protests for her presence there and involvement with ALEC. Nevertheless, her presence as a lunchtime speaker on July 20, 2017, has been confirmed by an ALEC spokesperson.

Even as ALEC tries to downplay DeVos’ presence at its conference, ALEC continues to obviously promote its views regarding American education — including five “key points” for the legislators it commands:

An excellent education has long been recognized as key to the American Dream. Unfortunately, the current monopolistic and expensive K-12 education system is failing our students, leaving them unprepared for college, careers, or life. Similarly, our higher education system is leaving students with higher debt burdens and fewer career guarantees than ever before.

While the left argues that our ailing public education system can be fixed with ever-greater quantities of taxpayer dollars, the more than $600 billion we currently spend nationwide reflects a large increase in funds over the last 30 years, in exchange for total stagnation – or worse, declines – in achievement. On the college level, subsidies meant to help college students struggling to pay tuition have instead caused prices to skyrocket well above inflation.

Instead of throwing more money at the problem, it’s time to let parents take back control over their children’s educations by allowing them to apply competitive pressure to schools and educational providers. Innovative, parent-empowering choices such as charter schools, voucher programs, tax credit scholarships, homeschool, and education savings accounts allow each child the opportunity to reach his or her potential. In higher education, greater transparency is needed to ensure that students and parents know what they are paying for, and with what prospects they are likely to graduate.

Instead of endless top-down mandates, these revolutionary inroads into the education system are coming from the states. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books allowing charter schools to operate, while half the states have some form of private school choice program. The states should continue to expand parent choice and push educational institutions to compete with each other to provide the best product, just like providers of any other service.

Key Points

(1) Citizens, legislators, and regulators should separate the concept of public education from the monopolistic delivery system and embrace 21st-century methods of connecting students with learning experiences.

(2) Legislators should improve or pass charter school laws, striking a balance between innovation, autonomy, and accountability.

(3) Legislators should create or expand the type(s) of school choice program that best suits their state: vouchers, tax credit scholarships, homeschooling, and education savings accounts.

(4) Legislators and regulatory agencies should be wary of attempts to re-regulate innovative and/or private educational options, which could expose them to the death of the thousand bureaucratic cuts and sacrifice the freedoms that allow them to succeed.

(5) Institutions of higher education should be transparent about what outcomes students can expect and how much money they will have to spend or borrow.

Note that the last point excludes any suggested legislator action and in effect suggests, “Legislators, stay out of this one and leave higher ed to regulate itself on pinky promises.”

DeVos is already on that one as she is stalling on instituting guidelines designed to hold accountable for-profit colleges and non-degree programs accountable. And she says she’ll be rewriting those rules. As a result of her actions, 19 attorneys general are suing her.

But my favorite is the fourth point (italicized); allow me to translate:

“Give the public money (vouchers, etc.) to the private schools, no strings attached, and call it freedom. And be sure to err in favor of deregulation when striking that regulatory balance suggested in Point Two.”

As for monopolies, DeVos is selectively fine with them, like she is with her handing all federal student loans over to a single company. No choice there, but lots of power and profit potential.

And when it comes to DeVos and school choice, well, that’s her only channel. Education chronicler Jennifer Berkshire terms DeVos’ “vision” as one of “hyper-individualism… that fares best in the abstract.” Berkshire also notes that DeVos is a “notoriously reporter-averse education secretary”– a timely observation given the absence (removal?) of DeVos even from the publicized ALEC conference speaker list.

But don’t be fooled, America: When it comes to ALEC’s views on education, DeVos is all in.

Indeed, the ALEC agenda suits DeVos so well that she could probably just read ALEC’s education web page as her lunchtime speech. I’m sure that what she has to say will fit ALEC’s education agenda like a privileged hand in a corporate-serving glove.

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