Donald Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos, a free-market, far-right Christian billionaire dedicated to privatizing public schools, to be his Secretary of Education. In her confirmation hearing, DeVos made it painfully clear that she has little understanding of public education aside from her dedication to destroying it. She is the heir to an auto parts fortune and her husband, Dick, is the heir to a fortune derived from the direct sales company Amway, which the FTC at one point decided was not a pyramid scheme. Interestingly, she is also the brother of Erik Prince, who founded the infamous mercenary army Blackwater has now, according to The Intercept, been quietly advising the Trump Administration. The couple, thanks to their money and relentless ideological drive, are heavy-duty power players in Michigan politics, where they have wreaked havoc on Detroit public schools. In many ways, this oligarch’s nomination is the extreme and cartoonesque outcome of decades of bipartisan corporate-aligned policy that pushed charters and high stakes testing, and attacked the teachers unions that stood in their way.
Today, we’re joined by historian Diane Ravitch, one of the country’s leading scholars of education policy and a vocal critic of corporate reform efforts that promote privatization and high-stakes testing as the solution to problems largely created by segregation, poverty and funding inequity. Amongst many other books, Ravitch is the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.”