Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Incompetence Begets Incompetence

The Senate's confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education continues -- one dare not say completes -- the pattern of incompetence that started with the election of Donald Trump himself.

This should be no surprise to the 63 million Americans who turned the most powerful elected position on earth over to someone with no governmental experience and no comprehension of the responsibilities of the office. Their basic disrespect for knowledge, experience, and qualifications is embodied in Trump the President, who is now paying that favor forward. Rick Perry in Energy, Ben Carson over Housing and Urban Development, and now Betsy DeVos in Education, form a kind of trifecta of abysmal inadequacy with the President at the center.

Denying this post to DeVos should have been easy. Her position on public education is not central to the conservative or Republican identity, although the charter and voucher ideal of siphoning billions of tax dollars away from public schools and into the hands of private corporations may simply have been too tempting for Republicans to resist. With no experience running public schools or teaching in them, and no knowledge of the regulatory environment that applies to them, rejecting DeVos should have been automatic, regardless of political party. But only two Republican senators had the common decency to demand that the President's nominees actually be qualified.

The handwriting is on the wall. This administration intends to get the federal government out of its guiding role in public education. It wants schools that accept tax dollars to be able to discriminate against students and parents however they wish, to ignore curricular standards at will, and to force other institutions to accept substandard results. It might be a long time before they cut federal funding, but the administration will be gutting federal regulation of public education in short order. If Congress chooses not to intervene, K-12 education across the United States will be unrecognizable within four years.

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