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The Internationalist
  January 2017

Betsy DeVos: Trump’s Voucher Vulture

By Class Struggle Education Workers/UFT

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have declared war on public education.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

JANUARY 14 – Who is Betsy DeVos? Trump's pick for Education Secretary is an extremely wealthy former head of the Republican party in Michigan who is a zealot of vouchers and privately run, publicly financed charter schools. Her goal is to abolish public education outright.

She is married to Dick DeVos, heir to the family fortune derived from the totalitarian Amway Corporation. Amway (for the American Way) is a giant Ponzi scheme which uses its sales force as a private political-religious army and funds far-right groups, making the Koch brothers look like bleeding-heart liberals.

Betsy is from another wealthy Michigan family, the Princes, whose money came from their auto parts corporation. Her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of Blackwater, the mercenary killer-elite “contractors” notorious for gunning down Iraqi civilians with reckless abandon. Along with extreme right-wing ideology, Betsy and Erik both seek to finance privatization schemes with public money.

DeVos bases her philosophy on Milton Friedman, the apostle of “free market” capitalism, who declared: “Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system.” Friedman was an advisor to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and first implemented his education policies under that bloody regime.

Hearings start next week on Trump’s Ed Sec nominee. Confirmation is guaranteed. With Republicans in control of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the White House, the Betsy DeVos agenda will soon determine national educational policy.

Betsy DeVos was central to the near-destruction of public education in Detroit. The schools were taken over by the state and starved of money so that their physical condition was marked by broken windows, rats everywhere. They treated the schools like landlords trying to drive out tenants. Then they were massively taken over by for-profit charters, and have sunk into chaos.

DeVos also played a key role in pushing through a union-busting “right-to-work” law.

Donald Trump’s voucher vulture DeVos represents a mortal threat to teachers unions and to public education overall. The leadership of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association know this. But like a deer staring at the headlights of an onrushing car, they are paralyzed.

The politics of the AFT and NEA tops, like almost all union leaders in the U.S., are summed up in the phrase class collaboration. They chain the unions to the parties of capital, particularly the Democrats. But like the tango, it takes two to class-collaborate, and the Trump Republicans aren’t interested in that dance.

What it will take to defeat DeVos, Trump and the rest of the privatizers and  union-busters is hard class struggle. Last month United Federation of Teachers president Mulgrew predicted that in 2017 “it’s going to be war.” He got that right. In recent editorials Mulgrew warned that NYC schools stand to lose half a billion dollars in Title I federal funds which the Republicans have their eye on to finance vouchers.

But it's not just the Republicans. “Democrats for Education Reform,” is a powerful lobby bankrolled by Wall Street financiers. Hillary Clinton has been closely tied to the corporate education “reformers” since she was on the board of the anti-union Walmart corporation in Arkansas. And Barack Obama’s administration has used billions in federal money to push charters, standardized testing and punitive teacher “evaluations.”

All in all, Betsy DeVos is a fitting successor to the Democratic charterizers, from Obama's basketball pal Arnie Duncan to John King. And don't forget Obama's former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who got to be mayor of Chicago by bashing the teachers union and has kept it up ever since. The difference is that while the Clinton/Obama Democrats want to undermine public education from within with corporatizing “reforms,” the Trump Republicans want to tear it down altogether.

Efforts to outright privatize the public schools have repeatedly failed, from the Edison Schools (which went bankrupt) to DeVos’s campaign from Michigan to Pennsylvania and Indiana using their millions to promote vouchers by hook or crook. But we have to defeat all the schemes to milk public schools for private profit, which threaten our children’s education and working people everywhere.

Corporatizing and privatizing “education reform” is backed by both parties of capital. To defeat the bipartisan capitalist assault on public education we need to take the schools out of the hands of Republican and Democratic politicians. Class Struggle Education Workers fights for teacher-student-parent-worker control of the schools. To accomplish this we need to oust the labor bureaucrats, who have sold out hard-won union gains, and break with the Democrats to build a class-struggle workers party.

NYC Schools Must Be A Sanctuary
For Immigrant and All Students

The day after last November’s elections, a wave of fear swept through the schools over the threat to undocumented immigrants. “Will I be deported?” students asked teachers. School administrations and teachers unions issued statements of support. But much more is needed. We need to prepare now to defend our students and actively resist the threat of deportations with action. The following resolution was raised at the December UFT Delegates Assembly. While the Unity Caucus voted it down, we urge teachers everywhere to take the initiative to form school-based committees to defend immigrant and all students.


Whereas, in his election campaign, Donald Trump vowed to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, after the Obama administration already deported more than 5.5 million immigrants in its first seven years, and

Whereas, in the wake of the election there has been an unprecedented upsurge in racist attacks of all sorts, including at universities and in schools, as well as taunting of immigrant students in New York City schools, and

Whereas, Muslims, African Americans, Latinos and immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Near East have been singled for attacks, which also threaten Jewish, gay and lesbian individuals and communities, and

Whereas, immigrant communities have been swept by fear of deportation and all manner of victimization, and

Whereas, putative president-elect Trump has threatened to cut off funds to “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police, while majorities in both houses of Congress have threatened to cut off funding to “sanctuary campuses,” and

Whereas, under the Constitution of the State of New York (Article XI), all children must be provided free public schools and the Supreme Court has ruled that education cannot be denied to students on the basis of immigration status, and

Whereas, 40% of the population of the City of New York are immigrants, and

Whereas, under local laws and executive orders (Nos. 34 and 41) New York City employees, including police, have long been instructed not to provide information on individuals’ status to ICE and other immigration authorities except in limited circumstances, and

Whereas, Chancellor’s Regulation A-101 states that students are not required to present documentation of immigration status, and that reference to such status shall not appear on any school records, and

Whereas, Mayor de Blasio has stated that the City of New York will not participate in deportation proceedings and would not hand over information on immigration status from the municipal ID cards to federal authorities, but

Whereas, a judicial injunction has been issued to prevent NYC from destroying information on immigration status from municipal data bases, therefore be it

Resolved, that working people, immigrants and all oppressed sectors can only rely on our own strength; and be it further

Resolved, that our union issue a statement that we will stand by our immigrant students, faculty and staff, as well as their families, who are at risk of reprisal due to their status; and be it further

Resolved, that the UFT call on the NYC Department of Education to publicly restate that it does not collect information on students’ immigration status, and that it will refuse to hand over to federal authorities and will immediately delete any such information that may exist in school records; and be it further

Resolved, that ICE police and immigration authorities will not be allowed on school premises under any circumstances, and be it further

Resolved, that the United Federation of Teachers will seek to mobilize mass labor-immigrant action to defend those threatened and to stop deportations and call on other unions and all opponents of racism and defenders of democratic, minority and immigrants rights to do likewise; and be it further

Resolved, that a representative union-wide committee be set up to monitor all threats and indications of action by immigration authorities against members of our community; and be it further

Resolved, that the union take the initiative to set up committees in every school including faculty, staff and parents, to establish phone trees, social media networks and other measures for rapid response and outreach; and be it further resolved

Resolved, that if immigration authorities detain any NYC school students or their families for deportation proceedings, such school-based committees should immediately call an ongoing assembly, including teachers, students, staff and parents, to shut down the affected school, and other schools in solidarity, and that the UFT shall mobilize mass action citywide in support of such protest action.

For more information about Class Struggle Education Workers go to the CSEW blog at: