There is even worse news for America’s highly unqualified Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos than devastating, mocking reviews of her recent appearance on “60 Minutes.”
For the second year in a row, Congress has put forth a budget that repudiates most of what DeVos and President Trump sought in terms of cuts to education, after school and mental health programs and ignored her request for $1 billion to boost charter and private schools, reports The Washington Post.
The Congressional spending bill released last night which must be passed by Friday to avoid a government shutdown ignores DeVos’s request to cut education spending by $3.6 billion and instead increases department funding by $3.9 billion – with no funding at all for DeVos’s pricey “school choice” program.
“After more than a year on the job, I would have hoped Secretary DeVos would have learned by now that her extreme ideas to privatize our nation’s public schools and dismantle the Department of Education do not have support among parents or in Congress, but unfortunately that does not seem to be the case,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee.
“I’m proud to have worked with Republicans in Congress,” continued Murray, “to flatly reject these ideas, and increase funding for programs Secretary DeVos tried to cut, including K-12 education, civil rights protections, college affordability, and more.”
Many more, in fact, dealing a blow to Trump’s efforts to reduce the federal role in education.
Among the cuts DeVos sought that Congress ignored was the elimination of after-school programs for needy youth, a grant program that helps low-income students go to college, elimination of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and a plan to freeze and cut Pell Grant that assists low-income students who want to go to college,
DeVos wanted to eliminate the $732 million Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants but instead, Congress added $107 million to the program which mostly helps those in households earning under $30,000 a year.
Trump wanted to cut in half money for a federal work-study program that helps more than 300,000 students go to college. Instead, Congress increased the program by $140 million to a total of $1.1 billion.
DeVos has done everything she can to make student loans more expensive and to help the shady industry that preys on student loan holders, but Congress instead created a $350 million discretionary relief fund to support Public Loan Forgiveness, a program that eliminates the student loan debt of those who take jobs in the public sector after they make ten years of loan payments.
Congress ignored Trump and DeVos and increased funding for historically black colleges and universities and other institutions serving minorities, and increased programs for disadvantaged students.
The Congress also added $35 million to help low-income parents who are also college students with childcare.
If there is an area where DeVos has proved to be truly tone deaf it is in dealing with the rising national outcry over gun violence in schools.
When DeVos went to visit the Parkland, Florida high school where 17 were killed by a 19-year-old gunman with a history of mental health problems, her visit drew angry reactions for her lack of information and failure to communicate properly with students
Despite the outcry for actions against gun violence, or perhaps because of the NRA lobbying, Trump and DeVos tried to cut mental-health services in schools.
Instead, Congress is boosting investment in student mental health by $700 million, with plans for wide-ranging grant programs schools can use for counselors.
The bill also calls for an additional $22 million for a program to reduce school violence and $25 million for a Health and Human Services program that supports mental health services in schools.
What Congress has done is a clear reflection of the majority of America’s desire to improve schools, better prepare the next generation for a changing world, support low income and minority students, and maintain the public education system that has served generations of upwardly mobile Americans well.
Trump’s priorities reflect tight-fisted businessmen who want to keep the lower classes down while enriching themselves.
DeVos is a disgrace and has no business in her current government job.
She failed with her charter school, religious extremist anti-public education plans in Michigan and now she is a flop in Washington trying to spread her disgusting prejudice to the rest of America.
Congress knows what it is doing by jamming all of this into a funding bill Trump has to sign to keep the lights on in Washington and avoid a major political disaster; but it will be up to voters in November and beyond to keep in mind the importance of electing those who want America to have a future for all and not just the rich and privileged.