Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met with radical anti-LGBTQ groups and a millionaire right-wing conspiracy theorist who has spent his career attacking teacher rights.
Betsy DeVos is one of Donald Trump’s most dangerous, destructive cabinet members. And she is listening to people who support a radical right-wing agenda.
On Thursday, DeVos invited representatives from Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council to the Department of Educations’s “Engaging Families and Fathers” event.
Both groups promote extremist antigay propaganda, and the Family Research Council is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Its president, Tony Perkins, has lobbied against anti-bullying initiatives and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, claims homosexuality is “disgusting” and tries to “recruit” children, promotes “conversion therapy” programs that abuse LGBTQ kids, and bought the mailing list of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Contrast this with DeVos’s recent testimony, in which she said, “Discrimination in any form is wrong. I don’t support discrimination in any form.” While of course refusing to commit to refusing funding to schools that do discriminate.
On Tuesday, DeVos also held a private meeting with Missouri-based millionaire and Trump donor Rex Sinquefield, a self-styled school “reform” advocate and conspiracy theorist who despises public schools.
Sinquefield has claimed public schools were a plot by the Klan to “hurt African-American children,” and says his personal mission is “rescuing education from teachers’ unions.” In Missouri, Sinquefield spent $750,000 on a campaign to end public school tenure protection, and gave millions to the right-wing Show-Me Institute, a think tank which conducts “studies” blasting public schools and promoting policies to subsidize private and parochial schools for rich families.
These are the kinds of people and organizations DeVos is consulting to run the Department of Education.
Over the past few weeks alone, DeVos proposed ending a program that forgives student loans for low-paid public sector employees, and canceled a new regulation to police predatory lending by for-profit colleges. She and Trump have crafted a budget proposal that slashes federal school funding by $10.6 billion, including mental health, college work-study programs, and advanced coursework.
A completely unqualified billionaire crony who has zero experience as an educator, DeVos does not understand the basics of student measurement or federal disability rights, thinks Jim Crow promoted school choice for Black people, and has spent years using her vast family fortune to lobby for policies that have destroyed public schools and promoted racial segregation.
Her plans threaten the future prospects of millions of children across America. Her meetings with extremist donors and groups have made her priorities clearer than ever, and it is incumbent on concerned parents and educators to fight back.