Friday, April 21, 2017

Randi's school visit gambit with Betsy DeVos

DeVos and Weingarten at Van Wert H.S. 
AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten seems convinced that she can show Trump's Ed. Sec. Betsy DeVos the error of her ways. By touring a few public schools together with DeVos, Randi hopes to show her that public schools are not the devil's workshop after all and should be supported by the D.O.E., rather than demolished as is essentially the stated ambition of the Trump administration.

Even after DeVos' first visit to Jefferson Academy in D.C. began with her having to sneak in the back door to avoid protesting parents and community members and ending with her debasing the teachers there, Weingarten's response has been to plead with DeVos to do another school visit, but this time with her.

I don't know what there is about photo-op school visits she thinks are so powerful as to turn this evangelical hater of anything public into an advocate for public ed. But Randi is a committed corporate liberal who has faith in the good intentions of corporate power brokers and profiteers and her ability to get them to do the right thing if only they give her a seat at the table. Here, I'm thinking back to the union's brief flirtation with Bill Gates or Randi's flights to Chicago to support Rahm's Infrastructure Trust or to London to sit in on Pearson board meetings 

DeVos flees protesters at D.C. school.
So DeVos agreed and she and Randi toured Van Wert H.S. in Ohio together yesterday. The visit got a nice write-up by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post.
DeVos agreed to visit a traditional public school with Weingarten, who chose to take the education secretary to the small, rural Van Wert school district in Ohio, where about half of the students come from high-poverty neighborhoods. Weingarten wrote in an op-ed that just ran in a local newspaper in Van Wert that she sees the district as a model for others trying to improve:
The hallmarks of successful public schools (and systems) include four essential strategies: promoting children’s well-being, engaging in powerful learning, building teacher and principal capacity, and fostering cultures of collaboration. Van Wert puts these four pillars into practice.
 In contrast, Ohio’s charter schools have been plagued by fraud, mid-year school closings, lying about student attendance to receive additional funding, mismanagement, and an overall lack of accountability that has led even charter proponents to call Ohio the “Wild, Wild West” of charter schools. One study by state auditors found more than $27 million in improperly spent funds at Ohio charters. The Akron Beacon Journal found that “charter schools misspend public money nearly four times more often than any other type of taxpayer-funded agency.”
When DeVos agreed to visit a traditional public school with Weingarten, the union leader agreed to visit a charter school with DeVos. That visit has yet to be scheduled.
If some WaPo ink is all Randi was after, all well and good. But if she's providing some union cover for DeVos in exchange for some credibility with the Trump administration, she's playing a fool's game.


  1. I thought it was telling that the NY Times used the picture of the Ed. Sec. listening, with a smile, but with her arms crossed.

  2. Interesting-Van Wert is part of Ohio's Innovation Lab Network Schools program, page 5

    This would be consistent with the AFT's participation in "Education Reimagined."


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