Two Initial Steps Trump Can Take Toward Restoring Local Control

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

When President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office one of the first actions he can take to show that he is serious about his campaign promise to send power over education back to the states is to provide direction to Betsy DeVos, who will likely be confirmed as Secretary of Education, with a simple instruction – Approve all state assessment/accountability plans that states submit for approval under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The Every Student Succeeds Act gives the Secretary of Education broad authority to approve or disapprove these plans. If the Secretary claims that any part of the plan submitted by the state fails to fulfill the requirements of the Act – that is, that in the Secretary’s opinion, it fails “to [prepare students to] graduate from high school prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce without remediation” then the Secretary can deny the plan.

This of course pressures states into keeping Common Core or, at the very least, rebranded standards rather than risk having their plans disapproved for using different standards or aligned assessments.

President-elect Trump can direct the Secretary of Education to act as a rubber stamp in order to maximize the flexibility states can have under the Every Student Succeeds Act until further, long-term action can be taken.

The second step is to order the Secretary to rescind every single “Dear colleague letter” sent by the U.S. Department of Education under President Obama.

These are stop-gap measures mind you, but they are actions that can happen immediately.

Trump’s Discussion About Higher National Standards With Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos speaks at the 2016 American Federation for Children Policy Summit.

Betsy DeVos speaks at the 2016 American Federation for Children Policy Summit.

There was something in the readout that Trump’s transition released of the meeting that President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence had with Betsy DeVos that I glossed over that needs to be revisited now that she will be his nominee for Secretary of Education.

The readout said their meeting “was focused on the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation.”

Setting higher national standards?

I don’t want to jump to conclusions. I don’t want to put words in their mouth, but that is a peculiar way to describe the meeting with the President-elect who said he wanted to get rid of Common Core and that education decisions should be local.

There should be no national standards and there should be no federal influence over state standards – period so this statement in the readout is disturbing and I know I would appreciate some clarification from the Trump transition team as it seems like the focus with DeVos’ appointment is on school choice.

Why did President-elect Donald Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Betsy DeVos discuss setting higher national standards? Or was this a screw-up by their communication team?

Trump Picks Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education

Photo credit: School Choice Week

Photo credit: School Choice Week

Mea culpa, Buzzfeed was right about the Secretary of Education pick coming down between Betsy DeVos and Michelle Rhee. President-elect Donald Trump announced that DeVos was his pick for Secretary of Education earlier this afternoon.

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said in a released statement. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families. I am pleased to nominate Betsy as Secretary of the Department of Education.”

“I am honored to accept this responsibility to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again,” DeVos said. “The status quo in education is not acceptable. Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

DeVos tweeted this out this afternoon.

Her statement was part of a Q&A, and I’m not certain when it was written.

Certainly. I am not a supporter—period.

I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense. 

Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.

However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.

Above all, I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education.

So we need to do our homework? Up until this Q&A was put up she had made no public statement about Common Core, and this one is rather vague. So like former Governor Mike Huckabee she’s saying she supported the American Diploma Project. She’s saying she doesn’t mind top-down standards provided they are not “turned into a federalized boondoggle.”

She does say she supports “high standards” so I’d like to ask her do you believe Common Core State Standards as written are “high standards”? She wants strong accountability so does she support Every Student Succeeds Act? Does she believe in federal mandated testing? Does she believe parents have the right to opt their students out?  How about data collection?

She says she supports local control, but what exactly does that mean to her?

Here is what we do know and actions speak louder than words.

  1. She sat on the board of two organizations that are pro-Common Core – the Foundation for Excellence in Education, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s organization, and the Great Lakes Education Project.
  2. She helped fund an effort influence the Republican primaries in her home state of Michigan and provided financial support to an organization, Great Lakes Education Project, that was part of an effort to defeat Michigan’s Common Core repeal bill.

Karen Braun of Stop Common Core Michigan wrote:

GLEP is a strong supporter of the Common Core and its continued implementation in Michigan. They are part of the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards which opposes SB 826 to Repeal and Replace Common Core, science, social studies, and aligned assessments with pre-common core Massachusetts standards.  Stop Common Core in Michigan believes there is a high correlation between candidates who accept the GLEP endorsement and their future votes on legislation.

GLEP claims NOT to have a litmus test on Common Core.  This allows candidates to say they are against common core and still gain the endorsement of GLEP.   But DeVos  is a champion for “school choice” while at the same time continuing the implementation of common national standards.    The DeVos definition of “school choice” is the freedom to choose which common core school will track your child from cradle-to-career (P20).   All Michigan charters must use common national standards.  That’s NOT true choice.

Like Bill Gates, Betsy DeVos has some money and has some things she’d like to see different.   Like all good investors, DeVos likely expects a return on her investment.  And if you don’t play the game under their rules and vote the way you want her to vote, you may find yourself challenged the next time you run for office.

Former Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin said to me, “she and GLEP were one of the main leaders defending Common Core when I was fighting it in the legislature. In 2013 I know she was strongly supportive of Common Core and high stakes testing.”

When people in Michigan, who know her record on education activism the best, says her statement is bunk I’m listening.

Update: A friend of mine who has been working with education policy longer than I have and whom I respect a great deal brought up the following point. The groups in question that she supports also promote school choice. It is reasonable to consider that her support of those organizations, like Mrs. DeVos indicates, be because of school choice advocacy not Common Core. While she hasn’t been vocal in opposing Common Core she also has not been vocal in supporting it either.

I look at her a little more comprehensively at Caffeinated Thoughts, and I personally have come to the conclusion that I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt and give her a chance to lead. I’m confident she won’t be worse than the previous two Secretaries of Education.  I know some may want to try to see her confirmation defeated, but I believe that is unlikely. Perhaps we need to take a neutral position and try to build a bridge instead.

Frank Cannon: Betsy DeVos Would Be a Jeb-Like Pick for Secretary of Education

Betsy DeVos speaks at the 2016 American Federation for Children Policy Summit.

Betsy DeVos speaks at the 2016 American Federation for Children Policy Summit.

American Principles Project’s President Frank Cannon released a statement about the speculation that school choice advocate and GOP donor Betsy DeVos.

From the very beginning of his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised an end to the failed Common Core standards. He repeatedly assured parents across the heartland that he intended to return power over education to local schools.

“It is puzzling, then, to see reports that the Trump transition team is considering an establishment, pro-Common Core Secretary of Education – this would not qualify as ‘draining the swamp’ – and it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point.

“President-elect Trump rightly slammed Governor Jeb Bush for his support of Common Core on the campaign trail. Betsy DeVos would be a very Jeb-like pick, and the idea that Trump would appoint a Common Core apologist as Secretary of Education seems unlikely. We remain hopeful that Trump will pick a Secretary of Education who will return control over education to parents and local school districts – someone like Bill Evers, Sandra Stotsky, or Larry Arnn – and not someone who will simply rebrand and repackage the failed Common Core standards that were so thoroughly rejected by voters in both the GOP primary and in the November election.

DeVos is a Common Core supporter who was active in supporting pro-Common Core candidates in Michigan. She also serves on the board of Foundation for Education Excellence founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) that also has been a cheerleader of the Common Core State Standards.

Who Would Phyllis Schlafly Pick for U.S. Secretary of Education?

Photo credit: Mark Taylor

Photo credit: Mark Taylor

On election night when it became apparent that we were witnessing a truly remarkable and historic event, one great, American patriot came to mind- the late, conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, who passed away this past fall at the age of 92.

Lost in the media coverage since is the fact that it is Phyllis Schlafly, yet again, whom Americans have to thank for the biggest political upset since the election of Ronald Reagan.  As if already being “regarded as one of the two or three most important Americans of the last half of the 20th century” (as described by one of her foe’s, no less) and having “plant[ed] the seeds of a conservative revival” that ultimately led to the Reagan revolution weren’t enough, Mrs. Schlafly outdid herself one last time.

Undeterred by old age, right up until her death, Phyllis was still hard at work for the country she loved. Her early March endorsement of Trump not only handed him a victory in the Missouri primary, but more importantly it gave him the stamp of approval necessary to be seen as a serious and viable candidate amongst countless conservatives, including this one. It’s fitting that Schlafly’s final book, The Conservative Case for Donald Trump, happened to be released on the eve of her passing.

Phyllis’s support of Donald Trump, however, did not come without a cost and without great personal sacrifice.   It caused a bitter and divisive firestorm within her organization, Eagle Forum, and within her immediate family. In spite of calls by many of those closest to her for an endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz, the ever steadfast Phyllis did what she did so well- she remained strong and put her country first.  She gave her endorsement to Donald Trump, instead.  Her son Andy Schlafly put it best when he wrote,

“Many, many times fellow conservatives have declared my mother to be wrong on a particular issue, while praising her generally. And every single time that I can think of, my mother ended up being right.  Call it intuition, Providence, luck, or whatever, my mother has a certain knack for politics that has virtually never been wrong.  I learned that the hard way until I accepted it.”

It was that “special something” that allowed Phyllis to see certain qualities in Trump that reminded her of Reagan, when others couldn’t.  She recognized that he had both the strength and the platform to actually make it over the finish line.  Her instincts proved prophetic.

Though unnoticed by the media, Phyllis’s role in this election was not lost on the President-elect, who took time off from the campaign trail to speak at her funeral.  Before a packed house at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica he said,

“Phyllis endorsed me a long time ago when it wasn’t necessarily something that was so easy to do. And she was incredible. She was so brave… And I will never forget that. [Her endorsement] had a huge impact. She was a great, great powerful woman with a tremendous heart.”

As those who followed her know, while Phyllis’s brilliance allowed her to speak on most every political subject, her longest-running signature issue was education.  She believed that its control must be returned not only to the local level, but to those closest to the child, their parents.  She understood that unless federal intrusion was eliminated and the power of the lobbyists of the vast education industry diminished, no school choice program in the world would have even a chance at improving American education.  So, long before Common Core and No Child Left Behind existed, Phyllis and her warriors were fighting their predecessors – Outcome Based Education, Goals 2000, School to Work, the Careers bill and more.

Therefore, it’s alarming to learn that other than Bill Evers and Larry Arnn, the bulk of those reportedly being vetted for secretary of education (Michelle Rhee, Betsy Devos, Tony Bennett, Eva Moscowitz, and Kevin Chavous) all have views on education that couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to Schlafly’s.  These people not only support Common Core, they fail to understand the importance of draining the education swamp. In fact, most are products of and live within the swamp that permeates the $600 billion K-12 education industry.  They represent Jeb Bush’s Common Core machine that Donald Trump ran against.

If I had the chance to speak directly to the President-elect I would say the following, “Phyllis was blessed with many gifts from God that allowed her to excel.  She was brilliant, beautiful, graceful, a wonderful public speaker, a skilled debater, and she benefitted from an abundance of energy and good health.  She chose to use these gifts for the good of the nation.  While she will not be making the trek to Trump Tower to meet with you or be given a prominent role in your administration, there remains one way for you to show your gratitude and give honor to her legacy.  Appoint a Secretary of Education that would make her proud.   She, who was God’s gift to the nation, gave your presidency to us as her final gift.  Don’t let her down.  Don’t let us down.”

Originally posted at Hoosiers Against Common Core.

Michelle Rhee Is Out of the Running for Secretary of Education

Photo credit: Commonwealth Club of California (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Commonwealth Club of California (CC-By-2.0)

Michelle Rhee announced on Twitter this afternoon that she is not pursuing a position with the Trump administration.

Here is her statement below:

I am not pursing a position with the Administration but I have appreciated the opportunity to share my thoughts on education with the PEOTUS. Interestingly many colleagues warned me against doing so. They are wrong. Mr. Trump won the election. Our job as Americans is to want him to succeed. Wishing for his failure would be wanting the failure of our millions of American children who desperately need a better education.

Rhee is a registered Democrat and Democrats for Education Reform warned Democrats such as Rhee and Eva Moscowitz (who also said she wasn’t interested in the job) to not accept the Secretary of Education role should it be offered.

From the original short list Ben Carson can be scratched off, Eva Moskowitz can be scratched off, and now Michelle Rhee. If you believe Buzzfeed that would mean the position is Betsy DeVos’ to lose, but I don’t.

Hey Buzzfeed, DeVos Is Not Anti-Common Core

Photo credit: School Choice Week

Photo credit: School Choice Week

Buzzfeed reports that Donald Trump has narrowed his choices down to Betsy DeVos and Michelle Rhee whom he met with over the weekend.

This is based on an anonymous source who says he or she is familiar with the search process. I have my doubts. The Washington Post indicates the time table is not known, and for now, I agree with that. I have found that most people who talk to the press anonymously tend to do so out of self-importance. Not saying anonymous leaks are always wrong, but they are not always right either. Often times the person giving the information is not nearly as close to the process as they let on.

Buzzfeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancey’s article, however, is more opinion than news and she doesn’t have her facts straight. She says Michelle Rhee is the “f_k you candidate for teacher’s unions” while Betsy DeVos is the more “conventional choice.”

They both suck, but in different ways, and what teacher’s unions think is irrelevant to me.

Here is what Molly Hensley-Clancey said about the “conventional choice” of DeVos:

DeVos is in most ways a conventional choice for the position: a longtime advocate of alternatives to the public school system, with close ties to many on Capitol Hill, she is closely aligned to Republican education officials like Sen. Lamar Alexander and serves on the board of Jeb Bush’s education foundation. She has also proclaimed herself an opponent of the Common Core education initiative, which Trump often denounced at his rallies with promises of a “repeal,” though she initially supported the standards.

Yes she is very much part of the Republican education establishment, but where Hensley-Clancey got the idea that she proclaimed herself an opponent of the Common Core education initiative is beyond me.

Betsy DeVos through the Great Lakes Education Project and Michigan Freedom Fund tried to influence Michigan’s Republican primaries. Karen Braun at Stop Common Core in Michigan wrote:

GLEP is a strong supporter of the Common Core and its continued implementation in Michigan. They are part of the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards which opposes SB 826 to Repeal and Replace Common Core, science, social studies, and aligned assessments with pre-common core Massachusetts standards.  Stop Common Core in Michigan believes there is a high correlation between candidates who accept the GLEP endorsement and their future votes on legislation.

GLEP claims NOT to have a litmus test on Common Core.  This allows candidates to say they are against common core and still gain the endorsement of GLEP.   But DeVos  is a champion for “school choice” while at the same time continuing the implementation of common national standards.    The DeVos definition of “school choice” is the freedom to choose which common core school will track your child from cradle-to-career (P20).   All Michigan charters must use common national standards.  That’s NOT true choice.

Like Bill Gates, Betsy DeVos has some money and has some things she’d like to see different.   Like all good investors, DeVos likely expects a return on her investment.  And if you don’t play the game under their rules and vote the way you want her to vote, you may find yourself challenged the next time you run for office.

DeVos’ involvement with GLEP which supports Common Core and with the Foundation for Excellence in Education should make any denunciation of Common Core from DeVos’ lips suspect.

Donald Trump Meets With Betsy DeVos, Michelle Rhee

Betsy DeVos speaks at the 2016 American Federation for Children Policy Summit.

Betsy DeVos speaks at the 2016 American Federation for Children Policy Summit.

Republican mega-donor and education activist Betsy DeVos met with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence this weekend at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J this Saturday. Trump and Pence also met with Michelle Rhee who was the former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor and founder and former CEO of StudentsFirst.

DeVos has been a school choice and Common Core advocate who serves as the chairperson for the American Federation for Children. She also serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the group that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush created. DeVos has been discussed as being on Trump’s short list for Secretary of Education and this meeting just fuels further speculation. Trump also recently met with Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Charter Schools. Moskowitz recently stated that she would not be interested in the position.

The readout from the Trump Transition Team said their meeting with DeVos was about “was focused on the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation.”

The Transition Team readout from Saturday’s meetings said Trump and Pence enjoyed an in-depth discussion about the future of public education in our country with Michelle Rhee. They stated that the discussion “included the possibility for increasing competition through charter and choice schools. They also brought the idea of merit pay for teachers going above and beyond in their classrooms into the conversation.”

So far Trump has only met with Common Core advocates. While discussion with these individuals also included other topics as well it is disconcerting to see.

Trump Slated to Meet With Michelle Rhee in Education Secretary Search

Photo credit: Rikki Ward

Photo credit: Rikki Ward

Education Week reports that Preisdent-elect Donald Trump is slated to meet with Michelle Rhee as his search for an Education Secretary continues.

Andrew Ujifusa writes:

President-elect Donald Trump is slated to meet with former District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee as he continues his search for an education secretary under his administration, the Trump transition team told the press on Friday.

Trump’s search for education secretary appears to be crossing party lines. Rhee, who has identified as a Democrat throughout her career, is a strong supporter of school choice (including vouchers), which appears to be the top K-12 priority for Trump. She also rose to prominence for how she handled teachers and teacher evaluations during her tenure in the District of Columbia, which lasted from 2007 to 2010. In 2010, she left the nation’s capital and founded StudentsFirst, an advocacy group that pushes for choice, reforms to labor policies often unfriendly to teachers’ unions, and data-based school accountability. She stepped down as the leader of StudentsFirst in 2014.

He had met with Eva Moskowitz, CEO of Success Charter Schools in New York City, and she has withdrew her name from consideration.

Both Moskowitz and Rhee are Democrats, and both are supporters of Common Core.

It would sure be great to hear that President-elect Trump is slated to meet with someone who, I don’t know, actually is against Common Core. I don’t see how he will actually follow through on his campaign promises with education.

To Donald Trump: Appoint an Education Secretary With Integrity

williamson-evers

Williamson Evers of the Hoover Institution would make a great Education Secretary

Below is a letter crafted by Joy Pullmann of which I am a signer. Here is a link to the petition where you can add your name.

Dear President-elect Donald J. Trump,

We, the undersigned, are the grassroots moms, dads, and teachers who have been fighting to end the Common Core. We are the people who travel to our state capitols and testify against this national monstrosity, only to have leaders of both political parties mock and ignore us.

Common Core and its future incarnations can absolutely be blocked at the federal level by devolving power back to the people and states, and we look forward to assisting your administration in fulfilling your campaign promise to “Get rid of Common Core – keep education local!”

We adamantly oppose any nomination for U.S. education secretary who has either openly supported or passively assisted Common Core by enabling education centralization, which includes most of the education establishment on the Right and Left. Such a pick would contradict your campaign promises.

Choosing Williamson M. Evers as part of your transition team for education policy has been a heartening indication of your commitment to end Common Core. He is not only well-qualified to lead your transition team, but also to be the U.S. education secretary who mitigates the severe damage his predecessors have done to Americans and our children. He has the professional, academic, and policy credentials worthy of a cabinet position, yet also the trust of the no-name moms and dads in the bipartisan, grassroots Common Core opposition.

He is well-qualified to lead the U.S. Department of Education into what you have pledged will characterize your administration: “Replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people.”

Yes! Appoint a man committed to making this happen in education policy, who will help restore self-government in education. You can restore ordinary Americans’ power to make our kids’ education great again, and a man such as Evers would be an exemplary partner in that task. Other exemplary choices include Larry Arnn and Sandra Stotsky.

Power to the people! Make America smart again!

Jenny Baker
Return to Parental Rights and Gathering Families

Meg Bakich
Truth in Texas Education

Stacey Castleman 
Stop Common Core in North Dakota

Micah Clark
American Family Association of Indiana

Heather Crossin
Hoosiers Against Common Core

Sheri Few
U.S. Parents Involved in Education

Aubrey Flaherty
Truth in Texas Education

Yvonne A. Gasperino and Glen A. Dalgleish
Stop Common Core in New York State

Christy Hooley
Wyoming Citizens Opposing Common Core
Citizens for Objective Public Education

Heidi Huber
Ohioans For Local Control

Janice Lenox
Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey

Shane Vander Hart
Truth in American Education

Betty Peters
Alabama State School Board Member
Truth in American Education

Joy Pullmann
Heartland Institute

Christel Swasey
Utahns Against Common Core

Erin Tuttle
Hoosiers Against Common Core

Jenni White
Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Empowerment

J.R. Wilson
Truth in American Education

Deborah Yoa
Concerned Citizens of Southern New Jersey

Monica Boyer
Kosciusko Silent No More
Indiana Liberty Coalition

Rick DeWitt
Montgomery County Tea Party

Diana Freeman
Boone County Tea Party

Paul Kilpatrick
Indianapolis Tea Party

Robert Hall
Grassroots Conservatives (Bloomington)

Ray Harney
Parke County Tea Party

Vivian Himelick
Fayette County Tea Party

Dwight Lile
Constitutional Patriots, Carmel

Margaret Niccum
Muncie 9/12

Al Parsons
Citizens In Action Lafayette

Randy Price
Coalition of Central Indiana Tea Parties

Janet Smith
Greenfield Tea Party

(Note: Affiliations listed are for identification purposes, not to indicate political or institutional endorsement.)

Sign the petition.