DeVos Releases a Parents’ Guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at AEI Conference on 1/16/18.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a parents’ guide to the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Along with it comes a steady stream of propaganda that paints ESSA as a deliverer of state and local control, which it is not.

“At the core of ESSA is an acknowledgment that Washington doesn’t know best when it comes to educating our nation’s students,” DeVos said. “Our focus is on returning power to the hands of parents, states and local educators, where it belongs. Parents should not have to parse through a 500-page legal document to understand how a law or policy affects their children’s education.”

“Because states and districts have significant flexibility in how they meet the requirements of the law, parents should know and have a voice in how they use that flexibility to best help their children. These new resources will help empower those closest to students with information they need to be informed advocates as education decisions are made at the state and local level,” she continued.

There are some pieces of useful information for parents in understanding their rights under the law:

  • If your eighth-grader is taking a high school level math class and test, he or she is not required to take the State math test other eighth-grade students take.
  • Your high school student may be able to take a nationally recognized high school test, such as the ACT or SAT, instead of the test your State normally administers in high school.
  • If your child attends a school in a district in a State that receives the flexibility to offer an innovative assessment, he or she may take a different type of test in place of the standardized tests the State would otherwise administer.
  • If your child is a student with the most significant cognitive disabilities, as defined by your State, it may be appropriate for your child to be assessed with an alternative assessment. This determination will be an individualized decision, with your input, based on your child’s individual and unique needs.
  • If your child attends a school the State identifies for comprehensive support and improvement, your district may allow your child to transfer to another public school and use a portion of its Federal funds to pay for transportation to the public school you choose for your child.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of parents opting their students out of assessments which is the most significant way parents can exercise control of their student’s education. The rest is merely lip service.

Read the guide below:

Some Questions for Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos at CPAC 2017
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at CPAC in 2017.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

During her speech in Huntsville, AL earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asked some difficult questions about the current state of K-12 education:

So I think it is high time to ask—and answer!—a few questions “the system” fears:

Why aren’t all teachers allowed the autonomy to guide their students?

Why aren’t all parents allowed to decide the education that’s right for their own children?

Why aren’t all students allowed to pursue learning in ways that work for them?

Why are we afraid?

Americans are no strangers to facing their fears. Many feared taking on the Crown and charting their own new destiny. But the Founding Fathers weren’t afraid to put blood and treasure on the line when they signed their names on the Declaration of Independence.

Many feared going to the moon. But President Kennedy inspired and unified a nation when he announced that we’d go to the moon within the decade. And just a few years later, we did.

The demand for action is hardly new. 1983’s landmark “A Nation at Risk” report sounded a clarion call to do better for America’s students. 35 years later, next to nothing has changed.

We’ve defied the laws of gravity, and sent men to the moon and back. But many still fear doing what needs to be done to bring education into the 21st century. Why? Because many fear the perceived power of union bosses. They fear November’s ballot boxes.

I have some questions for Secretary DeVos:

  • How can you address what teachers are allowed to do in the classrooms when you don’t support states doing what they want without federal interference?
  • How can you speak of parents having a choice when you don’t support the ability for parents to opt their children out of assessments? They can decide how their child is educated (which I support), but can’t decide whether or not they should take an assessment?
  • Why instead of pursuing education fads like personalized learning do you not advocate classical education that has been proven to work?
  • Why are you afraid of letting states and schools have control? Why haven’t you called for the repeal of the Every Student Succeeds Act and every federal education law that goes beyond protecting a student’s civil rights?
  • Speaking of sending people to the moon, don’t you realize that was done before we had a Department of Education and education was mostly decentralized?

Next to nothing has changed because education reformers go from recycled fad to recycled fad foisting top-down reforms that don’t work while, at the same time, ignoring what does.

Why are you afraid to ignore the floundering group think mentality that currently exists?

Parents Group Calls on President Trump to Fire Betsy DeVos

On Tuesday, U.S. Parents Involved in Education (USPIE) released an open letter to President Donald Trump urging him to fire Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. You can read it below.

Dear Mr. President, 

United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), a nationwide grassroots organization of parents and education advocates regularly conveys concerns to you and other elected officials about the negative effect of Federal government intrusion in education. 

USPIE calls for Congress to abide by the Constitutional structure for education, for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, for ending all Federal education programs, and for returning the control of education to parents and local communities. USPIE developed a Blueprint based on references from CATO Institute and The Independent Institute to provide clear reasons and steps to achieving these goals. The Blueprint has been shared extensively with elected officials in Washington D.C. 

As USPIE communicated to you previously, we were hopeful, with some reservations regarding the nomination of Mrs. DeVos for Secretary of Education. USPIE believed you would instruct Secretary DeVos to be laser focused on fulfilling your campaign promises to eliminate Common Core, however rebranded, and begin to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education. 

Since her appointment, Secretary DeVos has used the hammer of the Federal government to broaden its authority and disregard the rights of states and parents. Three actions in particular demonstrate this disregard:

  • threatening states abiding by state parental rights laws through the ESSA plan approval process,
  • recommending the merger of the Departments of Education and Labor fundamentally shifting the purpose of education to “workforce development”,
  • and now, endorsing the G20’s Declaration enshrining the UN’s education agenda, which undermines not only parents and states, but the fundamental sovereignty of the United States.

We do not believe these actions are consistent with your “America First” philosophy nor your campaign promises that generated so much enthusiasm.
As one of the nation’s largest collaboration of parents, and grassroots education advocates, we are committed to the goal of truly improving education for all of America’s children, which begins with reinstating parental authority and control, and ending Federal meddling in education. We continue to be available to assist in this effort.

Given these concerns, we call for the immediate dismissal of Secretary DeVos and for the appointment of an American education leader who will prioritize the fulfillment of your campaign promises.

Sincerely,
U.S. Parents Involved in Education

Is DeVos Leading or Falling in Line?

On her second international trip this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is in South America participating as a member of the U.S. delegation of the first-ever G-20 meeting of education ministers. After a preliminary visit to Chile, she went to Argentina to participate in meetings with other G-20 education ministers [emphasis added].” So it seems Secretary of Education DeVos enjoys the authority that is the equivalent of a Minister of Education in foreign countries discussing international economic development and cooperation.

When the Carter Administration supported Department of Education Organization Act in 1979 (P.L. 96-88) that created the cabinet position of Secretary of Education, the New York Times editorialized, 

Supporters of the new department dwelt heavily on the need for a “national education policy.” Such a departure from a precious American tradition is precisely what the country does not need — or, in our view, want. Nothing would be more harmful to educational diversity and freedom than even a hint that the new department may engage in the standardizing missions associated with ministries of education in other countries.

It took about 40 years to fully realize just how prophetic the NYT editors had been; but DeVos’s new found authority (the equivalent of a national minister of education) was cinched with the 2015 passage of Senator Lamar Alexander’s (TN-R) Every Student Succeeds Act which for the first time gave the Secretary of Education the authority to reject state plans in their application for federal grants funded by the Act. The authority to extort states into compliance with the federal agenda for education, of course, violates the enumerated powers of the federal government, but Congress rationalized its way out of the “chains of the Constitution” using the “general Welfare of the United States” as justification.

Like the first Secretary of Education, Shirley Hufstedler, DeVos has no professional experience in the field of education. What DeVos does have, is a plan to merge the U.S. Department of Education with the U.S. Department of Labor into a single Cabinet agency, the Department of Education and the Workforce (DEW), which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Jeb Bush education plan rolled out during his 2016 presidential campaign to reduce the Department of Education by 50%.

DeVos’s itinerary includes visits with education leaders and career and technical education programs in Chile and Argentina which is interesting considering the recent changes in administration in those two countries. Chile’s leadership has swung from leftist socialism and an overhaul of public education to conservatism. Among the outgoing president’s most controversial changes was her aggressive push to expand access to free higher education which has strained the national budget since the price of copper fell. Chile’s new president has a free-market agenda and a personal profile much like Trump. Argentina was one of the biggest economic actors in the Americas, until the disastrous administration of the socialist-Peronist government. Argentina’s economic planning has been a complete failure, yet, DeVos believes the U.S. has much to learn from countries that merge labor and education.

The U.S. Department of State notified UNESCO of our country’s decision to withdraw from UNESCO at the end of this year, Yet, Item 2 of the G-2O Education Ministers’ Declaration 2018 Preamble states, “In line with the United Nations 2030 Agenda, we affirm our commitment to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It appears that the U.S. Secretary of Education’s participation in the G20 Summit is a not-so-discrete way of circumventing the U.S. Secretary of State and continuing down the road of standardizing and nationalizing American education for the economy begun by Jeb’s father with America 2000 (which by the way, was released and promoted by then-Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander). Not good. The last thing the Trump Administration needs is Secretary of Education that undermines the goal of his administration to Make America Great Again. But the undermining of a populist president by a Bush-Alexander team is nothing new.

When President Reagan worked to keep his campaign promise to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education and restore control of education to parents and local school boards, his vice-president, G. H. W. Bush supported Reagan’s first Secretary of Education, Terrel Bell, in preserving the Department; and it was another Senator from Tennessee, Lamar Alexander’s mentor, Howard Baker, who thwarted Reagan’s efforts. Alexander worked to get Devos confirmed as Secretary of Education (or is that Minister of Education?). Now, as President Trump works to keep his campaign promise to return education to the states, his efforts are thwarted by his own Secretary of Education and Senator Baker’s protégé. Trump would do himself a service by requesting Secretary DeVos’s resignation, and Tennessee would do America a great service by settling Senator Alexander’s quandary about running for re-election in 2020, and clearing the way for President Trump to accomplish what he was elected to do.


Ill-advised Opposition to Rescindment of Fed School Discipline Guidance

Tom Perez rolled out a disparate impact analysis for school disciple cases.

On August 24, 2018, eleven state attorneys general (AGs) sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and U.S. Attorney General Jeff  Sessions on the letterhead of California’s Office of the Attorney General. The letter was sent via e-mail to the School Safety Commission regarding “States opposition to withdrawal of School Discipline Guidance Package.” Clearly, the AGs were acting in their capacity as officials elected to execute the duties of the “People’s Lawyers.” One would think that the AGs should be concerned about officials in the federal government complying with the rule of law. Sadly, however, the eleven signatories, (all Democrat, and ten whose states did not support the current administration in the 2016 presidential election) are likely politicizing their offices – making a tacit threat of filing a lawsuit should the January 2014 School Discipline Guidance Package be rescinded. After all, filing lawsuits is what AGs do.

Their letter should be interpreted in the context of former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez’s roll-out of disparate impact analysis as described in the January 8, 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter which is one of the four components of the package. Perez, current Chair of the Democratic National Committee, rolled out his new interpretation of the Civil Rights Act in an invitation-only conference of civil rights lawyers hosted by the ED and DOJ in Washington, DC on September 27 and 28, 2010. The conference was entitled, “Civil Rights and School Discipline, Addressing Disparities to Ensure Educational Opportunity.” Readers should question how many of the AGs signing the letter to DeVos and Sessions had received special invitations to attend that conference.

At the conference, Perez announced that the DOJ would use a disparate impact analysis on school discipline cases to determine whether school districts’ policies were racially discriminatory. In other words, Perez introduced a policy derived from Critical Race Theory taught at Harvard Law School, Perez’s alma mater. Disparate impact analysis presumes districts are guilty of racism until proven innocent, even without an actual complaint filed. That presumption is inconsistent with America’s legal tradition and aligned with and UCLA’s School of Law, not with the U.S. Constitution the AGs have sworn to support and defend. Readers should ask why the AGs invoked civil rights as justification for their concerns when Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not address discrepancies data reported for racial groups, such as that reported in the CRDC; instead, it addresses intentional racial discrimination against “persons.”

The March GAO report prominently discussed in the AGs’ letter stated explicitly in Appendix I that parent education or household type (single-versus multiple-headed household) could be related to student behaviors resulting in disciplinary actions analyzed. The report also stated,  “Results of our analyses are associational and do not imply a causal relationship because, for example, CRDC data were not gathered by a randomized controlled trial, where students would be randomized to attend schools with certain characteristics.”

The AGs do not consider that ED and DOJ’s joint “significant guidance” on its face violates the Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices § IV, OMB Memorandum M-07-07. “Section II(2)(h) clarifies that, given their legally non-binding nature, significant guidance documents should not include mandatory language such as ‘‘shall,’’ ‘‘must,’’ ‘‘required’’ or ‘‘requirement,’’ unless the agency is using these words to describe a statutory or regulatory requirement, or the language is addressed to agency staff and will not foreclose consideration by the agency of positions advanced by affected private parties.” Despite the OMB’s prohibition, the January 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter employs the prohibited language. While purporting not to impose legal requirements, ED-DOJ used their administrative powers to rewrite Title VI and embedded the new policy in the January 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter. This type of overreach by Departments in the executive branch is not new as the D.C. Circuit observed in Appalachian Power v EPA.

If the AGs really understood the effects of disparate impact analysis on school discipline in minority-majority school districts, they may better understand how the School Discipline Guidance Package actually endangers all students regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin – but perhaps they interpret endangerment for victimization by peers as equal opportunity. It is difficult to justify the content and tenor of the AGs letter in light of the history of the January 2014 “Dear Colleague” letter and the weak evidence the AGs used to defend it. It is inexplicable how they could defend the letter in their official capacity as AGs; but easily explained in the context of their political affiliation.

Is American Government Rejecting Capitalism & Embracing a Managed Economy?

While skilled workers are needed to build new infrastructure and for our expanding economy after the tax cuts, the reauthorization of the Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act of 2006 tries to accomplish those goals via the wrong method – replacing capitalism with central planning. The new bill, called The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, HR 2353, just passed Congress on voice votes and signed yesterday.

The increasingly centralized federal education and workforce system, of which Perkins is a part, is multifaceted: the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the proposed merger of the Departments of Labor and Education, Common Core for use with digital badges,  computerized  “personalized” learning (PL)/competency-based education (CBE), and older laws like No Child Left Behind, Goals 2000, and School to Work. 

This longstanding, unconstitutional federal interference in education and labor markets, picking winners and losers, has not improved and will not improve academic or economic outcomes. Even worse, Perkins is the latest example of racing away from capitalism to embrace principles of government/corporate control found in European social democracies and failed command-and-control economies littering the 20th century.

The Perkins reauthorization contains multiple passages embracing central economic planning. The bill requires the use of “State, regional, or local labor market data to determine alignment of eligible recipients’ programs of study to the needs of the State, regional, or local economy, including in-demand industry sectors and occupations identified by the State board, and to align career and technical education with such needs… What happened to individual students and free markets making those decisions? 

The “State board” refers to government-appointed bureaucrats, including corporate bigwigs, on state workforce boards set up under the Workforce Investment Act (predecessor to WIOA) signed by President Clinton. This scheme elevates the needs of business over student desires, while playing Carnac to predict economic trends. 

These boards were essential to Marc Tucker’s plan to centralize the entire U.S. education and workforce system, outlined in his now infamous 1992 letter to the Clintons. It was and remains Tucker’s plan to “to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels” where curriculum, including “national standards” and “job matching,” will be handled by counselors “accessing the integrated computer-based program.”

In 2001, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and policy analyst Michael Chapman described key components of Tucker’s system implemented via three federal laws signed by Clinton, including:

  • Public/private [unaccountable] non-profits provide design, policy, and seed money as a catalyst for systemic change.
  • The Federal Department of Labor chooses which private industry sectors are promoted in each state. 
  • K-12 and state colleges dump academics for job training in local “targeted” industries. 

They used the following diagram to illustrate the system, which served as the foundation leading to the various other programs listed above. These others could then be added on appropriate sides of this triangle:

Billionaire busybodies like Bill Gates adopted the Tucker/Clinton vision, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on programs like Smaller Learning Communities that required students to choose career paths in eighth grade, Common Core, and other education/workforce/data mining debacles. 

In Tucker’s recent letter to Secretary of Education DeVos praising Europe’s managed education-workforce systems, he continues the theme of government/business control of CTE, believing “business and labor” should “own it, period.” He giddily describes the Swiss system, in which business and labor “set the standards” for various system components, “define the progressions,” and “even examine the candidates seeking credentials.” 

This idea of corporations examining candidates underlies Tucker’s 1992 desire for national standards that became Common Core. The Common Core standards are used as data tags to hold everyone accountable to the government system, including expansion of social-emotional learning.  This concept also inspired Big Data’s push for constant assessment, data mining, and psychological profiling in PL/CBE, including use of Facebook-style student personality profiling being pushed globally. 

Perkins contains numerous references to CBE, data collection, and the manipulative Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (a system of universal student behavioral screening and potential psychological modification). All this can ultimately feed into subjective, murky algorithms that will channel children into government/corporate-desired societal roles. 

Yet – as history shows — government is utterly incapable of predicting economic trends and workforce needs. Five-year plans have failed spectacularly. Even Tucker, when recently discussing CTE, admitted his scheme’s great danger is to “condemn a large fraction of our youth to narrowly conceived training programs at the very time that advances in artificial intelligence and related disciplines are on the verge of wiping out entire industries…” 

Although Tucker and colleagues tout European education-workforce systems, none have produced or will produce American levels of freedom and prosperity. Will America choose the Tucker/Gates/Clinton failed methods that view “human value only in terms of productive capability” or our children as “products” (per Rex Tillerson)? Or will we return to promoting, as framed by C.S. Lewis, education over training so that American civilization continues to produce the freedom, prosperity and generosity that have made it the greatest civilization in human history?

DeVos Speaks to Conservative High School Students

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the Turning Point USA High School Leadership Summit on Thursday in Washington, DC.

I wanted to highlight a couple of excerpts of her speech.

She first addressed educational freedom:

Way too many in the education world believe they need more involvement, more intrusion, more mandates, more money, more government.

But what do we believe? We believe in more freedom!

We are committed to expanding education freedom for all families across America. You’ve probably heard me described as “pro-school choice.” Well, I am, but choice in education is not defined by picking this building or that school, using this voucher or that scholarship. And it’s not public versus private. Parochial versus charter. Homeschool versus virtual.

It shouldn’t be “versus” anything, because choice in education is bigger than that.

Choice is really about freedom! Freedom to learn, and to learn differently. Freedom to explore. Freedom to fail, to learn from falling and to get back up and try again. It’s freedom to find the best way for you to learn and grow…to find the engaging combination that unleashes your curiosity and unlocks your individual potential.

You and your families already exercise freedom when you make choices about next steps for education after high school. I suspect many of you are going through this process right now.

You compare options, and make an informed decision.

If you choose to go to Georgetown, are you somehow against the Wolverines or the Fighting Irish? Well, you’re not — except when they’re on the basketball court.

If you decide to go to George Washington University, are you somehow against public universities? Of course not!

No one criticizes those choices. No one thinks choice in higher education is wrong. So why is it wrong in elementary school, middle school, or high school?

Truth is: there is nothing wrong with that! There is nothing wrong with wanting to pursue the education that’s right for you!

First, how about educational choice within public schools? She talks a lot about freedom from mandates and flexibility, but we are still waiting to see something, anything tangible headed in that direction from the Trump administration.

States still have to play “Mother, May I?” Utah had a request for flexibility denied. Schools still face top-down mandates. Parents still face difficulty in many school districts and states when attempting to opt their students out of assessments.

When are going to see real freedom from centralized control?

Secondly, federal programs can never truly expand freedom; they can only ultimately restrict it. Have we ever seen federal money come without strings attached? No. I favor school choice, but it should not come from the federal level. DeVos highlights choices that students have in college, but she neglects to mention all of the federal regulations colleges face from allowing federal student aid.

No thanks.

She then gives a nod to workforce development and personalized learning, she said:

It’s time to reorient our approach to education. We need a paradigm shift. A rethink.

“Rethink” means we question everything to ensure nothing limits you from pursuing your passion, and achieving your potential.

You – and all students – deserve learning environments that are agile, relevant, exciting. You should be able to pursue customized, self-paced, and challenging life-long learning journeys.

I recently visited a SkillsUSA conference where students competed with each other in a wide range of activities they had learned about: developing computer games, building homes, welding, baking, graphic design – to name just a few. They were all clearly excited about what they were doing!

And last week, I met a 70-year-old man who was in his fourth career. His first was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He went on to work in the defense contracting industry, followed by another career in banking. He found retirement to be quite boring, so he learned the necessary skills to drive big rigs across the country. And he said his fourth career is his best one yet!

So be open to possibilities that aren’t pre-planned. I suspect some – or maybe many — of you feel like your life thus far has been ordered for you. Class to class, grade to grade, graduation to graduation. But you will find that nothing – not your families, your careers, your faith journeys — is as predictable as it seems.

So what you learn is about much more than just acquiring “skills” or diplomas. You are your most important resource. Your education is about you. It’s about your aspirations and abilities. Your passions and pursuits. Your ingenuity and what you do with it is what gives life to your education.

We’ve had too much “rethink(ing)” in education circles, we need to go back to basics. Schools need to address classical education. It’s not just about a student’s interest. It’s not about skills. Kids need content, and the pendulum is swinging wildly away from that.

More “Flexibility” From The Feds

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

Here’s another example of “flexibility” from the Feds that will directly impact parents who want to opt their students out. After we were told that the Every Student Succeeds Act will end the “national school board” and will “provide greater flexibility to local schools and states,” the U.S. Department of Education under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos doesn’t seem to have received the memo.

Shocker.

Utah is the latest state to get slapped down when they asked the Feds, “Mother may I?”

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports:

After its series of requests for flexibility from federal education laws were denied, the Utah Board of Education has agreed to count opt-outs as students who took tests but failed in order to achieve a minimum participation rate of 95 percent.

That means schools with high numbers of students who opt-out of assessments — including many charter schools and some school districts — could see their performance ratings plummet, as those children are awarded zero points for the purpose of accountability calculations. The ratings are used in programs like Title 1, school grading and school turnaround efforts.

The change in policy is part of Utah’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which mandates that at least 95 percent of students participate in annual testing in grades three through eight and at least once in high school. Utah’s plan was approved Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education, following several delays as the state requested and failed to receive a waiver from the participation requirements, or a one-year reprieve from ESSA’s mandate.

Let’s say this again – The Every Student Succeeds Act does not provide flexibility. The Every Student Succeeds Act does not return local control. Those who think it does are either devious or deluded.

If the Trump Administration is serious about ratcheting back federal education policy they can start by convincing Congress to repeal this horrendous law.

Betsy DeVos: Education and Labor Merger Will Make Us More Like Europe

Betsy DeVos at CPAC 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Committee
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

In an op/ed written last week for Education Week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that merging the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor would emulate what she saw during a trip to Europe.

Education and workforce policies have always been intimately linked, yet for decades the federal government has addressed them separately with two different departments. President Donald Trump recently announced a bold plan to remedy that with a new Department of Education and the Workforce that would reduce the federal footprint in education and make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students and workers. It would also help catch us up to how students in other countries pursue their education.

I saw such approaches during my first international trip as the U.S. secretary of education to schools in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Each country takes a holistic approach to education to prepare students for career and life success.

She addressed how the Netherlands use taxpayer funding for private schools (no mention of the likely strings attached though) and how the United Kingdom offers schools similar to charter schools. She then turned her attention to Switzerland to bring it back to workforce development.

Switzerland is known for its robust apprenticeship program, with more than two-thirds of high school students engaged in one of the roughly 300 government-recognized apprenticeships. We saw the efficacy of this approach at Asea Brown Boveri’s plant in Zurich. ABB is one of many companies that partner with the country’s education system to offer students experience in high-earning fields like machinery and electronics. Students are exposed to many rewarding career paths, but they also have the choice to pursue an education at a traditional university. It’s not an “either/or” decision—as the Swiss say, “there are no dead ends in Switzerland’s education system.”

Hey, students, you can do apprenticeships, but only one that the government recognizes.

What could possibly go wrong there? Also, there’s no mention of how Europe tracks students and decide by middle school whether they will be on a university track or a vocational track.

Do we really want to emulate Europe’s managed economy with its high unemployment?

The countries that Secretary DeVos visited have highly centralized education systems, but she made no mention of that fact.

The U.S. shouldn’t seek to emulate Europe.

DeVos, Foxx Celebrate Announced Merger of Education and Labor Departments

Betsy DeVos at CPAC 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Committee
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

After the White House announced it’s government reform plan on Thursday that includes a proposed merger between the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lauded the decision.

“President Trump campaigned and won with his promise to reduce the federal footprint in education and to make the federal government more efficient and effective. Today’s bold reform proposal takes a big step toward fulfilling that promise. Artificial barriers between education and workforce programs have existed for far too long. We must reform our 20th century federal agencies to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” DeVos said in a released statement.

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools. I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality,” she added.

First, the fact that DeVos issued a statement, but U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta did not, gives us an idea who will remain a part of President Trump’s cabinet.

Secondly, DeVos celebrates the elimination of “artificial barriers between education and workforce programs.” What artificial barriers?

She’s not allow in celebrating. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce lauded the proposal as well.

“The federal government is long overdue for a serious overhaul. The proposed Department of Education and the Workforce is recognition of the clear relationship between education policy at every level and the needs of the growing American workforce. At the Committee on Education and the Workforce, we make these connections in everything we do. We welcome the administration’s focus on education and workforce issues together, and as we continue our oversight over the Department of Education and the Department of Labor, we look forward to working with the administration on the proposal and how the new department could function to best serve American students, workers, job creators, and families,” Fox wrote.

No word from U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the U.S. Senate HELP Committee, however. Which makes me think the proposal may have a harder time passing the U.S. Senate.

As I said yesterday, this institutionalizes “workforce development” as the education model and that is being celebrated this week.