During today’s COVID-19 crisis, the PR departments of every brand-name corporation are running slick ads nobly proclaiming: “We’re all in this together!”
But simultaneously, the lobbying departments of those corporations are ignobly using the public’s focus on the health crisis as cover for selfishly grabbing government favors. One of the grabbiest special interests are well-off corporate and parochial private schools, where students from some of America’s wealthiest families get their education. For years, these private entities have been lobbying relentlessly to make taxpayers finance their schools, even though they usually have an ideological or religious curriculum, and some even share the extremist view that public schools should be eliminated.
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That extremist nook is where Betsy DeVos resides. She’s a multibillionaire heiress and long-time funder of far-right-wing causes. Chosen by Trump to run America’s education department, she’s been trying to run our schools straight into private hands… but with little success. Then, along came the COVID-19 federal relief package, including funds to help meet the education needs of low-income students in hard-hit public schools.
Hallelujah! shouted DeVos, grabbing the coronavirus as a way to advance her agenda. In May, she issued an edict requiring local public school districts to divert millions of the relief dollars from their disadvantaged students, forcing them to share their allotment with even the richest private schools. Astonishingly, Trump’s haughty education secretary rationalized her directive as a matter of economic fairness, piously informing locals that they must not “discriminate” against the rich.
DeVos’ “Share-with-the-rich” dictum can be a bit imbalanced. Officials in New Orleans, for example, note that under her formula, 77 percent of its allotment would end up in private hands. Luckily, her “order” does not have the force of law, and public schools are fighting back. For information and action, go to the National Coalition for Public Education: NCPEcoalition.org.