Yesterday Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education. Only 50 senators voted YES, so Vice President Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote. DeVos’s only experience of public education is fighting against it.
*She went to private schools.
*She sent her children to private schools.
*She has spent millions of dollars lobbying for “school choice”, which really means more schools segregated by race and class and does nothing for rural communities where there is only one school.
*She supports “career training” education, which means she believes that the non-wealthy should just learn how to work low-paying jobs.
*She has hired for-profit college lobbyists to teach her about the higher education system.
*She embarrassed herself in her confirmation hearing by not knowing how to respond to basic questions.
DeVos was confirmed despite a massive grassroots uprising against her. Senators’ phone lines were flooded with calls from people across the country demanding a ‘NO’ vote. One Senator said it was more calls than the Senate had ever received.
Despite voters demanding their elected officials vote NO, Devos was still confirmed. How did she get a cabinet position she was unqualified for? She bought it. The Devos family has given $200 million to the Republican party in recent years, including to Donald Trump and to some of the same Senators who voted to confirm her nomination.
The lesson is clear. People with money get their way in Washington, while the rest of us have no voice. This is true no matter who is in the White House.
What does Devos’s confirmation mean for Debt Collective members still fighting for debt relief?
In her confirmation hearing DeVos did not say she would enforce the new ‘Borrower Defense’ regulations. She would only say that she would “review” those regulations to make sure they protect “student and taxpayer interests.”
All Debt Collective members know by now what it means when officials start using the “taxpayer narrative.” It means they want to set defrauded students and taxpayers up as competing groups of people with opposing interests. We know this is not true. Defrauded students are taxpayers and taxpayers are defrauded students.
The Department of Education started to (slowly) cancel some Corinthian students debts before the election. No one’s taxes went up as a result. DeVos is using the taxpayer narrative as an excuse for not canceling debts.
Lobbying Betsy DeVos for debt relief will not work on its own. That does not mean we will stop fighting. But we must join forces with everyone who is angry at the way wealthy people always get their way in Washington. The Debt Collective must become part of a broader coalition of people who are demanding access to public goods, including education. Debt Collective members will see more debt relief only by joining the growing army of people fighting together against government and corporate elites.