Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took center-stage yesterday when interviewed on 60 Minutes. DeVos said public schools “have seen zero results” even though high school graduation, college going, and college completion rates have all increased. She also repeated her claim that unfettered school choice—similar to the poorly regulated and largely for-profit charter school sector in Michigan and private school vouchers she advocated for elsewhere—were key to improving education overall including public school outcomes. However, when pressed on Michigan’s record, she acknowledged “Michigan schools need to do better,” and Lesley Stahl pointed out that policies she supported had not improved public education in that state.
The interview went from bad to worse when DeVos started talking about guns in schools, focusing on Trump’s proposal to arm teachers. She announced that she would be the head of a new “blue ribbon commission” to look at ways to protect students from gun violence. This announcement came just one day after Trump spent several minutes at the Pennsylvania rally on Saturday ranting about how pointless such commissions are. Bottom line: commissions, especially ones run by the most inept cabinet member in the administration, are usually a lot of talk and little action.
ACTION OF THE DAY
#NeverAgain. Wednesday marks one month since the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. As the Trump administration fails to take meaningful action to prevent gun violence, the students from Parkland are leading the charge. On Wednesday, there will be a national school walkout to demand action on guns. Find out if a walkout is happening near you here. And check out CAP’s new series on 6 ways to prevent gun violence here—the first video features Jason Kander!
“Just Having Fun.” Over the weekend, President Trump gave a wild speech in Pennsylvania, while stumping for Republican nominee for Senate, Rick Saccone. One of the most outrageous moments in the rally came when Trump called Representative Maxine Waters “a very low IQ individual.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin brushed off criticism of the comment, saying, ‘The president likes making funny names.” But, it’s certainly notable that he’s calling an African American women—and Trump critic—unintelligent, especially given his history with discrimination. In fact, he’s continued harming communities of color in his presidency, and comments such as these suggest he doesn’t plan on changing anytime soon.
Separating Families. On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced it is suing the Trump administration for forcibly separating parents from their young children. The ACLU is arguing that “the practice by government agencies of separating young children from their families violates the Process Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).” Hundreds of young children have been separated from their parents since Trump took office last year. This is especially concerning because family reunification—not separation—is the bedrock of U.S. immigration policy.
Minimum Wage Equal Pay Day. March 1 marked the day that a minimum wage worker earning $7.25/hour caught up to how much she earned in a single year the last time the federal minimum wage was raised—in 2009. Tune in to the latest episode of the Off-Kilter podcast to hear from the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressman Mark Pocan, about why the lowest-paid workers in the country deserve a raise.
Another Mass Shooting, Another Scapegoat. It’s a special week for Off-Kilter, as there’s a bonus episode. Since Parkland, there’s been a lot of mistruths spread about mental illness and gun violence. Mary Giliberti, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, joined the show to break down what’s fact and what’s myth. Tune in here.
UNDER THE RADAR
Education for Military Students. Last week, Representative Jim Banks introduced the Military Education Savings Act of 2018 to “divert funding from a long-standing federal program, Impact Aid, into a voucher-like program to pay for private school tuition, tutoring, or homeschooling materials for military families.” While at first the bill may seem like a well-intentioned attempt to provide increased funding for military students, it actually will create instability and cut funding for federally impacted public schools. With 80 percent of military-connected students attending public schools, it’s crucial that we increase investment in our public education system—not funnel money to vouchers.