Betsy DeVos Is The Jeff Sessions Of Education
Secretary DeVos’ latest move puts her indifference to civil rights on full display
It is not a large jump to connect the ideological alignment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Their Conservatism is a crusade to the bitter end, despite overwhelming disapproval by party members on both sides of the aisle and unpopularity with the public. Friday’s announcement that the Education Department will not be actively pursuing as many civil rights cases at public schools and universities is another brick in the wall.
Sessions is dedicated to bringing back the War on Drugs of the 80s and 90s. He is a strong supporter of private prisons, endorses maximum sentences for non-violent drug offenses continuing the perpetuation of mass incarceration — a system that primarily targets minorities. Sessions has demonstrated a desire to bring back policies, laws, and paradigms that were previously scaled back or eliminated in light of their inability to produce a successfully sustainable outcome.
Like Sessions, DeVos seems to be stuck in the same broken 1950s approach to student’s civil rights. As she displayed last month at the Congressional 2018 budget hearing, DeVos would rather let children be at the mercy of their biased state agendas than let Federal mandates intervene.
ProPublica acquired an internal memo issued by Ms. Candice Jackson, the acting head of the Education Department’s civil rights office. In the memo, Jackson noted how the department would be scaling back efforts to combat civil rights trangressions in our schools including, but not limited to the following:
What we all hoped to be willful ignorance on the part of Secretary DeVos is now bolstering the commitment to inaction she displayed in her confirmation hearing and the budget hearing. When it comes to civil rights issues, Secretary DeVos has proven her allegiance to the same school of thought that has made Attorney General Sessions the adversary he has become.
Education is one of the few departments that touches everyone’s daily life regardless of race, gender identity, location, and socio-economic status. Cherry picking what to protect and what to let slide when it comes to our rights as citizens is a shameful act. These are real world issues that need to be solved in real time by real people who understand the urgency.
Under the Obama administration, complaints that became open cases had to be closed within 180 days. For cases that were incredibly far reaching and resulted in schools having to overhaul their policies, it has made the workload unmanageable. However, instead of adjusting the timelines and increasing staffing (creating jobs), the department has decided to forego pursuing some cases altogether.
Additionally, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission voted on June 16 to investigate the Trump administration’s enforcement of civil rights. In the statement subsequently released by the Commission, they noted that the Education Department — under the proposed 2018 budget — would be cutting forty-six jobs or 7% of the civil rights staff.
Seeing the cuts as a direct interference into how civil rights cases would be investigated, they specifically noted Secretary DeVos’ repeated lack of consistency in her answers while under questioning from both the Senate and Congress.
DeVos’s true union is with Conservative ideology. Policies proposed and enacted by DeVos derive from privilege and not comprehending that her polices aren’t positive for all races and economic stations in life. Though she has publicly denounced any and all discrimination, her history speaks to a tendency to allowing lines to be blurred.
Where it can be argued that Sessions prerogative comes from straight racism, it can also be argued that DeVos’ racial apathy comes from blatant ignorance and an adherence to incredibly right wing policies without any thought to their real world implications.
Secretary DeVos has routinely had an issue with answering clear and direct questions. When it comes to how her office will handle highly sensitive cases with clear misconduct, who is to say that those who she hires and appoints will not also fall into the habit of smudging the lines as well. What the final 2018 budget looks like will greatly determine how all of this plays out.
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