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Secretary of Education Elisabeth 'Betsy' DeVos

Businesswoman, philanthropist, and now Secretary of Education Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos did not have a graceful initiation into Washington politics at her Senate nomination hearing. She was skewered by several Democrats, most notably Senator Al Frenken (D-Minnessota), but also former VP candidate Tim Kaine (D-Virginia). At times she looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.

Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Connecticut) got the biggest raves from the aisles on the left when he asked the nominee, “Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?” DeVos responded, as she had done numerous times that day in that committee room, “That is best left to locales and states to decide.”


Murphy insisted, “You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

DeVos responded, possibly because she is not up on the pitfalls of the media echo chamber on guns, “I will refer back to Senator [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

Much laughter ensued, resulting eventually in a hilarious sketch on CBS’ Late Show with Stephen Colbert showing a big bear bullying students and giving them wedgies.

It didn’t matter, of course, she was confirmed by the Republican majority. Now, it turns out, Jewish day schools that may or may not have supported Donald Trump for president, are loving the Secretary of Education. Because she believes in vouchers.

Betsy DeVos is not a friend of the public education system. She much prefers to take the money the US government plans to spend on education each year, divide it by the number of school children and give it to the parents in the form of “vouchers.” It’s not a new idea, and the amount of these vouchers often does not begin to cover what a private Jewish day school charges these days, but it’s an improvement. In Ohio, according to JTA, at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, vouchers covers less than 40% of the high-school tuition, which could be as high as $12,500 a year.

Ohio director of Agudath Israel of America Rabbi Eric Frank told JTA he was grateful for the fact that there’s finally official recognition that the cost of Jewish education stops children from attending a Jewish day school

In Michigan, DeVos’ home state, charter schools have not improved the state’s ranking. Michigan ranks near the bottom for 4th and 8th grade math and 4th grade reading on a national test called “Nation’s Report Card.” In fact, the state’s charter schools scored worse on this test than its public-school, according to Politico.

It’s probably a question of economic and social factors, and charter schools have occasionally been known to be run by charlatans. Still, for Jewish parents who struggle to pay for their kids’ education every little bit counts.

Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick, are billionaires who have contributed an estimated $7 million to support lawmakers who push school choice, meaning the idea that parents shouldn’t be locked into their local public schools but may be enabled to choose other options, including publicly funded charter schools, as well as private and parochial schools.

DeVos suggests that “Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child, and they know other options exist. Why in 2017 are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choices for their children?”

So, it turns out the new Trump Administration favors Jews not only in Judea and Samaria, but in the States as well. Our recommendation: if you are the parent of a Jewish school student – lay off those protest rallies…


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