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Curriculum and Instruction News

UW-Madison’s Apple speaks with Time magazine about DeVos’ controversial 2017

December 20, 2017

Time magazine recently posted an article putting the spotlight on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ controversial first year, and UW-Madison’s Michael Apple was among the experts the publication reached out to in an effort to put these topics in perspective.

Apple is the John Bascom Professor Emeritus of Curriculum and Instruction, and Educational Policy Studies.

The Time report begins: “Before she was even sworn in as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos emerged as one of the most controversial members of the Trump Administration. Her confirmation required a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence after every Senate Democrat and two Senate Republicans voted against her. In the months since, like many others in the Trump Administration, DeVos has set about rolling back Obama-era policies, from Title IX guidance on campus sexual assault to regulations on for-profit colleges. She quickly found support from conservatives who had backed her previous work as a school choice advocate, but she struggled to build broad national support for her initiatives. DeVos, a prominent Republican donor, faced criticism from Democrats, teachers unions and civil rights advocates, many of whom noted that she did not have a background in education.”

Time points out that prior to joining the Trump team, DeVos was a leading school choice activist -– and she continues to push for charter schools and programs that allow parents to use vouchers to send their child to a private school. Time explains that while “making school choice changes on a national scale would require an act of Congress, education experts say DeVos is beginning to leave a long-term impact on the issue by opening the debate over what counts as a ‘good education.’ ”

“When you look at her speeches, they’re like oatmeal,” Apple tells Time in the report. “There’s very little robust policy initiatives you can see in public. But what she is doing is changing the debate, which is actually the first step. In order to make legislation, you have to change the debate.”

Time goes on to note how, in June, “DeVos blocked the Obama Administration’s protections for students attending for-profit colleges.

This, Apple tells Time, was “truly, truly major in its impact.”

Time explains how the “regulations, which were set to take effect this year, would have provided debt forgiveness to students defrauded by for-profit colleges and would have cut off funding to for-profit colleges that burdened students with loans while failing to prepare them for gainful employment. DeVos said the rules created a ‘muddled process that’s unfair to students and schools, and puts taxpayers on the hook for significant costs.’ Democratic attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia have sued DeVos, urging her to enforce the regulations. And Democratic lawmakers have also raised concern about how student loan borrowers will be affected.”

“It’s clear that commercialized and for-profit colleges and universities are being let off the hook. There’s much less accountability,” Apple tells Time. “That actually is a very significant change.”

To learn much more about this important but nuanced topic, check out the entire Time report online: “The Biggest Controversies From Betsy DeVos’ First Year.”

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