Much has been made of how unqualified and unprepared Donald Trump is for the United States presidency, a position he is to assume in coming days. The one caveat to this criticism, brought up repeatedly by Trump during the election, was that he would be able to hire the best people for the areas he was unfamiliar with, which are pretty much every position in his cabinet. But as Trump rolls out his cabinet choices, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that his choices leave so much to be desired. There’s the fast food CEO for Secretary of Labor. There’s also Rick Perry, chosen by Trump to lead a department he couldn’t remember he wanted to eliminate once upon a time.
More critically, though, there are two Trump cabinet choices that go beyond just bad or ill-advised. Two choices that could set us back and irreparably destroy their respective departments. I’m not usually one of those doom-and-gloom people, because I subscribe to the mantra that nothing is ever unfixable. But I seriously believe that Trump’s choices for Secretary of State and Secretary of Education are grave mistakes and they should be immediately denied by the Senate.
Ex-Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is an unconventional choice for Secretary of State, being that he has no government diplomatic experience. But he has formulated relationships with foreign leaders being the head of a multi-national oil company. He also apparently had access to the same kind of monitoring technology used by some of our national security agencies while head of Exxon-Mobil.
The biggest elephant in the room with Tillerson though is his relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin, who bestowed upon Tillerson Russia’s “Order of Friendship” Award for being a friend to Russia. Complicating things even further is that a few years back, while still CEO, Exxon-Mobil struck a deal with Russia worth $800 Billion. This deal was scuttled by the sanctions the Obama administration levied against Russia for annexing Crimea. The fact that a now former CEO will potentially have the power to remove sanctions against Russia should give anyone pause, especially when considering the fact that as recently as last month, Exxon-Mobil lobbied hard against a Senate bill that would have solidified sanctions against Russia.
Despite retiring a few months early and effectively cutting ties with the company ($180 million richer), in my opinion, Tillerson is way too compromised to serve as Secretary of State. It doesn’t even matter if he released a hip-hop diss record against Exxon Mobil that disavowed everything they stood for at this point. There’s a lot of money on the table with this deal. Exxon reported a loss of $1 billion because of the sanctions. The deal will undoubtedly make Russia even more of a world power, and will give them even more authority to take land that isn’t theirs and help more dictators bomb their own innocent people.
This is not to say that an alternate choice from Trump would not rip up sanctions against Russia. But with Tillerson, it seems much, much more likely to happen because of his close relationship with Putin and how much money his former employer is set to make should sanctions be removed. A more powerful Russia would spell doom for the rest of the world given the US’ position now, being headed by an immature, reactionist foreign policy novice who openly fights with his intelligence agencies via social media. Our standing is going to take a hit regardless of who Trump taps as Secretary of State. The least the Senate could do is make Trump go back to the drawing board and choose someone who won’t all but make Russia great again.
Which brings us to Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. Usually, you would expect the person to lead education policy in this country to have some experience in education policy. Or some experience working in a school. Such is not the case with DeVos.
This is a woman who has never worked in education. She has never attended a public school. Her kids have never attended a public school. At this point, you have to question whether she’s even stepped foot into a public school. The fact that she has been chosen to dictate policy on all schools in this country should put a scare in everyone who believes in a high-quality education system for all Americans.
Her only relevant experience is through bankrolling efforts to vastly expand charter schools in the state of Michigan, while alternately fighting aggressively to reduce regulation and oversight into these now numerous charter schools. DeVos is all about vastly expanding charter schools and letting them run unfettered, and education in Michigan is in catastrophic shape thanks in large part to her efforts.
Charter schools, in general, are organized as for-profit businesses, whose funding is predicated on the number of students they have enrolled. Therefore, the first priority for a lot of these schools is to make sure they have as many kids enrolled as possible. They do this through flashy giveaways promising raffle prizes such as laptop computers, bikes and even money to parents that enroll their kids. The second main priority for these charter schools is to maximize profit, seeing as the very nature of a for-profit business is to make as much money as possible.
This leads to schools trying to cut corners in multiple areas. In some instances, this has led to students not having any actual school work because the school didn’t buy the necessary materials. In worse cases, children go an entire day without actual school instruction because when schools are operated in this manner, schooling is a secondary priority. The test scores and continued expansion of charter schools despite their abject failure are clear evidence of this.
What she wants to do with education in this country is the antithesis of what should actually be done to improve education in this country. Further depriving public schools of necessary resources while pushing kids into largely unregulated schools that produce below average results is the legacy of DeVos’ foray into Michigan education.
Regulation of schools is very critical to ensure that schools are properly educating their students. Not holding schools accountable to educating students represents a failure to our young people and their families. Unfortunately, our incoming Secretary of Education does not believe in regulating charter schools. In fact, she and her husband have spent reportedly $25,000 a day to lobby Michigan GOP legislators to continue to deregulate the state’s charter school system. This has led to people who have no business leading a school given charters to run their own, with almost universally disastrous results. The idea of an emphasis on choice rather than quality is the exact opposite of what we should be doing in any type of schooling, whether it be public, private or charter.
She is the absolute wrong person for this job. I don’t question her passion for these kids, for education and the need for reform. But when the system she bankrolled continually rewards “educators” who only care about money/numbers and not about educating kids, one has to question not only her ideology but her track record on educational issues as well. I personally am not anti-charter or anti-school choice. But I am anti-anything that would make our system of education substantially worse than it already is. This is why I am against Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.