DeVos Department of Education Clashes with Federal Employees Union over Contract

Devos is remotely anti-organized labor? I’m shocked!


On Wednesday afternoon U.S. Department of Education employees held a rally to protest the imposition on the Department’s employees of what Betsy DeVos has called a contract agreement. The so-called contract was, however, neither agreed to nor signed by any representative of the American Federation of Government Employees.

The Washington Post‘s Joe Davidson explains: “The Education Department is attempting to enforce a ‘collective bargaining agreement’ on a union that does not agree. The department’s move to foist a contract on the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the Trump administration’s latest and most dramatic attack on federal labor organizations and has implications far beyond the 3,900 employees the union represents at the department. This bold stroke could herald what federal unions across the government might encounter from an administration bent on belittling them.”

Rachel Cohen first broke the story on March 15, in The Intercept: “The…

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After 17 Years, Local School Board to Replace State Oversight in Philadelphia

Not unlike Detroit, since 1999, and several other Michigan districts predominantly filled with children of color, the education industry profiteers are the winners and neighborhood schools and families in this dreadful experiment.


What will happen in  Philadelphia as Pennsylvania releases the school district from 17 years of badly bungled state control?

In a piece this week for Our Future, Jeff Bryant marks the emergence of the School District of Philadelphia from state oversight: “State control of Philadelphia’s schools came to an end in November 2017, when the state-imposed School Reform Commission (SRC), which governed the schools, voted itself out of existence…. The transfer of governing power is expected to be completed by June 30.”

The School District of Philadelphia has been a centerpiece of corporate school reform for years and years. The issues have always been money and the myth that privatization would relieve the state budget by establishing efficiencies to lower the expenses in the state’s largest and among its poorest school districts.

In 2000-2001, the state seized control of the district, established an appointed School Reform Commission to replace…

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New School Safety Commission has no experience in promoting safety, lots of experience in protecting privilege and criminalizing communities of color

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Last week, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced that a new School Safety Commission has been formed.

The announcement from DeVos also stated, “The Commission has been charged with quickly providing meaningful and actionable recommendations to keep students safe at school.”

This new commission has been created, in light of the recent school shootings, but is not limited to just gun violence. If the goal is to keep students safe while attending school, then we can make some assessments based on who has been name to sit on this 4 member commission.

Betsy DeVos

Since Betsy DeVos was put in charge of creating this new Commission on School Safety, she has designated that she would be one of the four members of the commission. Her qualifications in this area are rather vague, plus she has inherited a system that in many ways is not committed to student safety.


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Governors Walker and Kasich Starve School Budgets, Redefine Education as Workforce Prep

Add Michigan and you have a trifecta. Rust belt, blue collar, union states. The DNC should be ashamed. “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” – Will Rogers


In his fine book, The One Percent Solution, Gordon Lafer describes the red-state wave that occurred in the November 2010 election: “In January 2011, legislatures across the country took office under a unique set of circumstances.  In many states new majorities rode to power on the energy of the Tea Party ‘wave’ election and the corporate-backed Red Map campaign.  Critically, this new territory included a string of states running across the upper Midwest from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, that had traditionally constituted labor strongholds.  In addition, this was the first class of legislators elected under post-Citizens United campaign finance rules, and the sudden influence of unlimited money in politics was felt across the country.” (The One Percent Solution, p. 44)

Scott Walker became the Governor of Wisconsin in January of 2011, just as John Kasich became Governor of Ohio, and both states became Republican trifecta states, with both…

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Electoral Politics is all about money – all the time in West MI

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

It is common knowledge that at the state and federal level, candidates need a substantial amount of money of they are going to get elected within the current political system.

In fact, both candidates and incumbents never really stop raising money, for either their own campaign or for other politicians within their party. This definitely the case for Democrats and Republicans.

On top of that, most candidates and incumbents are primarily interested in big donors. You can usually tell by how much their fundraising events cost and where they are located.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network recently released a new report showing that in 2017, there were 601 fundraisers for state office holders in Michigan. In 2016, there were 439 fundraisers and in 2015, there were 315. Clearly, there has been an increase in the amount of fundraisers being hosted by incumbents or those  who are term-limited and seeking…

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National Education Policy Center Deletes Facebook Account, Calls for Strict Data Protections, Public Regulation, Digital Platforms Oversight

Key Takeaway: Facebook’s benefits are overwhelmed by problems inherent in its business model, its failure to safeguard personal information, and its lack of transparency and accountability.

BOULDER, CO (March 27, 2018) – The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) will delete its Facebook account on Wednesday March 28. We have already removed social sharing via Facebook from the NEPC website and our other communication tools.

While Facebook has many benefits, we feel compelled to disassociate ourselves from the invasive data mining and the third-party targeting of users inherent in its business model. The goal of the NEPC is to provide high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation. Deceitful micro-targeted propaganda is made possible by Facebook data and undermines democracy. Our reading of the evidence and record tells us that neither Facebook nor any other opaque, unregulated, and unaccountable private entity should have control over the private data of billions of people. Whatever services are provided by the Facebook platform are overwhelmed by Facebook’s business model, its lack of transparency, its failure to safeguard the personal information of its users, and its lack of accountability.

NEPC annual reports on Schoolhouse Commercialism have highlighted the intensifying surveillance culture and other dangers to student privacy in the digital age, and Facebook has emerged as a primary culprit. It would be disingenuous for us to use Facebook to promote those reports and other NEPC work.

We don’t pretend that this was an easy step. Communication of research lies at the heart of NEPC’s mission, and social media are a big part of communications—with Facebook positioned as a dominant social media platform. Last month, NEPC’s “Schools of Opportunity” project benefited hugely from a short video that went viral on Facebook, garnering over a million views.

Yet the more we learned about Facebook’s data gathering, and in particular the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the more we couldn’t avoid the conclusion that Facebook’s benefits are far outweighed by its dangers. Facebook is designed in ways that are inherently troubling. As Facebook’s first president warned, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” He disclosed that Facebook was designed to create a “social validation feedback loop” that we now know does indeed alter brain chemistry by triggering dopamine hits each time a posting is liked. And marketers are taking full advantage.

Consider also this passage from a recent article in The Guardian (internal links included):

That Silicon Valley parents use the money they earn from tech to send their children to tech-free schools is no secret. But such qualms have not stopped the tech companies themselves from continuing to push their products on to other people’s children, both through partnerships with school districts and special apps for children as young as six.

In January 2018, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent Mark Zuckerberg a letter, signed by over 100 child advocates, educators, and experts in child development, requesting that Facebook discontinue its Messenger Kids app for children.  A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it likely that this new app—designed to encourage greater use of digital devices and social media among children—will undermine children’s healthy development. Facebook continues to promote Messenger Kids.

This problem is much larger than Facebook, but we cannot use that fact to justify inaction. We cannot, in good conscience, continue to lend tacit support to Facebook. NEPC has concluded that encouraging our readers to provide information that will be used by Facebook and its clients to tailor and limit information to which our readers will then be exposed contradicts our defined organizational mission, which is to support democratic deliberation about education policy.

We at NEPC encourage other education organizations to consider whether they too should delete their Facebook accounts, and we call upon policy makers to develop policies that provide strict public oversight of social media platforms.

Schools and Digital Platforms

NEPC’s own publications describe how digital platforms work through schools to pull children into the surveillance economy—an unregulated economy that these platforms have worked to construct and from which they benefit financially. “Students are offered no choice,” explains Faith Boninger, co-author with Alex Molnar of NEPC’s commercialism reports. As one student told Boninger and Molnar, “I can’t delete my Facebook account. My school activities have Facebook groups that I have to access. Maybe I can delete my account when I graduate.”

Molnar, who is NEPC’s Publications Director, warns that “students are tied to Facebook by their school-related activities, and they unwillingly and usually unwittingly provide Facebook with information that is used to limit what they are exposed to on-line and funnel them to worldviews that will reward Facebook’s clients.”

Boninger and Molnar add that their research has shown that digital platforms being promoted for school use are neither well understood by educators nor adequately regulated by existing policy and law. Says Molnar, “the kind of abuses inherent in Facebook’s business model, management structure, and lack of transparency are, without question, also occurring in schools and classrooms every day via social networks and digital platforms.”


Learn more about NEPC research on digital marketing and data gathering in schools at

The following organizations also have resources on data gathering from children and in schools: Campaign for Commercial-Free ChildhoodCenter for Digital DemocracyElectronic Frontier FoundationElectronic Privacy Information Center, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

We encourage people to distribute this announcement as widely as possible and to continue to share the work of the National Education Policy Center with others.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

Journalist’s Resource:    Research on today’s news

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Journalist’s Resource

Research on today’s news

Hepatitis C treatment in black patients: Longer isn’t better
A combination therapy for hepatitis C has increased treatment success rates. Typically, patients spend either eight or 12 weeks on this regimen. While medical guidelines indicate black patients should not undertake the shorter course of treatment, researchers have found it works just as well for them.

Shave and a checkup: Health interventions at the barbershop
We reviewed the literature to find studies on health interventions that took place in barbershops as a strategy to reach black men, who tend to see physicians less often than black women and white men and women, and experience disparities in many areas of health.

Teacher salaries impact the types of educators working in schools
West Virginia schools closed for nearly two weeks during a recent walkout over teacher salaries. Local governments and educators are continually haggling over pay, especially in states with lower-than-average teacher earnings. Why should education officials and legislators care about teacher pay? We’ve gathered research that suggests, among other things, that higher pay draws smarter people to the field.

Rural mothers at risk of preterm birth following loss of care
In recent years, rural areas have suffered dramatic losses in obstetric services. As hospitals lose these services, rural mothers face challenges and risks. A recent study finds loss of obstetric services at hospitals in rural counties puts mothers at a higher risk of preterm birth and birth outside of a hospital or in a hospital without an obstetric unit.


In Appropriations Bill, Congress Impedes Betsy DeVos’s Plans

“It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture — to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things — in this case, the system of education in the country.” – Betsy DeVos, 2001


There are reasons to worry that the Trump administration is leading our government in the wrong direction—reasons to worry, for example, about a bellicose foreign policy, the destruction of the environment, insufficient health care for the poor, and the failure to maintain our national parks—but in the recent spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018, the bill to provide programs through the end of September, Congress protected the U.S. Department of Education.

The Washington Post‘s James Hohmann identifies Winners and Losers in the Spending Bill. Betsy DeVos is one of seven losers: “The Education Secretary wanted to spend more than $1 billion promoting vouchers while slashing funding for the rest of her department by $3.6 billion, mostly by taking it from programs that help the poor. She also wanted to make big cuts to the Office for Civil Rights and eliminate grant programs that support student mental-health. The final deal…

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Donor’s Trust, Dark Money and their ties to West Michigan

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Donor’s Trust is a non-profit that was created in 1999 and committed to the, “ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise.” It’s sister organization , is called Donors Capital Fund and both of them are made up of members of the Capitalist class to provides big donors an opportunity to hide their money that can influence public policy.

According to SourceWatch, “As a rule, Donors Trust refers clients to Donors Capital Fund if they expect to open donor-advised funds of more than $1,000,000. The twin Donors organizations are advertised as a way for very wealthy people and corporations to remain hidden when “funding sensitive or controversial issues,” creating a lack of accountability.”

In 2013, we ran a story about how the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation was a major contributor to the Donor Trust and the Donor Capital Fund. Along with the Koch Brothers and…

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What one GRPS Principal said to students during the National Walkout in support of Parkland Students

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On March 14, hundreds of thousands of students participated in the National Walkout in support of the Students from Parkland and Against gun violence in schools

Like the rest of the country, the Grand Rapids Public Schools students participated in the walkout.

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said they are using the event as a teachable moment focused on school safety and the district’s’ “See It, Say It, Do Something About It-Stop School Violence” theme.

Shortly after the GRPD Superintendent release a statement on what they intended to do, several GRPS students wrote how what the GRPS administration was doing was a hinderance to students. The student response reads in part:

The problems with the district’s endorsement of the walkout are most evident in the letter sent home about the event. The letter contained a short statement of support for the walkout, a rigid plan for each grade…

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