By D’Anne Witkowski
School sux, amirite, guys? Pencils, books, teachers’ dirty looks. Ugh. Who needs it?
I mean, the very idea of public education funded by tax dollars sprang from the mind of some lunatic named Thomas Jefferson, who I’m pretty sure is best known for “moving on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky.”
Not to mention public education’s biggest flaw: it isn’t driven by profit. I mean, who is getting rich off of this scheme? And if nobody’s getting rich, then what’s the point?
Which is why I’m so excited that Donald Trump has tapped Betsy DeVos, super mega zillionaire and major hater of public schools, to head the Department of Education.
Now, if you live in Michigan you probably already know DeVos (not personally, because you are probably a peasant she’d never talk to). The DeVos family fortune comes from Amway, the direct marketing company that hawks vitamins, make-up and household cleaning agents. You know, that shit your crazy cousin sells and is always trying to get you to sell, too, but insists is not a pyramid scheme.
The DeVos family, which basically owns the GOP in Michigan, has been kicking public education in the groin for years in the Great Lakes State, pushing for public education dollars to be funneled into religious, charter and for-profit schools instead. Betsy and her family are big fans of vouchers, which parents could use toward tuition at a school that won’t teach your kid to read, but will teach your kid that Jesus used to ride on dinosaurs.
But why do so many right-wing conservatives hate public school so much? Because public school is the perfect mix of right-wing triggers like government (always incompetent!) taxes (always bad!), unions (always thugs!), thinking (always dangerous!), and the separation of church and state (not a thing!).
Not to mention the fact that the federal gov’ment wants to protect LGBTQ kids. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights under President Obama is doing things like fighting anti-LGBTQ discrimination and advocating that trans students be treated like human beings.
Now DeVos is not such a big fan of LGBTQ folks. In 2004, Betsy and her husband Dick were major players in the successful effort to get an anti-gay marriage amendment into Michigan’s constitution. They donated $200,000 to the effort.
The DeVos family has given lots of money to rabidly anti-gay groups like the National Organization for Marriage, Focus on the Family, Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, of which Betsy’s father is a founding member.
The reason why the “public” part of education is so crucial is that it is supposed to be free for all children. Dismantling the public school system would mean leaving the most vulnerable to fend for themselves. And LGBTQ students are in that category.
“True educational equity requires schools that serve the most at-risk students, including students of color; students with disabilities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning students; and English-language learners,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said in a statement. “Vouchers and tuition tax credits do not advance this cause. As we have seen over the past eight years, federal civil rights oversight of education is essential to ensure that all students in this country have real access to opportunity.”
DeVos claims she wants all kids to have a good education. Unfortunately, what she’s unleashed in Michigan is absolutely not accomplishing that.
But hey, maybe DeVos won’t totally strangle public schools and squash all efforts to make life easier and education better for LGBTQ students. Unfortunately, the signs are bad at this point.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.