From DeVos to Debt: This Week's Top 7 Education Stories

The best recent writing about school

Betsy DeVos at her Senate confirmation hearing
Carolyn Kaster / AP

One Education Department, Under God?

Kristina Rizga | Mother Jones

Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, "There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education … [versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country … Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God's kingdom." …

Mother Jones has analyzed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation's tax filings from 2000 to 2014, as well as the 2001 to 2014 filings from her parents' charitable organization, the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. … While Dick and Betsy DeVos have donated large amounts to hospitals, health research, and arts organizations, these records show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools, evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.

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The Paralyzing Debt of For-Profit College Students

Lizzie O’Leary | PBS

“They were very adamant on like their job placement rates … You would think, oh, okay, I’m going to get the quality education that I’m looking for, because that’s what it’s about, quality,” Danielle Lopez, who enrolled in the for-profit Art Institutes. “You know, I figure, if I’m going to pay that much—that amount of money for such a short program, I’m going to be getting something out of it. And that wasn’t what happened.”

She claims the school never helped her get work in her field. And she says employers don’t value the degree in the way she thought they would.

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From a Liberal California High School to Trump’s Inner Circle

Lisa Mascaro | LA Times

How the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, as the city is sometimes jokingly called, gave rise to the skinny-suited man now at Donald Trump’s side is as much a story about one teen’s intellectual tenacity as it is about the backlash to liberalism at the turn of the millennium.

The culturally sensitive environment at [Santa Monica High School] infuriated and ultimately shaped [Stephen] Miller, 31, now a senior advisor to Trump who is helping to draft this week’s inaugural address and will have a coveted West Wing office.

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Finding the American Dream in the Reality of Chicago’s Poorest Neighborhoods

Linda Lutton | WBEZ Chicago

A powerful idea sits at the heart of our country’s identity: No matter who you are, no matter where you are from, every American deserves an equal chance to get ahead.

It’s why public schools were created. They’re meant to be the great equalizer.

Except, too often, they are not. …

I wanted to see up close what poverty slings at a school like that. I wanted to better understand the mystery of why so many schools in poor neighborhoods fail to do what we ask of them.

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The Colleges Where the 1 Percent Outnumber the Bottom 60 Percent

Upshot | The New York Times

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records.

At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League—Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown—more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. …

Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. “Free tuition only helps if you can get in,” said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study.

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Can Betsy DeVos Transform From Lobbyist to Policymaker?

Jonathan A. Knee | The Atlantic

To date, DeVos’s activities have primarily been as a lobbyist through the organization she founded, the nonprofit American Federation for Children. The organization is committed to “creating an education revolution” by promoting vouchers, charter schools, and other “pro-choice” initiatives at the state level.

Success as education secretary depends not only on the ability to manage the sprawling education bureaucracy but also on one’s flexibility in responding to the practical constraints he or she will inevitably confront when attempting to apply broad theories. If DeVos’s overall educational political theory is not a legitimate source of opposition, an unwillingness to modify tactics in the face of new facts is.

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The Conservative Voters of One of the Most Liberal States

Michael Burke | Daily Orange

[Bob] Czaplicki, who has lived in central New York all his life, said he’s witnessed the steady decline of the region’s economy and its deindustrialization over the years. It’s part of what led him to vote for President-elect Donald Trump in November’s presidential election.

Trump will be inaugurated on Friday in Washington, D.C., becoming the 45th president of the United States. He was propelled to the presidency largely by voters in the country’s rural, economically depressed regions that are similar in nature to parts of central New York. Though Trump didn’t win New York state in the election, experts say central New York is representative of the parts of the country that Trump was most successful in.