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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

DeVos, Darth and DeVil

News coverage about Betsy DeVos has been lousy, writes Alexander Russo in The Grade, now on the Kappan site.

Instead of giving readers a full, helpful understanding of the nominee and her background, national outlets including Politico, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, and (especially) the New York Times have cherry-picked storylines that put DeVos in a negative light and written about DeVos’s ideas and efforts using fraught, charged language.

DeVos has been depicted as “Darth Vader meets Cruella de Vil,” writes Russo.

If she was so persuasive and powerful, wouldn’t Michigan have a voucher program in place? Wouldn’t Detroit Public Schools have been dissolved by now? Wouldn’t her husband be governor? Wouldn’t her preferred candidate have won the Republican nomination for president? Wouldn’t she have given a more commanding performance during her Senate hearing?

Russo mocks the idea that DeVos, who’s focused her attention on her home town of Grand Rapids, is responsible for Detroit Public Schools.

The New York Times ran an op-ed by Doug Harris, a Tulane economics professor, calling DeVos “partly responsible” for a “school reform disaster” in Detroit. A “well-regarded” study found that the city’s lightly regulated “charter schools performed at about the same dismal level as its traditional public schools,” Harris claimed.

That study actually found “significantly greater gains” for Detroit charter students,” writes Jay Greene.

Detroit Chalkbeat has a balanced look at DeVos’ record in Michigan, concluding Detroit charter students do “slightly” better than their counterparts in district-run schools.

Matt Barnum also fact-checks the DeVos hearings on The 74.

Senate Democrats are trying to delay confirmation by demanding that DeVos answer 837 written questions, complains Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former Education secretary. With questions within a question, it’s 1,397, he charges. That’s “25 times as many follow-up questions as Republicans asked of either of President Obama’s education secretaries.”

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