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Est. April 5, 2002
February 16, 2017 - Issue 686

Clarence Thomas
Betsy DeVos
Lessons in Retribution

"Secretary DeVos is cut from the same personality
cloth as Justice Thomas and President Trump,
never ignoring a slight without a response.  She
was angered by having her reputation dragged
through the mud and having her basic intellectual
competence examined during her nomination process."

Betsy DeVos vanquished the Democratic and Republican infidels who opposed her confirmation for U.S. Secretary of Education as did Clarence Thomas in 1991 when he was approved for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Thomas was particularly angered by African Americans, who led the battle against his appointment. Shortly after he was approved by the Senate, he lashed out about the treatment he received during his hearing when he was accused of sexually harassing his assistant, Atty. Anita Hill, while he was chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Thomas harshly criticized Hill in his 2007 autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son, implying that she was a “loose woman morally and sexually.” He indicated he would be on the Court for forty years and would get even. Now in his twenty-sixth year, he is likely to reach that goal.

During this period, Thomas has been the deciding vote on several cases that the majority of African Americans say have negatively impacted their quality of life and opportunity structure: he was the deciding vote in the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris school choice, voucher case out of Ohio in 2002 and the pivotal vote in the Shelby County v. Holder voting rights case in 2012, which removed the pre-clearance requirement, “… Section 5 which requires certain states and local governments to obtain federal preclearance before implementing any changes to their voting laws or practices; and Section 4(b), which contains the coverage formula that determines which jurisdictions are subjected to preclearance based on their histories of discrimination in voting.”

Thomas also dissented in a controversial case involving a black defendant, Keith Hudson, who appealed to the Supreme Court for relief from being a victim of cruel and unusual punishment. Hudson was punched and kicked by three Louisiana prison guards while he was “…handcuffed and shackled,” suffering “… bruises, swelling and loosened teeth, injuries that a federal appeals court, in dismissing his lawsuit, deemed so minor as to be beneath the notice of the Eighth Amendment. Justice Thomas dissented in a 7-2 decision affirming Mr. Hudson, also concluding that although Hudson suffered injuries, they were insufficient to reach the standard for cruel and unusual punishment.

In October of 2010, Justice Thomas’s wife, Ginni, called Anita Hill at 7:30 am in the morning and left a voicemail demanding that she apologize for her allegations against her husband nineteen years earlier. Some in the media determined that the call was designed to distract attention from a New York Times story that ran the same day, questioning Ginni Thomas's 501(c) (4) Tea Party organization, Liberty Central, which was embroiled in controversy. Like President Trump, both Thomas’s are known for carrying a grudge and for punishing those whom they believe have crossed them.

Secretary DeVos is cut from the same personality cloth as Justice Thomas and President Trump, never ignoring a slight without a response. She was angered by having her reputation dragged through the mud and having her basic intellectual competence examined during her nomination process. DeVos’s anger was fueled further the day after her confirmation when protesters barred her entry to Washington, D.C.’s Jefferson Middle School Academy, a public school, as she was attempting to burnish her battered image. Following that incident, DeVos is even more committed to setting a plan into motion to begin payback against Democrats, unions, and progressive adversaries whose vicious personal attacks she experienced during her nomination process. The elements of her strategy are outlined below.

She is contacting the 25 Republican governors and 44 Republican-controlled state legislatures for which her political contributions were, in large part, responsible. To kick off this revenge initiative, President Trump hosted a conference for educators and parents at the White House last Tuesday where he reiterated his endorsement of school choice. DeVos is working with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to distribute templates for laws establishing and/or expanding educational savings accounts; achievement districts (where low-performing schools are given to charter management companies {CMOs} to improve), publicly-funded, home schooling; private school vouchers and corporate charters; and tuition tax credits. She has come out of the blocks quickly in a furious effort to implement her choice agenda.

DeVos is taking a page from the Russian playbook by interfering in the elections of teacher union leaders at the local, state, and national levels. She is ramping up her outreach to dissident union members to financially support their candidacies both privately and publicly. A few of the states and locals that are being targeted include Florida (Palm Beach); Tennessee (Memphis); New Jersey (Camden and Elizabeth), Nevada (Las Vegas), New York (Long Island locals); California (Los Angeles), Indiana (Indianapolis); Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Chester); Michigan (her home state, all over); Ohio (Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus); and Maryland (Baltimore City and County) in forthcoming elections. DeVos is placing a special emphasis on blue and purple states with large American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and/or National Education Association (NEA) affiliates. The intent is to place choice advocates inside the leadership sanctum of her most virulent opponents.

Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, a strong school choice advocate, and a DeVos ally, visited Raleigh, NC on February 7th, site of the state’s largest school district, to address BEST NC, a business coalition. She brought with her George Parker, former president of the AFT D.C. local, to discuss their negotiations in getting D.C. teachers to accept a merit pay scheme that resulted in hundreds of their colleagues being terminated and replaced with Teach for America (TFA) teachers who tend to work two years or less in order to erase or pare down their student loans. These visits, and others, are being coordinated with DeVos to support the Department of Education’s and President Trump’s school choice policies.

The Trump Administration and the new Education Secretary are engaging in “shock and awe” to turn America’s major public institutions and agencies-- education, energy, and labor—over to the corporate sector. The ensuing damage to our society and the nation’s quality of life may be incalculable.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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