10 Reasons Why Betsy DeVos Should Not Be Education Secretary
It is hard to imagine a less qualified candidate for Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos. Nevertheless, she is Donald Trump’s nominee to become the next head of the Education Department.
Here are 10 reasons why DeVos would be dangerous for students and for public education.
1. Devos is intent on getting rid of public education, as demonstrated by her work creating programs and passing laws that require public funds to pay for charters and for vouchers toward private school tuition. She is responsible for the destruction of public education in Michigan, being a force behind the spread of charters. This attempt to erode public education reflects Trump’s comments on education during his campaign.
2. DeVos designed Detroit’s failed charter school system, and even pro-charter forces have described the plan as “one of the biggest school reform disasters in the country.” Detroit’s students are among the poorest in the U.S., and the unchecked growth of the city charters is failing them. A recent report revealed that 8 in 10 charters had academic achievement below the state average in reading and math.
3. DeVos has also spent millions to promote school vouchers, which would take taxpayer money away from public schools and give it to private and religious schools. Along with her husband, whose family made a fortune selling Amway products, DeVos has contributed millions of dollars to voucher campaigns across the U.S. The couple spent $5 million in their home state of Michigan on an unsuccessful bid to remove the state’s ban on vouchers. Sixty-eight percent of voters rejected the DeVos’ voucher scheme.
4. DeVos has never attended a public school, and neither has anyone in her immediate family. She knows nothing about K-12 public education, yet would be in charge of it, even though she is intent on destroying it. Senator Bernie Sanders pointedly asked DeVos if she thought she would have been nominated if she and her family had not donated around $200 million in political contributions.
5. She has no idea how the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) works. During the confirmation hearing on Jan. 17, Senator Tim Kaine asked whether schools that get federal funding should have to comply with IDEA, a law that requires schools to address students’ special needs. She responded, “I think that’s a matter best left to the states.” When asked if she was aware that IDEA was a federal law that she would need to enforce, she admitted that she may have been confused. Apparently she doesn’t understand the difference between federal and state laws, but even more appalling is that she didn’t know what IDEA is or what her role would be in its enforcement.
6. DeVos doesn’t even seem to care. As she was increasingly unable to answer the senators’ questions during her confirmation hearing, she kept smiling blithely. Her lack of preparation for these hearings revealed that she has little or no respect for the value of public education, or for the job she was being interviewed for.
7. It’s not just K-12. DeVos also appeared to be pretty ignorant about higher education. As Elizabeth Warren questioned DeVos about how she might protect millions of taxpayer dollars from abuse by for-profit colleges (like Trump University) that take in federal student aid, she responded with “I will work diligently” to make sure that doesn’t happen. When Warren kept pressing, it became clear that DeVos has no knowledge of what rules are in place to prevent such fraud and abuse.
8. Most disturbingly, the nominee for Education Secretary doesn’t appear to believe that all students deserve the best that this country has to offer, including a quality public education. Their opportunity to succeed should not depend on living in the right zip code, winning a charter-school lottery, or getting into a private school. As NEA President Lily Eskelsen García stated, “We should be investing in smart strategies that we know help to improve the success of all our students, including creating more opportunities and equity for students, classes small enough for one-on-one attention, modern textbooks and a well-rounded curriculum for every student.” These are not on DeVos’ agenda.
9. DeVos refused to say that guns have no place in schools and even suggested that they might be necessary in case of a grizzly bear attack. Her comments were especially tone-deaf since she was responding to questions from Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who has advocated for stricter gun-control laws after the school shootings in Newtown, CT, in 2012 that left 20 students and six staff dead.
10. Scarily, on other important areas of concern to educators, we have no idea what the nominee thinks. We don’t know what DeVos thinks about issues that most affect the school experience on a daily basis, such as academic standards, teacher evaluations, English language learners, and how to improve struggling schools because she wasn’t asked about them.
That such a person has been nominated for this position shows the depth of rot in our political spoils system. As a teacher who has dedicated most of my professional life to education, I am appalled. If you agree, please sign this petition urging the U.S. Senate to reject the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.
Photo Credit: Screenshot from NBCnews online video