Trump Nominates Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary
Prior to (and immediately after) the election, most of the press reported that there was a big question mark about exactly what direction (and how far) Trump might go in terms of public education.
With his selection of Betsy DeVos, he has made his intentions quite clear, and it doesn’t look very good for the future of public education.
While we derided John King for (among many other things) how little time he actually spent as a teacher, Ms. DeVos has never worked in a school in any capacity. Not only did her children not go to public schools, she herself never spent a day in one. In fact, Ms. DeVos’s only “qualification” for the job is that she is a billionaire who has forcefully advocated for school choice and for “breach[ing] the wall between church and state on education.”
And while we criticized John King (and various politicians on the left) for giving too much support to charter schools, according The New York Times, “It is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos.”
For nearly 30 years, as a philanthropist, activist and Republican fund-raiser, she has pushed to give families taxpayer money in the form of vouchers to attend private and parochial schools, pressed to expand publicly funded but privately run charter schools, and tried to strip teacher unions of their influence.
And remember how we pilloried John King for his tone-deafness and lack of responsiveness to teachers, parents, and, especially, at-risk students? From ThinkProgress:
Teachers have been bringing awareness to the issue of poor funding of Detroit schools in the form of protests. Last January, teachers protested the conditions of public schools and took photos of inedible food, damaged school buildings, and dead rodents and posted them on social media. Since then, there have inspections of schools, which confirmed that many schools were unsafe places for kids.
In the midst of all of these issues, DeVos has pushed for less regulation and oversight of charter schools and stated that public schools are failing children — all without advocating for better state funding of public schools.
To be sure, there are arguments on both sides of the school choice issue (although this essay does a great job of dispelling the myths). For their part, proponents of charter schools argue that they are fighting to rescue children from failing public schools. But the lie that they are putting children first is completely exposed when they push for less regulation. If you missed John Oliver’s brilliant take-down of the the corruption and fraud resulting from lax charter regulation, it’s worth a look.
It’s also interesting to note that while Ms. DeVos has gotten some support (Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., called her an “excellent choice”), even proponents of charter schools have issues with what she’s done. In a NYT Op-Ed piece, Douglas Harris writes “As one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system, she is partly responsible for what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country.”
The bottom line is that Trump has chosen a Secretary of Education with no experience in public education, and whose only connection to the education system is turning it over to for-profit operators with little-to-no oversight. Combined with his one major ed-policy proposal (diverting $20B in federal funding to block grants which could be used for private or charter schools) this makes it is clear that those of us who care about the future of public education will have quite a fight on our hands over the next four years.
The Network for Public Education has created a form you can use to tell our Senators to reject Betsy DeVos. You can find it here.