Betsy DeVos: The Education Apprentice

March 1, 2017


Gage Skidmore

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

On February 2, 2017, Vice President Mike Pence made a historical tie-breaking vote to establish  Betsy DeVos as the secretary of education in the Trump administration. For anybody paying attention to politics recently, or just the news, this name should strike recognition in your mind. DeVos has been a subject of wide controversy throughout the country, not only for the things she has said about schools and education, like states should have the ability to decide if they follow certain federal laws, such as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), but also her apparent lack of qualifications for the job.

DeVos has never attended a public school, nor has she sent her children to one. Throughout her entire schooling career, she has attended Christian private schools. While attending a private school is just fine, DeVos is being put in charge of something of which she has little to no experience.

DeVos also doesn’t have a degree in education. While she is not the first to hold her position without such, she also has no experience working in a school environment. This raises the question as to whether or not she would be able to make the best decisions for all kinds of schools. DeVos also supports charter schools and vouchers, which would allow students to pay tuition at private, religious, and for-profit schools using taxpayer dollars, which further reflects a disconnect between her mindset and beliefs and public schools.

During her vetting process, DeVos was asked questions by senators, and though only a short amount of time was provided, the time given was enough to highlight her blatant unfamiliarity with public education and its law. To some questions, she answered that states would have the power to rule on certain issues. To others, she refused to answer. She refused to answer whether or not she would hold charter schools to equal levels of accountability as other schools. She received more than a few odd looks when rejecting the idea of gun-free zones near schools to Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shooting occurred in 2012 because guns could come in handy for shooting “potential grizzlies.” DeVos further proved her unfamiliarity with public schools when asked by senator Al Franken from Minnesota about the advantage of assessing schools using proficiency rather than growth and was unable to clearly define the difference or take a stand on the issue.

Qualifications aside, having a secretary of education who can’t take stands on prominent issues or give her opinion on pressing matters rather than deflecting poses a problem for schools and the students in them. DeVos’ plans for vouchers, charter schools, and private schools leaves a little too much room for the further educational inequality within American schools.