Betsy Davos: Least Competent Trump Nominee
On Jan. 17, President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, underwent her confirmation hearing. Prior to her nomination, DeVos was a philanthropist and a prominent donor to the Republican Party. She supports school choice and has previously worked on steering taxpayer dollars away from public schools. Her nomination and negligence to provide a second hearing has raised concerns about the nation’s political division over spending public money on education.
To reiterate, DeVos is a fan of school choice, which means she believes that students should attend whatever school they and their families think is best. Beyond issues of unequal standards of learning, democrats opposing school choice believe the law could allow evangelical Christians and other groups to enforce their own educational agenda. In other words, students could find science curriculums white washed of basic concepts such as global warming.
Nonetheless, while school choice may be a solution, DeVos tends to favor low accountability programs, vouchers, and online school choice programs. In DeVos’ home state of Michigan, taxpayers pour nearly $1 billion a year into charter schools, but the state laws regulating charters are among the nation’s weakest, meaning the state demands little accountability in how tax dollars are spent and how well children are educated.
Despite eloquently stating that low-income families deserve to choose how to educate their children as those more affluent do, she repeatedly dodged the Senate Democrats’ toughest questions on how or whether she will protect traditional public schools. When Democratic Senator Tim Kaine asked if she will insist on equal accountability for all schools that receive federal funding, she repeatedly answered, “I support accountability”, which does not give a straight answer or information about her policies. Furthermore, her apparent ignorance over major provisions of federal education law such as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act has contributed to some Senate offices reporting that they received more calls opposing DeVos than any other Trump nominee.
Regardless of her views, DeVos’ nomination is controversial because she is neither an educator nor an education leader, and she does not have the necessary job experience. During her hearing, she was uncertain of the difference between growth and proficiency, a widely debated subject in the education field, and unable to properly answer questions about it. She has used her wealth to influence education reform and her family has propped up the charter school industry, even though charter schools have repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises. She may believe in the interests she has championed, but her wealth should not be the reason why she should receive a position as a crucial policymaker.
On Feb. 1, Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins said they would oppose DeVos’ confirmation, leaving her one swing vote away from being rejected. Senator Murkowski said that she has serious concerns about a nominee for the position because Devos “has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them.”
Criticism against DeVos remains high. While supporters can praise DeVos for her philanthropy and education advocacy, this does not necessarily equate to policy experience. What America needs is a Secretary of Education who understands that there should be an education system that serves the needs of all Americans by ensuring equal high quality education to all communities.