Accepting Betsy DeVos as our Secretary of Education requires some pretty complex reasoning. I admit, I can't follow it myself. It's been three weeks since the last time we saw Mrs. DeVos attempt to answer questions of which she had little to no respectable response. Yet here we are. Senator Al Franken said it best yesterday:
"What are we even doing here?"
To answer that question as simply as I can:
"I certainly have no idea."
Betsy DeVos and her family have admittedly donated over 200 million dollars to the Republican party. Mrs. DeVos is a staunch supporter of Faith-based education. She has supported public funding for charter and private schools, most of which are completely unaffordable to low income students, families and are held to different standards than most public schools. Her involvement, alone, in the Detroit charter school reform has been highly criticized. To quote Douglas N. Harris, an economic professor at Tulane University who wrote in a 2016 New York Times Op-ed:
DeVos was partially responsible for "what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country."
Mrs. DeVos supports disassembling the common core and most importantly, she has displayed a level of under-qualification that is unprecedented. She has never taught in public school, she has never parented in public school, she has never taken out a student loan and she has openly donated to centers which practice conversion therapy. The list of reasons that blatantly disqualify Mrs. DeVos are stunning, yet the most undermining part of this whole sideshow has been the unwillingness of compromise from the GOP. It's a disservice to the American people to nominate someone so severely ignorant to the position and processes of the American education system. Yesterday we truly saw the rhetoric of party over country from senate republicans as Vice President Mike Pence made history using his tie-breaking vote for the first time for a cabinet appointment. This has been a divided issue for all senators who cast their vote yesterday and if the backlash is anything, it would indicate that this is just the beginning.
So what can we expect from the new leader of the Education system? Well, if her past has told us anything, we should expect something radically different than the last 8 years.
Mrs. DeVos served as Chairwoman of the board of the Alliance of School Choice, which is the largest organization in the United States that supports, lobbies and donates to school choice programs across the country. Furthermore, until November of 2016 Mrs. DeVos was the head of the All Children Matter PAC that she founded with her husband in 2003. Over the last 20 years the DeVos family has funneled millions of dollars into multiple Republican campaigns to support school voucher programs and homeschooling. These vouchers give tax payer money to private schools, some of which are religious, to allow students the choice to pick whichever school they would like to go to. Sadly, for most families who have these vouchers, they are subsequently unable to afford some of the schools their vouchers allow. While higher income families can choose where to send their kids, lower income families do not. That is also not to say that this doesn't provide an opportunity to low income students, yet it creates a competitive process that singles out only the children the system so chooses deserve it. The vacuum it also creates is incredible. At the end of the day, tax payers will be paying for these select students to afford private schools. Tax deductions and reductions for these institutions will pull support and capital away from public education, leaving many students and districts underfunded and in dire need of relief.
The DeVos family has been extraordinarily active through her PAC, so much so that they have claimed as quoted by the Washington Post:
Although her organization, All Children Matter (ACM) claims a 121-60 record "win-loss" record in state and local legislative races with significant ACM involvement, that pattern has not resulted in states adopting plans which provide vouchers for students to attend private schools. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 17 states and the District of Columbia have state-funded voucher plans. But in seven of those states, eligibility is limited to students with disabilities or students residing in districts that do not operate any public schools.
The DeVos family has overall failed at making the point that voucher systems benefit the average student. President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have no plan for our educational system except for blaming the the past administration and gutting nation-wide programs that have been proven to help smaller states and smaller education departments. Teachers around the country have been overly demoralized by accountability systems put in place by conservative state legislatures. To be a teacher in the United States is a challenge within itself when it comes to the basic levels of compensation. Betsy DeVos will not incentivize becoming a public educator. Instead she will reward educators who work in the private sector and diminish benefits for public schools. That is her record.
I am not convinced that Betsy DeVos will be a champion of education. I am not convinced that she will work to help low income students, students wish disabilities or students who are not receiving the education they are entitled to. It is more likely that Mrs. DeVos will pay her outstanding fine of 5.2 million dollars for money laundering with her super PAC in Ohio than it will be for her to develop a system that works for all students. So to answer Senator Franken:
I have no idea what we are doing here, and it's so pathetic that we cannot do better than this.