Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the next secretary of education. It is to the great dismay of teachers and parents.
What exactly does the Secretary of Education do? He or she oversees the U.S. Department of Education and acts as the principal adviser to the President on federal policies, programs, and activities related to K-12 and higher education in the United States.The Department’s responsibilities are primarily to “establish policy for, administer, and coordinate most federal funding assistance to education; collect data on US schools; and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” Because the education system in the United States is decentralized, the Dept. does not establish schools, determine and develop curricula, or set requirements for enrollment and graduation.
The DeVos appointment has become a case for concern.
Ms. DeVos’s senate questioning raised the ire of voters and senate. Throughout the three-hour-plus exchange between DeVos and members of the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, DeVos—who has never taught public school, never attended public school, and never held elected office—sidestepped questions about everything from how she will ensure that groups she has backed financially in the past will not feel pressure to behave a certain way to whether guns belong in schools. At one point, she seemed to suggest that a federal law governing how students with disabilities are educated could be left to states, prompting Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan to express concern about her grasp of the department’s obligations.
Here are a few reasons the country has become alarmed.
Ms DeVos is A Voucher Supporter
DeVos has zealously worked to make happen on a state-by-state basis for decades. In 2000, she helped get a ballot measure before Michigan voters that would have enshrined a right to vouchers in the state’s Constitution. Many may see this as a plus for private schools who have lobbied local government for tuition assistance for grade and high schools
Common Core is Not A Focus
DeVos hasn’t been outspoken about the Common Core, the shared learning standards adopted by most states in recent years. But some of her ties would suggest that she supports the effort to raise and standardize expectations of what students should learn in each grade. She’s on the board of Foundation for Excellence in Education, the group that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush founded to promote school choice and the Common Core.
She has questionable links to education
She would have to operate within a complicated web of interests and priorities, including with education officials in states that did not support Trump. DeVos is a billionaire who grew up in a wealthy family and married into another wealthy family. (The DeVos family co-founded Amway.)She has ties to several education companies, including Social Finance, which started out as a student-loan refinancing company, as well as companies that sell textbooks and promote online education. The companies she’s invested in will be affected by the choices she makes as the head of the department, including decisions about which companies the government contracts with to handle student loans, and how it oversees different sectors, including online or virtual schooling.