The Trump transition team has announced another addition to the cabinet. According to CNN, Betsy DeVos is Trump’s pick for the next Secretary of Education. As a Department head, DeVos will be subject to Senate confirmation. Keep reading for a profile of the Department of Education’s next leader.
Who is Betsy DeVos?
Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos is a billionaire conservative activist, philanthropist, businesswoman, politician, and major Republican Party donor from Michigan. Since 1982, DeVos has been active in the Michigan Republican Party, acting as its chair from 1996-2000. DeVos is kown for extensive advocacy on behalf of school-choice and voucher programs, which President-elect Trump has promised to expand. DeVos and her husband Dick (son of Amway founder Richard DeVos) have donated large sums of money to Republican candidates and causes, as well as to various philanthropic causes.
DeVos earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has never taught in a classroom or held a job in the field of education, although she has been closely involved with the industry through activism and philanthropy. DeVos is a strong supporter of charter school expansion, as well as school choice programs and vouchers for public and religious school tuition.
Betsy DeVos’s nomination for Secretary of Education does not come without some controversy. As CNN reports:
Trump is also already drawing fire from both sides of the political spectrum for his pick. The largest teacher’s union in the country slammed DeVos within an hour of the announcement for her advocacy of charter schools and school voucher programs, while conservatives quickly pointed out DeVos’ association with groups supporting the Common Core education standards, which Trump has vowed to nix.
DeVos has worked on behalf of multiple organizations that support Common Core in the past, but has recently clearly stated that she does not support it.
The National Education Association, the largest labor union in America, has denounced Trump’s selection of DeVos. In a statement on Wednesday, the NEA said:
“Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education. By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”
Nominated Position: Secretary of Education
According to the Department of Education website, the Secretary of Education is “responsible for the overall direction, supervision, and coordination of all activities of the Department and is the principal adviser to the President on Federal policies, programs and activities related to education in the United States.”
Because education in the United States is fairly decentralized and state-controlled, the scope of the Secretary of Education’s powers and responsibilities if relatively limited. However, implementation of federal education policies and programs can have a significant effect at the state and local level, as seen with Common Core and No Child Left Behind.
Betsy DeVos is not an educator, but has experience in the education industry through business and philanthropic ties. She is likely to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. Any controversy surrounding her appointment and confirmation will likely center around her lack of experience in teaching or school administration, her past support for Common Core, her current support for school-choice programs and private/religious school vouchers, and the possible perception of her appointment as a political favor in return for past donations.
As always, if you have an opinion on the confirmation of any cabinet appointees, contact your Senator and let them know what you think.