Public or private education may become a choice open to all students if Betsy DeVos, the nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, receives Senate confirmation.
Although she has yet to talk about specific education policies that she would promote as education secretary, Betsy DeVos states on her website that “the status quo is not acceptable.”
A strong supporter of school vouchers which permit students to elect to use public funds to attend a private school, Betsy DeVos serves currently as chairman of the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group. She reports that as a result of this organization’s work, over a million children are able to attend a school their parents have chosen “instead of being trapped by their zip code in a school that failed to meet their needs.”
Although DeVos was not a Trump supporter and during his candidacy for president felt that he was not representative of the Republican Party, she and the president-elect share support for school choice through vouchers.
Education and Background
Betsy DeVos is a native of Michigan and attended private school at Holland Christian High School. She earned a degree in business administration and political science at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. DeVos never pursued a public political office, but she has been very active in the Republican Party. She and her husband have financially supported Republican candidates and the Republican Party with donations totaling $17 million in the last 27 years, and are reported to be one of Michigan’s wealthiest families.
DeVos and her husband, Richard, created the Windquest Group in 1989. It is a private enterprise that invests in clean energy, technology, and manufacturing. They also created a family foundation as an outreach of their Christian faith which supports leadership in the areas of education, arts, justice, and community. The DeVos family has also given millions of dollars in funding for the All Children Matter PAC, which they created in 2003. The organization not only supports school vouchers, but also tax credits for companies that provide scholarships for private schooling, and political candidates who agree with and support this cause.
Controversy Around Her Nomination
Critics of Betsy DeVos not only see her as a threat to public education, but some worry that her passion for school choice may not give enough consideration to the quality of the alternate schools made available. She helped to create the Detroit charter school system, which her critics claim has low reading and math scores and that the system is lacking in oversight. Others, however, insist the students are performing well, and that DeVos only wants both traditional and charter schools to be treated equally.
On her website, betsydevos.com, the prospective Secretary of Education states that she is not a supporter of Common Core, terming it a “federalized boondoggle.” Betsy Devos has not given any further specific education policies pending her confirmation, so it remains to be seen how she will deal with other issues such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, student debt, school safety, early childhood education, or bullying.
The future of the federal government’s role in education will be guided by the new Secretary of Education with parents, teachers, and students hoping that person’s vision will take them in the right direction.