There is no denying the tangible anxiety amongst many Americans over the election of Donald Trump. Nowhere is that anxiety more strongly felt than in the area of public education.
On November 23, the President-Elect’s transition team announced Mr. Trump’s intention to nominate billionaire, school privatization advocate, Betsy DeVos, for the position of Secretary of Education.
After a 14-month long campaign during which Mr. Trump said little to nothing regarding his policy, the nomination of DeVos gives Americans the best insight yet into what the President-Elect plans to do regarding public education.
If Mrs. DeVos has her way, millions of federal and state tax dollars will be stripped away from public schools to support private schools that have no accountability to the people who are funding them
“The President-Elect, in his selection of
Betsy DeVos, has chosen the most ideological,
anti-public education nominee put forward since
President Carter created a cabinet-level
Department of Education.”
- Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers
The most obvious criticism of Mrs. DeVos’ nomination is her lack of qualification for the job. Mrs. DeVos has never taught a day in either a public or private school and has never served as an administrator or as a member of a Board of Education in a public or private school. She does not possess a college degree in education, nor does she have any training or professional expertise in education whatsoever. In addition, Mrs. DeVos cannot hold claim to any experience as a parent of children who attended public schools. Her own children attended private Christian schools.
What Mrs. DeVos does have is a record of advocacy for charter schools and voucher systems that for years have funneled money and resources away from public schools.
In 1993, Mrs. DeVos and her husband played a role in getting a charter school law passed in her home state of Michigan. Since then, she has worked feverishly to increase public funding for charter schools while protecting them from government regulation
This year, when Michigan lawmakers considered legislation that would add some state education department oversight on charter schools, members of the DeVos family poured $1.45 million in donations into legislators’ campaign coffers. State government oversight was not included in the final legislation.
Negative reaction to President-Elect’s Trump’s nomination of Mrs. DeVos came in fast and furious in the immediate hours after the announcement was made.
American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, issued the following statement on the AFT website:
“The President-Elect, in his selection of Betsy DeVos, has chosen the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a cabinet-level Department of Education.” “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying education in America.”
Respected, award winning Patchogue-Medford Schools Superintendent, Dr. Michael Hynes, made it clear that those who support public education will not support Mr. Trump’s nomination of Mrs. DeVos.
“We have a President-Elect selecting a Secretary of Education who has zero, zero education experience,” Hynes said in a video posted on various public media websites. “We have someone with a business background, not an educator.” “That’s ridiculous, it’s horrific, and I’m telling you right now, we’re not going to stand for it as educators, we’re just not.”
The President-Elect’s nomination for Secretary of Education does require the approval of the United States Senate. However, with many of Mr. Trump’s other cabinet nominations raising red flags amongst members of the opposition party, it is likely that Mrs. DeVos’ appointment will go through without much significant rebuttal from senate democrats.
This means that educators, parents and supporters of public education will need to continue to voice their concerns to their local leaders about issues in their state. The 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act stripped away a great of the federal government’s power to dictate education policy. Those who are concerned about what Mrs. DeVos might do as Education Secretary will look to make sure the federal Education Department’s reach does not extend beyond the limitations established in that recently passed legislation.
Read more about Trump's Education Secretary Pick on UCOMM Blog.