While Betsy DeVos privately supported an Obama Administration policy that allowed students to use school lavatories consistent with their gender identities, President Trump disagreed and reversed the rule. Still, the recently confirmed Secretary of Education gave no public sign of discord existing between Trump and herself. Instead, she voiced support for the decision. Some took that as a sign that she would be a weak and demurring Secretary of Education. Her “motherly” appearance and temperament reinforced that perception.
Her supporters say nothing could be further from the truth. Apparently, hardball politics is her game. She’s a billionaire, and she’s not afraid to use her money to reward supporters and steamroll opponents. Even the pro-Democrat president of the American Federation of Teachers said, in effect, “She may speak softly. But she carries a big stick.”
Ms. DeVos’ confirmation hearings were anything but smooth. She seemed confused about federal laws requiring public schools to serve students with disabilities and had little or no knowledge of the long-standing debate in the education community on whether to use standardized test scores to measure a student’s proficiency. She even suggested that protecting students “from potential grizzlies” was a reason guns should be allowed in schools. Still, her appointment was confirmed by a margin of 51-50. Vice President Mike Pence had to step in and cast the deciding vote. Friends say that while she was annoyed at being made to look incompetent, she remained unbowed.
The education philosophy of Ms. DeVos boils down to one word: choice. “Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child,” she said. “And they know other schooling options exist, whether magnet, virtual, charter, home, faith-based or any other combination.”
Ms. DeVos has long been in favor of diverting funds away from public schools and into privately run schools of choice. She is said to be ambivalent about what form schools should take, but she is fiercely committed to the idea that allowing parents to decide where their children, and their tax dollars, go to school is the ideal free-market solution to improving educational outcomes. She has expressed a desire to issue publicly funded vouchers so that parents can send their children to whatever schools they see fit –- even schools run by for-profit educational companies.
In her home state of Michigan, she mustered all of her resources, political and financial, to oppose state lawmakers pushing for rules to govern the formation of new charter schools and the shuttering of failing ones. Again, she believes winners and losers should be determined by the free market, not legislative forces.
Certainly, there’s nothing sacred about public schools in the eyes of Ms. DeVos. She has gone on record saying the failing public schools in the state’s largest city cannot be salvaged and should be shut down. Her supporters say she understands what too many Americans do not: that even “good” U.S. public schools under perform relative to the schools found in other developed nations. Learn more: http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2017/06/ex-british_pm_david_cameron_pr.html