Of all President Trump's Cabinet choices, newly confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was the only nominee at serious risk of not getting a passing grade at her Senate hearing – until loyal VP Pence raised his hand and cast the tiebreaker vote in a split Congress. DeVos isn’t just splitting politicians however; her nomination met fierce opposition from students, parents and educators across the country. Why? Well there’s her lack of experience in running a federal bureaucracy, her failure to demonstrate basic knowledge of federal education policies, and the fact that she has never run, taught in, attended or sent a child to a public school. But it’s her strong belief in, and financial support for, controversial anti-public school policies (think: charter schools, school choice and school vouchers) that has most critics wishing they could put her through extreme vetting and flunk her out of the job. Why is that such a bigly deal, aren’t we trying to drain the swamp, you ask? Well since 90% of all school kids go to a public school, it’s kinda sorta important to a lot of folks. Drain, meet clog.
DeVos is praised as a change-maker who can take on the powerful teachers’ unions without fear, but she also draws scorn for calling education a “dead end”, wanting schools to bear arms against grizzly bear arms, and because she advocates for policies that allow private schools to receive federal funding without being subject to federal scrutiny. So if DeVos was so controversial, why was she picked? Well it’s probably because Trump saw something in her that not many others could see: himself. After all, DeVos is a fellow billionaire, an outsider, has great hair, is constantly misunderstood, has a side gig on SNL and she also skipped school the day they taught conflict of interest. Case in point: she has donated over $200M to the Republican Party over the years, including campaigns of some of the Senators who vetted her hearing.
Unfortunately it appears that DeVos’ (and Trump’s) disproportionate education agenda will almost certainly funnel large amounts of tax dollars away from public schools and into private and religious schools, and thus squander a vital opportunity to bring new ideas to the table, champion evidence-based reforms, or make public schools great again. So what does this mean for the future of schooling in America? Well the Department of Education’s first tweet under new management seems to be a good omen: it misspelled the name of the NAACP co-founder during Black History Month. And then misspelled the subsequent apology tweet. A for Effort?
Feel that kids are going to be worse off under the new administration? It seems recess is over. Movie for your mood: Bad Teacher