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Opinion: Betsy DeVos is a bad bet for education
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/opinion-trump-and-devos-spell-tough-times-ahead-for-education-1021

Posted: 2017-01-24

by Brian Boswell

Betsy DeVos has been the center of a lot of controversy following her disastrous confirmation hearing on January 17th. If confirmed, DeVos would be in charge of the Department of Education (DoE), which impacts everything from K 12 education policy to federal aid available to college students. DeVos has long been a political activist, and sits on the board of many charitable and education-focused organizations. However, her appointment has raised eyebrows and concerns from both Democrats and Republicans, and for good reason: She lacks the experience and wisdom required to sit as Secretary of Education.

No plans for higher education

DeVos has not commented on college affordability much. Most of what we know about where DeVos stands on higher education was revealed in the confirmation hearing.

College affordability was a core issue addressed by the 2016 presidential candidates. In particular, President Trump proposed making colleges accountable for keeping their tuition costs down and increasing federal support for students pursuing trade schools, vocational, and technical programs.

In the hearing, DeVos did indicate her support for a renewed focus on vocational school. She stated, "For too long a college degree has been pushed as the only avenue for a better life. The old and expensive brick-mortar-and-ivy model is not the only one that will lead to a prosperous future." But she has not touched on the existing student debt other than to say that it's high and growing (though she did mix up the growth of the debt). Her lack of plans to address outstanding and growing student debt, are a serious concern for someone that would be directly involved with the administration of federal grant and loan programs.

Lack of experience

DeVos has never been a teacher, administrator, or worked within the education system public or private - in any way. Her own children attended private, faith-based schools. She has never participated in any federal aid program. In her confirmation hearing she demonstrated a complete lack of understanding when questioned about many issues currently impacting the DoE, including the debate over proficiency versus growth when it comes to student assessments.

The current U.S. Secretary of Education is John B. King Jr., who served as the New York Commissioner of Education prior to his appointment in 2016. King's predecessor was Arne Duncan. For seven years before his appointment, Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). It is unusual for the Secretary of Education to have no experience in education outside advocacy and political activism.

It would be irresponsible to take a lifelong civilian and put them in the position of an armed services general. Neither would you have an airline safety regulator fly a plane, a bank teller manage your investments, or an architect build your home. DeVos is an advocate for education, and her intentions may be noble, but advocacy alone does not qualify someone for the position of Secretary of Education.

Preferential treatment for private schools

DeVos is best known for her strong advocacy of charter schools and voucher programs that would allow students to use public education dollars to attend private K 12 schools. This is consistent with the President's campaign position regarding expanding school choice. And indeed, additional choice would seem on its face to be a good thing.

In practice, however, the redistribution of public funding to private institutions has a twofold impact:

  1. Private K 12 institutions are not held to public school standards of performance required for federal funding and, while there are many excellent private schools, many more may and sometimes are substandard.
  2. Dollars that would go towards public schools are instead sent to private institutions. It makes it difficult for public schools to budget accordingly, since expected dollars may or may not be used towards private schools in the district.

DeVos's position on this issue is that, while she "supports accountability" for all schools, she did not when pressed necessarily support holding private schools that receive public funding to the same standards as public schools. You can listen to her response to inquiries from Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) here:

Ethical concerns

Hours after receiving the completed Public Financial Disclosure Report from the Office of Government Ethics, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions postponed its vote to confirm Secretary of Education pick Betsy DeVos. The document, which references hundreds of holdings and interests for DeVos, is composed of many diversified investments, but also opaque trusts, holding companies, and other line items that are vague in their description.

DeVos has interests in for-profit education, charter schools, and voucher programs where, given her potential position as Secretary of Education, she may stand to personally benefit, financially. A more comprehensive assessment of DeVos's interests needs to be conducted before her appointment to a position that may hold significant conflicts of interest.

A poor track record in Michigan

Detroit currently has the largest number of urban charter schools in the country, and over half of Detroit students attend charter schools. The promulgation of private K 12 education is at least partially the result of substantial lobbying and advocacy efforts by DeVos and the organizations her family is either involved with or founded directly. However, the schools themselves have on average fared poorly in performance relative to public schools in the state. This is not to say that charter schools are bad far from it. Only that charter schools can and do sometimes fail students, and many in Michigan have unfortunately done just that.

You can find coverage of how DeVos has fared in Michigan and specifically Detroit here:

There is bipartisan opposition

Opposition to DeVos's appointment is shared by many from both sides of the aisle. The Conservative Review stated, "If Trump wants to increase school choice and be known as a president who dramatically improved education options for kids, he needs to send DeVos packing." Further, "These are not the kind of people to whom Trump promised Americans he'd delegate our power."

The Washington Post summarizes DeVos's nomination succinctly, "(DeVos) has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation's public schools."

To block the nomination would require three dissenting votes from Republicans. If you are a resident of the following states and would like to contact your Senator regarding the DeVos nomination, you may do so here:

Additional Reading

You can view the full confirmation hearing on C-Span, here.

You can view Betsy DeVos's personal site here.


"Opinion" articles are just that: The opinion of our authors. The content is the sole representation of the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Savingforcollege.com, its affiliates, or sponsors.

Betsy DeVos has been the center of a lot of controversy following her disastrous confirmation hearing on January 17th. If confirmed, DeVos would be in charge of the Department of Education (DoE), which impacts everything from K 12 education policy to federal aid available to college students. DeVos has long been a political activist, and sits on the board of many charitable and education-focused organizations. However, her appointment has raised eyebrows and concerns from both Democrats and Republicans, and for good reason: She lacks the experience and wisdom required to sit as Secretary of Education.

No plans for higher education

DeVos has not commented on college affordability much. Most of what we know about where DeVos stands on higher education was revealed in the confirmation hearing.

College affordability was a core issue addressed by the 2016 presidential candidates. In particular, President Trump proposed making colleges accountable for keeping their tuition costs down and increasing federal support for students pursuing trade schools, vocational, and technical programs.

In the hearing, DeVos did indicate her support for a renewed focus on vocational school. She stated, "For too long a college degree has been pushed as the only avenue for a better life. The old and expensive brick-mortar-and-ivy model is not the only one that will lead to a prosperous future." But she has not touched on the existing student debt other than to say that it's high and growing (though she did mix up the growth of the debt). Her lack of plans to address outstanding and growing student debt, are a serious concern for someone that would be directly involved with the administration of federal grant and loan programs.

Lack of experience

DeVos has never been a teacher, administrator, or worked within the education system public or private - in any way. Her own children attended private, faith-based schools. She has never participated in any federal aid program. In her confirmation hearing she demonstrated a complete lack of understanding when questioned about many issues currently impacting the DoE, including the debate over proficiency versus growth when it comes to student assessments.

The current U.S. Secretary of Education is John B. King Jr., who served as the New York Commissioner of Education prior to his appointment in 2016. King's predecessor was Arne Duncan. For seven years before his appointment, Duncan served as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). It is unusual for the Secretary of Education to have no experience in education outside advocacy and political activism.

It would be irresponsible to take a lifelong civilian and put them in the position of an armed services general. Neither would you have an airline safety regulator fly a plane, a bank teller manage your investments, or an architect build your home. DeVos is an advocate for education, and her intentions may be noble, but advocacy alone does not qualify someone for the position of Secretary of Education.

Preferential treatment for private schools

DeVos is best known for her strong advocacy of charter schools and voucher programs that would allow students to use public education dollars to attend private K 12 schools. This is consistent with the President's campaign position regarding expanding school choice. And indeed, additional choice would seem on its face to be a good thing.

In practice, however, the redistribution of public funding to private institutions has a twofold impact:

  1. Private K 12 institutions are not held to public school standards of performance required for federal funding and, while there are many excellent private schools, many more may and sometimes are substandard.
  2. Dollars that would go towards public schools are instead sent to private institutions. It makes it difficult for public schools to budget accordingly, since expected dollars may or may not be used towards private schools in the district.

DeVos's position on this issue is that, while she "supports accountability" for all schools, she did not when pressed necessarily support holding private schools that receive public funding to the same standards as public schools. You can listen to her response to inquiries from Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) here:

Ethical concerns

Hours after receiving the completed Public Financial Disclosure Report from the Office of Government Ethics, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions postponed its vote to confirm Secretary of Education pick Betsy DeVos. The document, which references hundreds of holdings and interests for DeVos, is composed of many diversified investments, but also opaque trusts, holding companies, and other line items that are vague in their description.

DeVos has interests in for-profit education, charter schools, and voucher programs where, given her potential position as Secretary of Education, she may stand to personally benefit, financially. A more comprehensive assessment of DeVos's interests needs to be conducted before her appointment to a position that may hold significant conflicts of interest.

A poor track record in Michigan

Detroit currently has the largest number of urban charter schools in the country, and over half of Detroit students attend charter schools. The promulgation of private K 12 education is at least partially the result of substantial lobbying and advocacy efforts by DeVos and the organizations her family is either involved with or founded directly. However, the schools themselves have on average fared poorly in performance relative to public schools in the state. This is not to say that charter schools are bad far from it. Only that charter schools can and do sometimes fail students, and many in Michigan have unfortunately done just that.

You can find coverage of how DeVos has fared in Michigan and specifically Detroit here:

There is bipartisan opposition

Opposition to DeVos's appointment is shared by many from both sides of the aisle. The Conservative Review stated, "If Trump wants to increase school choice and be known as a president who dramatically improved education options for kids, he needs to send DeVos packing." Further, "These are not the kind of people to whom Trump promised Americans he'd delegate our power."

The Washington Post summarizes DeVos's nomination succinctly, "(DeVos) has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation's public schools."

To block the nomination would require three dissenting votes from Republicans. If you are a resident of the following states and would like to contact your Senator regarding the DeVos nomination, you may do so here:

Additional Reading

You can view the full confirmation hearing on C-Span, here.

You can view Betsy DeVos's personal site here.


"Opinion" articles are just that: The opinion of our authors. The content is the sole representation of the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Savingforcollege.com, its affiliates, or sponsors.

 

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