By Miriam Raftery
December 3, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – President-Elect Donald Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. But the nomination has drawn sharp criticism from prominent educators due to her support of directing public funds into private and largely religious schools through vouchers, charters and other means.
Trump called DeVos “a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” adding, “Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”
After her nomination, Vos said, “I am committed to transforming our education system into the best in the world. However, out of respect for the United States Senate, it is most appropriate for me to defer expounding on specifics until they begin their confirmation process.”
National Education Association President Eskelsen Garcia states in a release sent to media that DeVos’ efforts to date “have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes-- like vouchers which take away funding and local control from our public schools—to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense.”
As co-chair of the Education Freedom Fund and head of the All Schools Matter PAC, she has led efforts to push vouchers, homeschooling and charter schools. DeVos has no training or experience in public education, has never served as a teacher, and has not had children educated in public schools. She opposes Common Core standards established by the federal government during the Obama administration.
A believer in Creationism, she has said of the Education Freedom Fund founded by her husband and herself, "I would define [it] as ultimately Christian in its nature because in excess of 90% of the parents who receive these scholarships choose Christian schools to go to." She has stated that “God led us” to reform public education, PR Watch reports. According to Politico, she has likened her education reform efforts to a battleground for “God’s kingdom.”
DeVos was one of the architects of the Detroit charter school system. Douglas N. Harris, professor of Economics at Tulane University, wrote in a New York Times editorial that DeVos designed a system with “no oversight” that "even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country." In the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Detroit had the lowest reading and mathematics scores "by far" over any city participating in the evaluation, yet even poorly performing schools were allowed to keep enrolling students
DeVos is a billionaire whose family donated substantially to the Trump campaign. Her brother is Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, the private military contractor. Her husband is Dick DeVos Jr., heir to the Amway fortune and funder of various conservative causes from pro-life legislation to LGTB “cure therapy.”
Citizens Oversight founder Ray Lutz in El Cajon, whose father taught in public school and whose wife works at a private preschool, states, ”School privatization has been clearly shown not to be any better than public schools and the market-based and bean-counter based approaches do not solve anything.”
If Devos is approved by the Senate, Lutz predicts, “Say goodbye to good local public schools and hello to education rationing.”