Last January the education world was rocked by the announcement of Betsy DeVos as the nominee for Secretary of Education. Those of us in the field were riddled with anxiety over her nomination. DeVos is the wife of a billionaire with no experience in public education. She did not attend or send her own children to public schools, and has never worked in a public school. She is, however, a strong advocate for school choice.
Her tenure as Secretary has been tainted from the start, going back as far as her nomination hearing when she said one reason teachers should have guns is due to the threat of grizzly bears. She is the only cabinet nominee who was given the job by the vice-president’s vote to break the tie.
She visited schools where she was met with protestors. She did not have a clear understanding of the federal role in helping students with disabilities, and no clear understanding of the questionable use of test scores in public schools to measure proficiency. According to the NY Times, “Two weeks after DeVos’s hearing, more than 300 (overwhelmingly Democratic) lawmakers in all 50 states submitted a letter to Congress opposing DeVos. Two powerful national teachers unions helped mobilize thousands of calls to senators’ offices to decry DeVos.”
In July, 18 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against DeVos over the decision to freeze Obama’s borrower defense to repayment which helped forgive student loan debt for people whose for-profit colleges closed amid fraud accusations. Additionally, many senior positions in the department remain unfilled.
Many people in her inner circles have touted her as resilient, focused on her agenda, and unwilling to waiver on her beliefs, despite the constant resistance she has faced from day one. A big blow came when the majority Republican Congress rejected her budget proposal to fund a school choice initiative.
This week the rumor mill has been churning stories of her imminent resignation. Sources close to the Secretary say she has consistently blamed the bureaucracy in Washington as the main reason she has not been able to move her agenda. In a recent interview with Politico magazine, DeVos said the bureaucracy is, “smothering creativity and blocking innovation.”
“Morale is terrible at the department,” said Thomas Toch, the director of FutureEd, an independent education think tank at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy. “I’ll tell you, in Washington education circles, the conversation is already about the post-DeVos landscape, because the assumption is she won’t stay long. I think she’s been probably one of the most ineffective people to ever hold the job” (Metro).
DeVos’ biggest downfall might be attributed to her lack of experience in government as well as public education. So aside from her agenda of turning over any policies supported by the Obama Administration, and providing more school choice-she brought nothing to Washington.
Politico notes, “When it comes to the most contentious debates surrounding America’s K-12 system — vouchers, standards, incentives, tests — DeVos had more tangible influence as a private citizen in Michigan than she does now in Washington.”
Before you get too excited about her resignation.. turns out there isn’t much to the rumor. It started on social media and came from sources lacking credibility. The source hinting at DeVos’ resignation was updated by the end of the week. “The original article stated that officials were planning for DeVos to exit the Trump administration, it has been updated to state that an insider assumes DeVos “won’t stay long” at her post as education secretary (Salon.com).
I have have been very critical of her since day one and I admit I initially felt a sense of relief at the thought she may have finally recognized she’d met her match in Washington. My relief of her pending resignation was followed by concern. As the expression goes, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” If DeVos were to resign, who would take her place? I shudder at the thought.
These are my reflections for today.