Betsy DeVos: Education

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Betsy DeVos: Education

Catie Abel, Arts and Culture Page Editor

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Betsy DeVos, the newly appointed Secretary of Education, has caused quite the uproar with the debate on whether she is fit to fulfill the position. Back in 2016, Trump had first announced DeVos as his pick for the next Secretary of Education. On February 7th, 2017, history was made when Vice President, Mike Pence was summoned to break a 50-50 tie in the senate, in which he voted in favor of DeVos.
DeVos’ platform has a focus primarily towards charter schools and voucher programs. Voucher programs allow parents to use public funds to fully or partially pay for their child’s private or charter school tuition. This has fueled the push to move taxpayer dollars to privatized schools over public schools. DeVos argues that the status quo of current schools reflects a ‘one size fits all’ mentality that she is determined to reform. This opens up a partisan debate over the best way to spend public money in education. While DeVos, a Republican, has the support of Republicans in the senate, Democrats are without hesitation showing their disapproval.
There were many red flags within DeVos’ background that show her lack of experience within the education system. Among other concerns following her exorbitant donations within the Republican party. DeVos has never attended or worked a public school or university, taken out a loan, or managed a large organization. She grew up in a very wealthy family, then married into another. It is arguable she may not have the basic understanding of the challenges faced by upper, middle, and lower income students nor what’s necessary to make education more accessible to them.
It was perhaps at the January 17th confirmation hearing that was the most prominent demonstration of her utter inexperience. DeVos was confronted with several questions that she either showed little understanding of the topic or had avoided answering. For example, when asked if she would be cutting any sort of funds from public schools, DeVos failed to provide an answer. DeVos had also stated that it would be “premature” to confirm whether she was keeping some of the recently established Obama policies. For example, the mandatory uniform reporting standards for sexual assaults at universities. There was also some obscurities about what would be “best left up to the states”. DeVos had stated that policies on guns in schools should be determined by the state. She supported this statement by suggesting that school in Wyoming might need guns in school to “protect from any potential grizzlies”. It was also clear that DeVos was unfamiliar with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, an act that ensures students with disabilities are provided with free public education that fits their needs. DeVos had also stated that the continuation of this Act should be left up to the states as well.
Throughout her career DeVos and her family have made sizable donations to many candidates of the republican party. Collectively, it is estimated that around 200 million dollars have been donated. Many of the donation receivers voted for and support DeVos’ platform currently. Many are skeptical on whether those donations had any part in her position today. Bernie Sanders had pressed her at her confirmation hearing by asking if she thought shed still be here today if her family had not made donations to the Republican party. DeVos had responded by saying “As a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility.”
What does DeVos mean for students across America? It’s hard to say at this time, but many students in schools are concerned. Casey Purtell, a Junior at Warwick Valley High School commented, “I believe she’s a bad choice for our education and the future of it. She has no experience in this field and is clueless about how hard some people work to try to receive an education. She only got her position because of the 200 million dollars she donated to Republican organizations.”
Teachers have strong feelings regarding DeVos as well. Mrs. Smith, a teacher at Warwick Valley High School had commented, “I was horrified that she got confirmed. I feel that she will be detrimental to education. She is a very wealthy and supports charter schools, so I think that will put limitations on a good education to the general population. What will end up happening is good teachers and newer younger teachers will be drawn to charter schools for higher pay. When you lose teachers you’re hurting the student more than anything.”

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Betsy DeVos: Education