Devos Appointment Causes Controversy

Americans express concern about the new Secretary of Education

Photo courtesy of NBC News: Critics of Betsy Devos’ policies are concerned about her confirmation as Secretary of Education. 

By now, most people in our country know of Betsy Devos. She was confirmed as our new Secretary of Education in a historic vote, where the Vice President was needed to break a tie for the first time in United States history. Many people do not support her, as she has never had any experience public schooling and in her senate hearings showed that she does not really know what she is doing. But others feel that she can help all of our public schools through her beliefs in vouchers for school choice and charter schools.

School vouchers are government-funded scholarships that pay for students who otherwise would not be able to to attend private schools. Supporters for vouchers say that if students’ parents can pick the best schools for their children, the lower performing schools will have to start performing better to not lose many of their most successful students. They believe that it will create competition for schools to get the best students. Opposers of vouchers say that vouchers will cause funds to decrease, because where there are fewer students, there is less money. They also believe that the government incentives for students to attend religious private schools are a violation of the separation of church and state.

The agency that Devos is now in charge of focuses on “establishing policy for administer[ing] and coordinat[ing] most federal assistance to education, collect[ing] data on US schools, and enforc[ing] federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” It does not create schools or colleges and does not involve itself with determining school curricula (with the exception of the No Child Left Behind Act). All of that is left to the states, but that should not make the position of Secretary of Education any less important. The secretary still advises the president on all aspects of education in the United States and what type of policies he should put in place, and many feel that Betsy Devos is not qualified for this job.

During her confirmation hearings, Betsy Devos said and did not say multiple things that were concerning to many politicians on Capitol Hill and the general public. She did not agree with Senator Chris Murphy (DConn.) when he suggested that schools should be gunfree zones. Instead she said, “I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.” That was concerning for many. In addition to that, she did not seem to know what the IDEA act was, which provides free and appropriate education to students with disabilities. She also refused to say that she would hold all schools, public, charter or private, to the same level of accountability.

In addition to her nonexistent experience in the education system, it became a concern for some senators when it was discovered that the Devos family had donated 950,000 dollars to various sitting GOP senators since 1980. Many believe that it was this money that got her position confirmed, and that’s disconcerting for many people in our country.

Whether you like her or not, Betsy Devos is our new Secretary of Education and is in charge of the entire federal education system. The public education system is going to have to adjust to these new circumstances and either resist or accept her new policies.

By Effiana Svarre

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