Another Airhead?

The Three Village District's grudge against Betsy DeVos

Janet Song, Staff Writer

From the Three Village School District website, January 30th, 2017:

Betsy DeVos, current United States Secretary of Education

“We believe the individual who is confirmed to serve in this national position should be one who possesses a depth and breadth of knowledge in educational law, practices instructional standards, on both the state and federal levels, to ensure proper oversight and directional advancements of our nation’s educational system. As we do not believe that Ms. DeVos meets these criteria, we respectfully oppose her appointment and advocate for a professional who will lead the charge in protecting and overseeing the public system we value and have in place.”

Although called a “brilliant and passionate education advocate” by our own president, the Three Village School District has publicly announced its disapproval of Betsy DeVos, the now-current secretary of education in the United States. Her victory, according to The New York Times, came from a close vote of 51 to 50, the tie-breaking vote coming from vice president Pence. In the weeks before the historic nomination on February 7th, senators (Republicans and Democrats) received many messages pushing them to vote against DeVos, a woman who The New York Times mocks as “a wealthy Republican donor with almost no experience in public education.”

Why The New York Times and the Three Village School District would criticize DeVos in their open manners is reasonable; despite being politically active, DeVos lacks experience. Married to Dick DeVos, who previously ran for governor of Michigan but was unsuccessful, DeVos has served as the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican party and along with her family, has donated to several conservative and Christian groups, including the notable Heritage Foundation, an organization with linkage to president Donald Trump.

According to The Atlantic, a key component that has created concern among the education department is Betsy DeVos’ support of charter schools, schools that are publicly funded and independently run; 80 percent are run by private companies. What makes charter schools particularly concerning is that the schools are not required to follow the rules of the district that funds them; therefore, there is little supervision of charter schools.

From CNN: “Advocates [of charter schools] say that freedom lets charter schools sidestep policies that lock troubled schools into a cycle of failure, and allows for a more flexible, innovative curriculum. Critics say they lack proper oversight and accountability.”

Another concern is her stance on the controversial Common Core. President Trump has said in numerous speeches his goal to get rid of Common Core, and DeVos has similar feelings. Yet, DeVos’ stance on Common Core remains vague; she deleted a blog post about her opinions of Common Core, and according to the Washington Post, “At DeVos’s Senate committee confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 17, she didn’t mention the Core in her opening testimony. The closest she came was saying that ‘parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child’— as if parents ever actually did believe that. […] It is true that there wasn’t enough time allowed at the hearing to ask her about every hot education topic. But the Common Core is one you would have expected to come up. And it never did.”

DeVos is also an advocate for school choice and was the head of American Federation for Children, a pro-charter and pro-voucher nonprofit organization. The Atlantic notes how DeVos “has said parents should have the ability to choose the best schools for their children, whether they are traditional public schools, charters, or private schools.” Trump has pushed to create a $20 billion federal voucher program that would follow DeVos’ vision, but the program is unlikely to happen, due to problems of getting funds; even if Congress approved the program, several states prohibit funds for schools with religious linkage, which may be problematic with funding.

Overall, the inexperience of Betsy DeVos, as well as some of her strong conservative ideals, is what makes her to some an unsuitable person for the position as the U.S. Secretary of Education. Her inability to carry her position is evident, and her objectives are both controversial and worrisome. For now, the Three Village School District will have to remain disappointed of her confirmation, and the United States again will have to wonder how an incompetent and dimwitted individual somehow rose to power.