The problem with Betsy DeVos

By Isaac Simon

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos looks on in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House on Feb. 7, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education illuminates an already harsh reality. Throughout her confirmation process, DeVos was a heavily contested nominee with much criticism coming from Democratic Senators like Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken.

It is an immoral shame that her confirmation went through. The troubling elements of her past make the future of education in this country particularly depressing.

DeVos’ past does not include any work with the public school system. Beginning in the early 90s, DeVos and her husband Dick, became heavily involved in the charter school movement and the vision of school choice. They worked on passing Michigan’s first charter school bill in 1993, which allowed public school funds to be used toward “quasi-independent educational systems.” This has been the DeVos mission from the beginning: circumventing and using taxpayer dollars for her own personal gain.

DeVos’ time as a board member of Children First America is only a further testament to her work in the private school sector. She also donated over a hundred thousand dollars to Children First America. DeVos’ role in aligning herself with religious schools has only added to her work as a foe for public academic administrations.

DeVos has claimed, both publicly and privately, that she is, “a total outsider to elective office and government.” This should of course be the first of many warning signs when it comes to confirming an individual such as DeVos. She is a billionaire who has never spent a day in the public sector, nor has she ever sent any of her children to public schools. DeVos is a huge proponent of school choice, and so is President Trump. Based on the little that Trump said on the campaign trail, it’s apparent that he cares about competition. The competition in this case is school choice. This is where DeVos comes in. In her view, the expansion of school freedom for families that have a history of being forced to conform to the confines of public education is the only way to give Americans the freedom they deserve when it comes to raising children.

This trend is not a new phenomenon. Public education has been under attack for years and many people have come to question the amount of federal dollars in the education sector along with the role the government has in facilitating education in the United States. But the origins of such skepticism remain confusing. What we have seen is the emergence of charter schools, a topic that Devos is specialized in and will be at the forefront of her vision as Secretary of Education.  It is important to note that many charter schools in Michigan are run by private companies, and these companies do not need to disclose financial information. She doesn’t seem to have a problem with taxes for everyone else, because her resume is almost entirely comprised of using public funds for private use.

All of this shows the irony of the Trump administration. During his inauguration, Trump proclaimed that he was a man of the people, spewing the populist message of ending the carnage and giving the power back to the citizens. I have full faith that DeVos will keep her promise to Trump along with the rest of those in her income bracket. The tragedy lies with the millions of students that depend of public funds for public schools. It’s worth taking a moment to look beyond the term school choice, especially when the real person choosing is making the ultimate decision.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]