Betsy DeVos, our nation’s new Secretary of Education, was appointed Feb. 7 after a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence. Political affiliation aside, it should be clear that DeVos’ appointment could spell trouble for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and other public school districts across the nation.
DeVos, being an avid supporter of school choice, has shown more interest in strengthening private schools than public schools. Throughout her campaign, DeVos gave no mention as to what she would do to help public schools succeed. Instead, she emphasized her belief in using vouchers to get children in failing public school districts into private and charter schools.
Vouchers use state money as scholarships for studentsa��typically those in low-income familiesa��to attend these supposedly superior schools. This is essentially a way to funnel money from public schools to private schools. If more and more money is given to these alternative schools, this will leave many public school systems struggling to stay afloat.
“The real danger here is for students that are at failing schools with risk of having funding taken away,” senior Manuela Lopez said. “A Secretary of Education who is notoriously active in campaigning for the privatization of American education is ultimately a threat to the idea of every child having the right to receiving a quality education regardless of socioeconomic status.”
Unsurprisingly, DeVos boasts zero experience with the public school system, having never attended, sent her children to or worked in one. She has no education degree and no work experience in any schools. Her only government experience is in lobbying; she and her family have donated millions to Republican candidates over the years. Her stance on charter schools has never been a secret, having donated $5.2 million to charter schools from 1999 to 2014.
“I am outraged that someone with no experience in public education has been given the highest seat in US education,” English teacher Catherine Byrne said. “I think Ms. DeVos will continue to face difficulties (like the difficulties she faced last week at a DC public school) when trying to engage teachers, administrators and parents regarding meeting needs of all students. I hope she begins her education as Education Secretary by listening to those of us who are honored to serve as public school teachers and administrators.”
The public school system is already notoriously underfunded, suffering budget cut after budget cut since the 2008 recession. The number of public school workers and teachers has already been reduced by 297,000 since 2008, while the student population has risen by 804,000.
Devos’ incompetency was made clear during her confirmation hearing, at which she was asked for her opinion on whether student progress should be measured based on proficiency or growth. This question has long been debated in the education community, but DeVos was puzzled by and unsure of how to answer it. Her ignorance toward major education issues clearly demonstrates how unfit she is to hold the highest position in the education community.
DeVos was also asked about her opinion on guns in schools. In light of the numerous school shootings which have taken place in the past few years, it should be clear that schools are not a place for weapons. Instead, DeVos expressed that state and local governments should decide whether or not to allow guns in schools. She pointed to Wyoming schools, saying that she believes that, “there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone that grizzly bear attacks are not a major concern for Wyoming schools. Suggesting that a proven public safety hazard should be placed in a learning environment to prevent an imaginary safety hazard is absurd and foolish, and says a lot about DeVos’ intelligence levels.
“I think DeVos is a sad excuse for a secretary of education and I think she is absolutely unqualified for the position,” Lopez said. “I am worried about the future of our country.”