Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was confirmed yesterday by the Senate 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote—the first time in history a Cabinet member has been confirmed that way. Education activists and concerned citizens had lobbied hard against DeVos, but fell short of the extra Republican vote they needed to block her.
DeVos, a longtime advocate for school-choice vouchers, has never worked at, attended, or sent her children to a public school, and her lack of experience has critics worried. But the big controversy over her nomination has put education policy in the media spotlight—and that could be an unexpected boon for public schools, reported The Atlantic.
"Our education system has just been sold to the highest bidder - a person with no experience, no insight and with very questionable views and motives. This really does seem like the fall of Rome", protested an educator from a Los Angeles Primary School on his Facebook.
Los Angeles and other cities around the country saw another day of anti-Trump protests in their streets.
In Philadelphia, reaction to the confirmation was swift and largely negative.
"Betsy DeVos has no experience with, and stunningly little knowledge of, the issues and challenges that face our public schools," Jerry Jordan, head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. "By confirming her nomination, the GOP members of the Senate have demonstrated that they value deep pockets and an anti-public-school ideology over the needs of America's schoolchildren."
Our education system has just been sold to the highest bidder
“When she was nominated, she was going in as the poster child of every negative aspect of what people feel [education] reformers are: white, entitled, wealthy, send their kids to private school,” said Maria Ferguson, the executive director of the Center on Education Policy, a public-school advocacy group based at George Washington University in Washington, D.C, as reported in The Atlantic. “And when she finally took the stand and had the opportunity to tell the world who she was, she did a very bad job of it. I understand how hard public speaking is, but she could not have blown it more.”
Raised in a wealthy family, Ms. DeVos has a web of financial investments, has also raised alarm among critics who worried about the many opportunities for conflicts of interest. As a member of Michigan G.O.P, DeVos is known for her big-spending lobbying efforts to expand charter schools in her state — an experiment that even charter school supporters now criticize, reported The New York Times.
Her background as a prolific fund-raiser who has donated about $200 million over the years to Republican causes and candidates also came under scrutiny.
Democrats have also expressed concern about her family’s contributions to anti-gay marriage campaigns and to support the so-called conversion therapy for gay people.
DeVos is a religious conservative who has pushed for years to breach the wall between church and state on education, among other issues. After the 2006 campaign in Michigan, DeVos family doubled down on political contributions and support for conservative Christian causes. Members of the family, including Betsy and Dick DeVos, have spent heavily in opposition to same-sex-marriage laws in several states.
Immigrants will be the nation’s only reliable source of educated people
According to The New Yorker, the Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary means that immigrants will be the nation’s only reliable source of educated people going forward, education experts said on Tuesday.
Under DeVos, the U.S. will have to “drastically increase its inflow of immigrants” if it wants people capable of performing even the simplest tasks, said Davis Logsdon, the dean of the University of Minnesota’s School of Education, as quoted in The New Yorker.
“Most of our industries require people who can read, write, and do arithmetic, even in a rudimentary way,” he said. “The Senate just shot that to hell.”