Here’s Every Move Betsy DeVos Has Made Since Becoming Education Secretary
Billionaire, private sector champion, Betsy DeVos, was confirmed in one of the most contentious cabinet position votes in U.S. history on February 7, 2017. In the past three months, she has angered Historically Black Colleges and Universities, been booed and heckled during and on her way into multiple speaking engagements, and brokered less than stellar deals for Americans with student loan debt. Sad!
Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of Secretary DeVos’ tenure so far:
A true whiplash of a month, even for Trump administration standards.
February 7: Vice President Pence casts the tie-breaking Senate vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education
February 10: Secretary DeVos was booed as she entered Jefferson Middle School Academy for a visit. Though later calling the visit “wonderful,” she noted to conservative publication Townhall that she found the teachers to be receivers:
“They’re waiting to be told what they have to do, and that’s not going to bring success to an individual child.”
Her comments immediately brought her under fire from the teachers at Jefferson Academy, with the school and their teachers taking to Twitter to express their frustration.
After her experience at Jefferson Middle School Academy, it was decided that she would have U.S. Marshals added to her personal detail.
February 12: NYC school chancellor, Carmen Farina, said that though she hopes DeVos will not cut federal funding to NYC schools and that she looks forward to working the secretary despite ideological differences.
February 15: Fear that Secretary DeVos will fail to endorse Title XI rules spreads as advocates barraged her office with phone calls and emails. As increased attention has recently been given to sexual assault on college campuses (in no small part due to former Vice President Biden’s work on the issue), concern over how DeVos and her staff will articulate Title XI and its provisions for sexual assault on campuses was given its just time in the spotlight.
February 16: In an interview with Townhall, DeVos discussed her tumultuous ride to the cabinet, as well as made some choice comments for which she would later be dragged through the dirt:
February 17: In an interview with Axios, Secretary DeVos stated that her greatest goal in the early stages of her administration are to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. The ESSA would restrict the role of federal government in education. DeVos went on to say that she did not believe there were any major education issues left for a federal intervention.
“It would be fine with me to have myself worked out of a job, but I’m not sure that — I’m not sure that there will be a champion movement in Congress to do that.” — Secretary DeVos to Axios
February 22: A rare, but vital, moment of opposition between Secretary DeVos and President Trump reared its head when President Trump scaled back his support of bathroom choice for transgender students. Citing her concerns for student safety, Secretary DeVos voiced her support for transgender students, despite the fallout with Attorney General Sessions and the president. Eventually, with pressure put upon her by Sessions and Trump, she was forced to back down from her position.
Secretary DeVos, to her credit, issued a statement that evening calling protection for all students a “moral obligation.”
February 27: At the tail end of Black History Month, Secretary DeVos issued a statement calling historically black colleges and universities “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” She went on to say:
“They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and great quality…Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.”
The tasteless — if not blissfully ignorant — remarks eliminated the historical context of why HBCUs exist to begin with, inciting immediate backlash and from the HBCU community and anyone with even the slightest clue.
And this is just her first three weeks in office…
Although a bit of a slower month, the budget announcements came as a jolt to the public.
March 2: In an op-ed written for USA Today, Secretary DeVos championed President Trump’s commitment to education, highlighting the policies she felt would make education great again:
March 10: Speaking to the Council of the Great City Schools in Washington, D.C., Secretary DeVos once again championed school choice and parental empowerment particularly for urban communities.
March 16: President Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint was announced with a 13%/$9 billion dollar cut made to the overall education budget. Additionally, $1.4 billion was earmarked for Secretary DeVos’s favored school choice programs, for a total of $20 billion. The bullet-pointed outline for the federal education budget can be found on pages 17–19 of the PDF.
As to the details of the plan, the Secretary’s position was mums the word:
“Our focus is on helping support students where it can be most effective and most impactful… It’s a little bit early to talk about details, but I think conceptually what we’d like to see is whatever is rolled out at the national or federal level is to enhance what’s going on in the states.”
March 28: Along with First Daughter/Personal Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump, she and Secretary Devos made a trip to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum to talk to local D.C. students and NASA leaders about STEM programs. Along with a viewing of the Academy Award nominated film, Hidden Figures, Ms. Trump and Secretary DeVos spoke of the importance of women in STEM.
March 29: Why take a taxi when you can use Uber or Lyft? Apparently, the analogy of free-enterprise businesses in competition with other free-enterprise businesses is how Secretary DeVos sees education. In a keynote address at the Brookings Institute, DeVos used this interesting-at-best analogy to explain her favor for school choice as opposed to public school. School choice, according to DeVos, is a “fundamental right too long denied to too many kids.”
If we can learn anything from Secretary DeVos’s doom and gloom approach to education, it’s that her idea of what works and what doesn’t is almost exclusively tied to what works and what doesn’t for the wealthy.
All quiet on the western front, for now at least.
April 6: Despite school vouchers being unconstitutional in Arizona, the state did expand their education savings accounts program. Secretary DeVos tweeted her support of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s initiative. The program will give Arizona one of the broadest voucher programs in the nation — ya know, despite actual vouchers being against the Arizona State constitution.
April 7: Remember Secretary DeVos’s additional U.S. Marshals detail added during her first week in office? That extra cushion of security costs the Education Department nearly $1 million dollars a month. She has the U.S. Marshals until the end of September/2017 federal fiscal year. No word yet on if the U.S. Marshal’s service will continue into the 2018 fiscal year.
April 26: President Trump signed an executive order requesting that Secretary Devos conduct a review into the role of the federal government in education. The purpose being to make cuts within the confines of federal guidelines and empower local and state governments.
Barely halfway through the month and things are not looking good for the Secretary and Co.
May 10: Secretary DeVos gave the commencement address at HBCU institution, Bethune-Cookman University, to a less than warm audience. Facing occasional heckling, booing, and even a few sections of students with their backs completely turned to the Secretary, DeVos carried on with her speech.
“One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.” — Secretary DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University commencement
Her reception should come as no surprise — in the days leading up to commencement, many local residents and students in the Daytona Beach area made their displeasure with her and her policies clear with signs and protests.
Albeit a rambunctious way to welcome a guest, much less a commencement speaker, it is a wonder the university thought it prudent to even invite her to speak.
May 17: The first full draft of the federal education budget to be unveiled next will be promising deeper cuts than initially thought after the budget blueprint was released in March. Funding for the favored college work-study program would be cut in half along with $10.6 billion being cut in federal education initiatives.
Perhaps the most devastating aspect of the plan is the removal of the public-service loan forgiveness program which many college students have taken advantage of over the years. Introduced in 2007, the public-service loan forgiveness program nulled a graduates federal student loans after ten years in the public and non-profit sectors. As many were seen to be abusing the program to pay for their masters degrees, the Obama administration in 2015, looked to put a cap on the amount of debt the federal government would forgive.
May 18: On Monday, Secretary DeVos’s plans for her school choice platform will be announced. Based on the cuts made within the preliminary budget drafts and her personal prerogatives well documented, it will not be hard to make clear assumptions about what the school choice plan will encompass.
If anything can be said for Secretary DeVos, at least she’s consistent. Unlike her fellow cabinet members, transparency is a strong suit: She is clear about what her goals are and clearly has an ally in President Trump for her initiatives. Teachers unions and overwhelming opposition to her from the general public will prove to be her greatest adversary.
It will be an uphill battle for the secretary, and certainly a battle in which we all have vested interest.