Last week, on February 7th, Republican Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary by the Senate. The 50-50 vote was ultimately determined by Vice President Mike Pence. Interestingly enough, two republican Senate members voted against DeVos.
Upon taking a look at her website, DeVos has been involved in politics for 35 years, and was chairman of the Michigan Republic Party four times. Despite her involvement in politics, there are only three paragraphs under the ‘education’ tab on her website, and one of those revolves around her husband founding a public charter school. The only experience in education mentioned are her involvement in the American Federation for Children, defined as “the nation’s leading school choice advocacy group”. This proves that her position as Education Secretary may be questionable due to her lack of knowledge on such an important aspect of Americans’ lives. She sees America as having a “broken education system’’, but the only aspect of education she truly is concerned about is parental choice and increasing funding on private and charter schools.
There are a vast number of issues within the education system that need to be prioritized over parental choice and private/ charter school funding. Increasing teacher salary, or making college more affordable, for instance, should be part of DeVos’ main priorities, but she has ignored these subjects. For instance, when Bernie Sanders asks if DeVos will work to make public colleges tuition free, she responds with “There’s nothing in life that’s truly free”, abstaining to truly discuss the question. In fact, many of her answers to Bernie Sanders, Tim Kaine, and Elizabeth Warren were very vague and felt as if she were trying to omit giving a genuine answer. Those who have very little information on the subject at hand often use this ‘strategy’. It is a way to divert from answering the question, and it is extremely frustrating to see, especially by the Secretary of Education, who ideally would have a great amount of knowledge on the problems in education.
Bernie Sanders: 9:34
Along with only focusing on one semi-important aspect of education and overlooking vital issues in today’s education system, another major flaw DeVos has is her inability to relate to and understand lower and middle class America. At her confirmation as Education Secretary, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren asks if either DeVos herself, or her children, have ever taken out a student loan to help pay for college. Neither her or her children have had to do this. According to US News, 70% of 2013 college graduates had over $28,000 in debt. The fact that the majority of college graduates are in debt after graduating, and that DeVos does not have any personal connection to this struggle, is another reason why she is unqualified for her position. Not only did DeVos not have to take out loans, she is a billionaire, and part of the top 1%. This further shows how disconnected she is to the majority of Americans.
DeVos’ priority of gearing children towards private and charter schools is nonsensical. She claims that parent choice and a preference for these types of schools will help low-income children. However, she has not provided reasons on why or how private schools are more beneficial to children, specifically kids from low-income families. Since DeVos and all of her children went to private school, it is clear that she has a biased preference for these types of schools. But she does not give any real reasons for why public schools are inferior. She simply uses the rhetoric strategy of pathos to gain votes by speaking of children from low-income families, and her promise to aid them. My question is, how will she achieve this?
A major problem revealed through Betsy DeVos’ appointment as Education Secretary is how divided the two political parties have become. Of course, this reality has been ongoing for quite some time now, but DeVos’ election is another instance in which a party votes for another member of his or her party, simply because of their parties’ alignment. Only two republican senators voted against DeVos. The others likely knew how unqualified she is for this position, but they chose to support her anyway. This is unacceptable, especially when the position at stake is of such high importance. We are voting and electing politicians for the wrong reasons. We need to look beyond a candidate’s party affiliation, and focus more on their experience and views.
Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos does not seem promising in terms of advancing improvements for the American education system. She has very little experience with education, and cannot relate to lower-income families. Her focuses are out of order, and she does not seem to understand the most important issues within education. Hopefully, she will be able to become more genuine and attempt to truly improve education in the US.