Betsy DeVos is unqualified to be Secretary of Education
Although this week’s confirmation of Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos was all over the place, DeVos proved one thing: she is unqualified to be Secretary of Education.
Since late November, when President-Elect Donald Trump announced his pick for Secretary of Education, DeVos has been highly criticized for her lack of experience and her emphasis on privatizing public education. DeVos, who is a notable member of the Republican Party, is recognized for her position on school choice and voucher programs.
Specifically, DeVos has been credited for her involvement in lobbying for charter schools across Detroit, Michigan. However, evaluation of the program shows that although students may have more choices, the quality of education in these schools is unacceptable.
This fact alone makes DeVos unsuitable for this position. Putting aside the fact that DeVos has never been an educator or even worked in administration, the fact that one of her main advocacies has hindered the quality of education shows she doesn’t have much experience.
With no limit on the number of charter schools that can be created, Michigan has been renewing schools that have been underperforming and continues to open more schools. These schools also lack oversight, which has led to many instances of waste, fraud and abuse of funding.
DeVos is not an education leader and lacks vital experience in K-12 and higher education. During her confirmation hearing when Senator Kaine asked DeVos about holding charter, public and private schools accountable if they received Federal funding, DeVos repeated the phrase “I support accountability” many times. She avoided answering the question, and the reason seems obvious. If the charter schools that DeVos supports were to be held to similar standards, they would prove to underperform.
During DeVos’ confirmation hearing, Senator Alexander, Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, allotted only one round of questioning with five minutes for each senator on the committee. Senate Democrats wanted an extension, because previous hearings had up to two rounds of questioning.
This unprecedented move is unfair, because it protects DeVos from being asked questions that would continue to reveal she is unfit for the job. The Chairman who is enforcing the rule is a Republican, and it seems that this decision could lead to DeVos being pushed through even if she doesn’t deserve the position.
The confirmation hearing included many blunders on DeVos’s part. For example, when Senator Kaine asked DeVos about the Individual with Disabilities in Education Act, DeVos wasn’t aware that this major act was a Federal Law.
DeVos was also questioned on other issues, including higher education and guns in schools.
Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned DeVos on her experience with higher education. In her time limit, Warren was able to highlight a key fact: DeVos has no experience in higher education. DeVos has never led or participated in loan programs. She has no personal experience with student loans or Pell Grants.
How can we expect someone who has no experience with some of the most basic aspects of financial aid in higher education to lead an entire department? It seems like that isn’t even a question we should be asking.
When asked what her plan was for protecting taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud and abuse, DeVos failed to provide a definite answer. She simply said that the people in her office would make sure that didn’t happen. It can be argued that just because DeVos has no personal experience with loans or Pell Grants, doesn’t mean she would be unfit for the job.
However, the fact that she lacked even a basic idea of how she would protect taxpayer dollars, or how she claimed she would need to review the requirement that schools needed to focus on future employment for students, shows that she is not fit to be Secretary of Education.
Another notable moment during the confirmation was when DeVos was asked about gun-free zones on campuses. DeVos answered that it should be “left to locales and states to decide.” When pushed further on the matter, DeVos said, “I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school he is talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies.”
As if the rest of the confirmation hearing wasn’t going poorly enough, DeVos decided to embarrass herself with this comment. If DeVos’s only justification for having guns on campus is potential grizzly attacks, she needs to do her research, because the chances of that happening are unbelievably low.
DeVos’ answers, which don’t actually address the question, seem as though she isn’t acknowledging the growing gun violence across the U.S. She confirmed that she would support President-Elect Donald Trump if he were to ban gun-free zones.
Although due to the short amount of time, many important issues were not discussed. The hearing did make one thing apparent—DeVos is not fit to be Secretary of Education. DeVos has no experience in K-12 education. Her only contribution to education—advocating for school choice—has proven to be ineffective.
She has not participated in any higher education activities that would make her suitable to manage the position of Secretary of Education. DeVos has simply used her wealth to push her own ideology, and without a proper plan and oversight, the future generation of our country is being forced to deal with the consequences.
The Committee is due to vote on DeVos’s nomination on January 24th. If the committee votes in favor of DeVos, the decision will head to the Senate floor.
Although the confirmation hearing seemed to prove DeVos is not fit for the position, it seems likely that she will be pushed through anyway.
Fariha Jawed is an accounting and political science junior and can be reached at [email protected]