The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of transition as the Trump administration solidifies its hold on the White House. Among several new decisions, Donald Trump’s cabinet picks have sparked widespread public debate. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education met with a great degree of outcry as many viewed her as unfit for the job.
DeVos has never taught in, managed or attended a public school – at her hearing on Jan. 17 DeVos sided in favor of defunding public schools to promote private and charter options.
Citing her preference to provide parents a choice, DeVos may take tax payer money away from public school funding and put it towards families that wish to attend a private or charter school.
This anti-public school stance has angered teachers’ unions that are openly opposed to DeVos’s appointment. Dr. Gutshall, associate professor in College of Charleston’s Department of Teacher Education, believes that DeVos’s experience is, “insufficient experience to completely grasp the totality and nuances of the complex issues involved in the field of education.”
DeVos also failed to understand or answer several basic questions on education policy and proficiency vs growth as an indicator of school success that worried many. According to College of Charleston Assistant Professor Dr. Barrett-Tatum, “DeVos should recognize all the factors that influence student test scores, including meeting the needs of the whole child and not just focusing solely on culturally-biased assessment scores.”
These qualifications along with her view that guns should not be banned from schools and the potential conflicts of interest that her financial investments may cause have depicted Betsy DeVos as someone that cannot be fully trusted to many in the public. As Dr. Barrett-Tatum stated, “To be a successful Secretary of Education, one needs a deep understanding of the complex issues facing our educational system, along with a respect for the policies that consider and respect the diversity that is at the heart of our country.”
Despite criticisms, some claim DeVos can provide positive influences. Dr. Gutshall believes that DeVos will bring diversity to an overwhelmingly similar and male cabinet. Additionally, DeVos has supported the arts in the past, possibly translating to her work in education and providing a solid artistic community in schools.
After DeVos’s hearing was cut short without fully answering every question, several democrats appealed for a second hearing to further parse out DeVos’s stances. This appeal was denied by Senator Lamar Alexander based on the short amount of time that Barack Obama’s picks were questioned.