DeVos Proves To Be Contentious Choice For Secretary Of Education

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Ethan Graham, Reporter

In his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump has already surrounded himself with controversy and his cabinet appointees have been no different, as is the case for Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

DeVos was confirmed on Feb. 7, 2017 in a historic tiebreaker by Vice President, Mike Pence, who used his vote to break a 50-50 tie in the senate. This has been by far Trump’s toughest confirmation battle, with three republican senators voting against her.

Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
Photo courtesy of the Associated Press


On paper, she looks impressive, leading many to ask why it was so tough for her to get confirmed. That’s where it gets interesting. The Department of Education’s job is to administer and coordinate federal assistance to schools in America, as well as establish policy for assisting American schools.

Why is this important to know? While the education system in America is highly decentralized, comparative to other countries, the Department of Education does deal with the funding of school systems, as well as running the student loan program.

“I have a lot of concerns, I think that some of the questioning has displayed that she doesn’t necessarily have the educational background or knowledge of public schools, the systems and the kinds of support and research of best practices, particularly her understanding of the growth model,” El Paso High School Principal, Kristine Ferret said. “A school like us really has students grow and you want your secretary of education to be knowledgable of that as well as best practices that work. I have concerns with some of her statements, that she is interested in pulling funding from public schools into private schools.”

This is where DeVos nearly lost the confirmation battle. While being well educated, DeVos has never actually held any position in the field of education. She’s never taught, held an administrator position, nor has she ever studied education. Many critics of DeVos point to her lack of experience in the education industry as an underlying cause of her incompetence, with Senate Minority Leader, Charles Schumer calling DeVos, “uniquely unqualified.”

High School is, above all, a way to further a student’s learning experience and also mature over a period of time as they prepare themselves for the rest of their lives. That is why some, including high school students want a secretary of education to have experience as a teacher or administrator, it is important for them to be able to solve problems in the most efficient way possible, to make the system better as a whole.

“I think Betsy DeVos has a good idea for the education system and how it should be set up, because it offers competition to public schools and competition usually increases the quality of the education,” El Paso High School sophomore, Trey Turner said. “But, at the same time, she  doesn’t have a lot of experience, at all, in the field of education, and she is a big donor to the Republican Party, so she might have a bias when it comes to making decisions about the education system.”

DeVos is a businesswoman who hails from a wealthy family of billionaire business owners. She grew up in Holland, Michigan where she attended Holland Christian High School, a private school.

She then graduated from Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science.

Another point that has been a favorite for critics of DeVos, she said during her confirmation hearing that it’s “possible” she has donated over $200 million to the Republican party. Critics use this to attack President Trump more than anyone else, referencing to the spoils system.

The spoils system was very popular in early presidential administrations, with many presidents giving positions of power to their close friends. Turner has brought up the same point, that the President only chose her because she has donated so much to the party, and its leaders.

Overall, President Trump’s approval rating of 40 percent in the Gallup polls is at an all-time low, only 82 days into his presidency, and the appointing of DeVos as secretary of education has added to the discontent.

“I think DeVos’s appointment is consistent with Trump’s cabinet picks so far in that the appointee in the past, has shown a lot of skepticism towards the agency that they are now being chosen to lead,” El Paso High School history teacher, Michael Reese said. “I mainly have concerns with how she is going to channel the Title I Funding money, which is $15 billion. That’s a lot of money and how she is prepared to use it will have a huge impact.”