Betsy DeVos is a strong believer in parental school choice. As the current Secretary of Education, she is responsible for setting and carrying out the nation’s policy on public education. While she has definite views on giving parents more choices on how and where their children are educated within a publicly supported system, President Trump, her primary boss, does not appear to be as supportive.
While Besty DeVos espouses the party line, many who know her from past political and charitable efforts in Michigan, her native state, state that she has a steely and determined personality underneath the outward politeness. For 30 years, Betsy DeVos has led efforts to provide tax dollars in the form of vouchers to go toward private schools. These efforts have been largely unsuccessful in Michigan, but she has succeeded in diverting money away from public schools and toward charter schools.
Ms. DeVos believes that the free market should decide the fate of charter and other schools. She not only supports charter and private schools, but she also advocates tax money for schools run by for-profit companies and opposes setting performance standards for them. Detroit, Michigan, has the nation’s largest number of charter schools, mostly because of Betsy DeVos’s political efforts. Many of these charter schools are low-performing, and Detroit’s public schools also continue to deteriorate. Ms. DeVos has said that the Detroit public school system should simply be closed down.
During her confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos said that most students in the U.S. attend public school and nothing would change that. However, soon after taking her position, she said that teachers at a Washington public school she recently visited were not taking the initiative in their classes, but rather were waiting to be told what to do. This remark led to comments from many that Ms. DeVos is hostile to public education.
During her confirmation hearings, Betsy DeVos was potrayed as being inexperienced and ignorant of the state of the public education system and of politics in general. Her acquaintances have said that while she is somewhat annoyed by this portrayal, she remains humorous about it and even jokes about some of the remarks she made during the hearings.
A few months into her term, Betsy DeVos visited several schools in Florida, running the gamut from private, charter and public schools. Betsy DeVos was serving notice that she is serious about parental choice and was placing a spotlight on the different types of schools parents can choose. However, despite Ms. DeVos’s praise and support of the charter schools in Florida, the schools have problematic ties with business and political leaders and take a disproportionate amount of school tax dollars.
One of her first moves as the new Secretary of Education was to call the leaders of the top two teachers’ unions. Greg McNeilly, a Republican political strategist who has worked with Betsy DeVos on various initiatives in Michigan, believes that this was a smart move on her part. He states that Washington will soon find out that Betsy DeVos is fueled by opposition, not muted.
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