Secretary of Education Nominee DeVos Thinks Schools Should Be Run Like Businesses

DeVos1In this Nov. 19, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos pose for photographs at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. Trump has chosen charter school advocate DeVos as Education Secretary in his administration.
CREDIT: AP/Carolyn Kaster

If we’ve learned anything from Trump’s transition picks so far it’s that you have a higher chance of getting in the president-elect’s cabinet if you have billions of dollars than if you have actual experience in the relevant issue area.

Meet Betsy DeVos. She’s the billionaire Republican fundraiser from Michigan that Trump has just nominated to head the Department of Education. A former RNC Committeewoman for Michigan, DeVos’ family has also been the largest soft money donor to the RNC. To become Secretary of Education, DeVos will need to undergo a Senate confirmation hearing in January, in which Senators will dig into her record and ask questions about her plans for education in America. We wanted to share everything we know about DeVos’ positions on education so that you could email your Senator with questions you think would be important to ask at her confirmation hearing. Take a look at her “education record” here:

  • She does not believe in public education for all: Betsy DeVos has never attended a public school in her life, nor has she sent her kids to public school. This elite-school educated nominee has never even been a teacher! Four of the past 11 Secretaries of Education were teachers, and the rest had experience in the k-12 system. DeVos has no similar experience, but does have a demonstrated record of pushing policies that divert public funds to vouchers for deregulated charter and religious schools. These “school choice” voucher programs have been linked to poor student outcomes, showing that students who use vouchers for private schools perform worse on state exams than their public school peers. Even more troubling, DeVos has expressed that she wants churches to get more involved in education, even if that is through tax credits and government funding.
  • She thinks schools should be run like businesses: Betsy DeVos has dedicated her career to expanding the charter school program in Michigan while also playing a large role in their deregulation. She has advocated for K-12 programs to be run like businesses, leading Michigan to now spend more than $1 billion on charter schools annually,  80 percent of which are being run for-profit, without accountability or transparency. What happens when schools are run like businesses? Students, especially those who are low-income, take a backseat to profits.
  • She used her fortune to ban marriage equality in Michigan: Betsy and her husband, Richard DeVos, led the effort to amend Michigan’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage and spent $200,000 towards that end. The amendment was approved by Michigan voters before it was struck down by the SCOTUS marriage equality case in 2015.
  • She is an enemy of unions: Betsy and Richard DeVos spent $1.75 million to fight against unions by campaigning for right-to-work laws. Designed to weaken unions and propagated by conservative lawmakers and advocates, these laws allow workers that reap union benefits to opt-out of paying union dues. Teachers’ unions are very concerned about what her relationship with educators says about her plans to further erode teacher and student power in classrooms.

Ultimately, the only thing Betsy DeVos has proven experience in is bankrolling politicians and governments to design society in a way that reflects her conservative religious views. Betsy DeVos is the very bread and butter of the “donor class” that Donald Trump spent 18 months on the campaign saying he would get rid of in Washington. Her confirmation would be a huge blow to the 90 percent of American children who go to public schools.

If you’re as concerned as we are, call or email your senators with questions they should ask DeVos at her confirmation hearing, and urge them to vote NO on Betsy DeVos.

Senya Merchant is an Organizing Associate for Generation Progress.

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