Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education secretary today, joining Donald Trump’s Bizarro World cabinet despite the lack of any experience in education beyond lobbying against it, along with massive conflicts of interest. I imagine the next step will be to replace public education with vouchers for Trump University.
I have previously posted some background information on Betsy DeVos for the benefit of those who have not been here in Michigan to observe her major contributions towards moving the state towards the right and damaging public education. This includes How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics from Politico Magazine, and a letter from fellow graduates and students of Calvin College opposing her nomination. In addition, The Washington Post had A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan — and what she might do as secretary of education:
President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of controversial cabinet nominations already. But none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason, than his choice of DeVos to lead the Department of Education.
DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.
She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them…
Largely as a result of the DeVos’ lobbying, Michigan tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other state. And it lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down, or even improving, failing charters.
We’re a laughingstock in national education circles, and a pariah among reputable charter school operators, who have not opened schools in Detroit because of the wild West nature of the educational landscape here…
What Detroit needs are better, high-quality choices — public, charter, whatever.
But DeVos and her family have stood in the way of improving what we have. They’ve stood for the charter industry and its middling results, over our kids.
I’m certain she’ll try to make the nation’s charter landscape look more like the chaos we face here in Detroit, and less like it does in states like Tennessee or Massachusetts or Maryland — all much better performers who have tighter reins on charter creation and proliferation.
Her lobbying hasn’t been good for Detroit, or Michigan.
It won’t be good for the nation.
My prediction about Trump University above is only a slight exaggeration considering the conflicts of interest DeVos has been involved with, including Neurocore, a company with a reputation for using high pressure sales tactics to sell unproven treatments for ADHD. The Hill has posted The ethics case against Betsy DeVos:
As former ethics counsels to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, we’ve reviewed more than our share of ethics filings for cabinet nominees. Seldom have we seen a worse cabinet-level ethics mess than that presented by Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary.
Her extensive financial holdings present significant—and unresolved—conflict of interest issues. She also failed to provide the Senate with accurate information about her involvement with outside organizations. We have regretfully come to the conclusion that these concerns disqualify DeVos for that cabinet position.
…DeVos’ failure to meet even minimum standards leaves us with no choice but to speak out.
For example, DeVos intends to maintain the $5 million to $25 million she and her husband have invested in Neurocore, a biotech company that claims to have “helped thousands of children” with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Neurocore is listed with its logo and a link to its website along with several other investments on a website operated by Windquest Group, an investment company owned by DeVos and her husband…
In her hearing, DeVos also made claims than strain credulity. For example, she was asked under oath about tax filings that listed her as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation. The Prince Foundation, established by her parents in 1989, reportedly made significant contributions to anti-LGBT groups over the years, including at least $5 million to conservative religious groups that support conversion therapy.
DeVos denied that she had that role at the Prince Foundation, and when confronted in her hearing by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) with actual forms indicating she was an officer, DeVos attributed it to a “clerical error”—one that persisted for 17 years.
Betsy DeVos fits in this cabinet purely based upon her opposition to the government programs her department deals with, and a history of massive contributions to Republican candidates. It is certainly not due to any qualifications in education.