Trump Picks Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education

Photo credit: School Choice Week
Photo credit: School Choice Week

Mea culpa, Buzzfeed was right about the Secretary of Education pick coming down between Betsy DeVos and Michelle Rhee. President-elect Donald Trump announced that DeVos was his pick for Secretary of Education earlier this afternoon.

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said in a released statement. “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families. I am pleased to nominate Betsy as Secretary of the Department of Education.”

“I am honored to accept this responsibility to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again,” DeVos said. “The status quo in education is not acceptable. Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

DeVos tweeted this out this afternoon.

Her statement was part of a Q&A, and I’m not certain when it was written.

Certainly. I am not a supporter—period.

I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense. 

Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.

However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.

Above all, I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education.

So we need to do our homework? Up until this Q&A was put up she had made no public statement about Common Core, and this one is rather vague. So like former Governor Mike Huckabee she’s saying she supported the American Diploma Project. She’s saying she doesn’t mind top-down standards provided they are not “turned into a federalized boondoggle.”

She does say she supports “high standards” so I’d like to ask her do you believe Common Core State Standards as written are “high standards”? She wants strong accountability so does she support Every Student Succeeds Act? Does she believe in federal mandated testing? Does she believe parents have the right to opt their students out?  How about data collection?

She says she supports local control, but what exactly does that mean to her?

Here is what we do know and actions speak louder than words.

  1. She sat on the board of two organizations that are pro-Common Core – the Foundation for Excellence in Education, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s organization, and the Great Lakes Education Project.
  2. She helped fund an effort influence the Republican primaries in her home state of Michigan and provided financial support to an organization, Great Lakes Education Project, that was part of an effort to defeat Michigan’s Common Core repeal bill.

Karen Braun of Stop Common Core Michigan wrote:

GLEP is a strong supporter of the Common Core and its continued implementation in Michigan. They are part of the Michigan Coalition for High Student Standards which opposes SB 826 to Repeal and Replace Common Core, science, social studies, and aligned assessments with pre-common core Massachusetts standards.  Stop Common Core in Michigan believes there is a high correlation between candidates who accept the GLEP endorsement and their future votes on legislation.

GLEP claims NOT to have a litmus test on Common Core.  This allows candidates to say they are against common core and still gain the endorsement of GLEP.   But DeVos  is a champion for “school choice” while at the same time continuing the implementation of common national standards.    The DeVos definition of “school choice” is the freedom to choose which common core school will track your child from cradle-to-career (P20).   All Michigan charters must use common national standards.  That’s NOT true choice.

Like Bill Gates, Betsy DeVos has some money and has some things she’d like to see different.   Like all good investors, DeVos likely expects a return on her investment.  And if you don’t play the game under their rules and vote the way you want her to vote, you may find yourself challenged the next time you run for office.

Former Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin said to me, “she and GLEP were one of the main leaders defending Common Core when I was fighting it in the legislature. In 2013 I know she was strongly supportive of Common Core and high stakes testing.”

When people in Michigan, who know her record on education activism the best, says her statement is bunk I’m listening.

Update: A friend of mine who has been working with education policy longer than I have and whom I respect a great deal brought up the following point. The groups in question that she supports also promote school choice. It is reasonable to consider that her support of those organizations, like Mrs. DeVos indicates, be because of school choice advocacy not Common Core. While she hasn’t been vocal in opposing Common Core she also has not been vocal in supporting it either.

I look at her a little more comprehensively at Caffeinated Thoughts, and I personally have come to the conclusion that I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt and give her a chance to lead. I’m confident she won’t be worse than the previous two Secretaries of Education.  I know some may want to try to see her confirmation defeated, but I believe that is unlikely. Perhaps we need to take a neutral position and try to build a bridge instead.

2 thoughts on “Trump Picks Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education

  1. I know I’m gonna be called a heretic. Or worse.

    And I’m gonna get beaten up. (Yo! Adrian!)

    Why is anyone really shocked? Trump’s been ripping down walls for months. This is just another one.

    Donald Trump betrayed no one with his pick of Betty DeVos. In fact, he serviced his larger, more prominent promise … IF we had bothered to listen carefully enough. He’s been a champion of Ed-Exit since he entered politics. He loathes intrusive government and rails against bureaucrats and educrats who stand in the way of change. Didn’t lots of us like that message?

    Well … he delivered. Just as he said he would.

    To Trump, the unacceptable situation in much of inner-city, Black America is directly related to a perpetual state of failure in some public schools. He asked those inner-city parents to trust him to make things better for their kids … and this is his first step in fulfilling that promise.

    More than any other issue, Betsy DeVos … the Secretary of Education appointee … is at war with the single structure of education that has been in place since forever. And we should NOT immediately assume that future charters under this administration will look like old charters. We all … me included … assume too much. We’re in the early stages of a Great Disturbance … a Great Upset of the familiar … and we should see what emerges before we pound our fists.

    DeVos wants public schools to compete for resources … that’s money, folks … just like other schools. And that, she insists, is the way to improved performance. The old “Put up or shut up”.

    DeVos loathes the lack of school choice … and the lack of competition in schools today. And Trump feels the same way … and why wouldn’t he? He comes from the world of competition. It’s what he understands best.

    In recent times, her Common Core stance has become murky, and I’ll wager it’ll soon be on the back burner because of her greater crusade to bust up the monopolistic public school system. It may fade away in a slow wilt.

    Expect some sort of blurry statement about declawing Common Core, but you’ll starve looking for specifics. Her energy is directed to school choice … and that’s why she was chosen. She fits Trump’s cure for his indictment of inner-city schools.

    And the betrayal thing?

    In Trump’s mind, there is none.

    He is still paying high homage to local control … and allowing civic involvement in the schools. But there’s a caveat: those schools need to show performance excellence in the face of increased competition. The days of automatic financing have taken a new twist. The best get the bucks. The failures get the gate. Those are the rules he understands.

    One other point.

    He never showed much sympathy for teachers. Or unions. He sees their poor performances in many of these disturbing situations. He saw them as many do … self-serving and self-centered. Here’s some truth: he is … like all of us … a kid-first supporter. A fair-shake sort.

    Now those folks outside of the inner city … and that’s lots of us … will scream betrayal. And, in your mind, you’ve been let down. Back-stabbed. Left high and dry. But that’s because YOU chose to emphasize what YOU wanted to emphasize throughout the campaign. YOU chose to hear only what YOU wanted to hear. YOU used YOUR prism and YOUR prism only. He’s saving the kids in the worst situations. And for once … they’re first in line. And I’m glad.

    Be honest …

    Trump seldom went past a generic statement about Common Core. But he gave plenty of words and strength and energy to schools that were failing, and teachers who were failing, and unions that were part of all of that failure.

    Then he coupled those observations in his plea to inner-city parent/voters to trust him. And now … he’s zeroing in on the most dire educational circumstances in the country. And it seems that he expects suburban schools to manage well enough … and he expects you to be champions for your kids. Which you are.

    I promised to be the champion for kids with no champions. Is there anyone who sees unfairness in this? Unhappy to see these kids finally at the head of the line?

    Denis Ian

  2. Excellent Post Mr. Ian…As a retired educator, i wholeheartedly agree…And, glad you saved me the time making these points! Actually, you said it much better than I ever could!

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