On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education, a position for which she is totally unqualified.
We can choose to be concerned that DeVos has no experience managing public education. She has no experience managing any kind of loan program, let alone one comprised of $1 trillion of student loan debt. We can also choose to be concerned that she started her confirmation hearing before her ethics review had been completed.
The report that was eventually released showed 102 outstanding financial conflicts of interest, including investments in for-profit education providers Sextant and K12 as well as Performant Financial Corp, a student loan debt collection agency. DeVos has contributed millions of dollars to the campaigns of President Donald J. Trump and other GOP candidates and their respective Super PACs, and she has contributed funds to 22 of the senators who participated in the vote to confirm her.
We have no choice but to be concerned, however, that DeVos has no distinguishable interest in protecting the rights of young LGBTQA+ citizens in this country from discrimination. She has contributed to and helped head organizations opposing protections against LGBTQA+ people in the workplace and has actively supported Focus On The Family, a Christian Ministry organization which supports conversion therapy for young people identifying with sexual minorities. We cannot accept that already at-risk LGBTQA+ youth will be at the mercy of a woman who is willing to support causes infringing on their human rights.
We must be very wary that in her confirmation hearing, DeVos did not choose to support implementing Title IX legislation as written, which holds colleges and universities accountable for ensuring that victims of sexual assault are able to able to access all rightful support and justice resources.
Betsy DeVos also cannot say definitively that guns have no place in schools.
DeVos and Trump both emphasize the need for families to have a greater variety of schools to choose between, especially for marginalized students in cities where traditional public schools often fail. DeVos and Trump have centered their goals on both the proliferation of charter schools and the increase of funds for providing vouchers to low-income students so they may attend private and religious institutions.
These are honorable concepts in principle, but they provide little structural change for students hoping to access high-quality education. Charter schools often do produce improved learning outcomes for marginalized students who would otherwise attend traditional public schools. However, if they proliferate too quickly, public funds will be rapidly redirected away from traditional public schools, which will then be further squeezed in their attempt to continue educating students.
DeVos invested heavily in charters in Michigan, which were authorized by 42 separate entities—far too many to be held to a common standard of accountability. As a result, 50 percent of these charters performed in the bottom 25 percent of schools in the entire state.
We cannot seriously believe that an administration is committed to the well-being and healthy development of American children when it willingly tears apart families that include young American citizens, does not concern itself with the rights of women or the children connected to them, can only offer more police to Black communities as means of rectification and prides itself on hateful rhetoric. The administration is unfit even to be heard by children.
K-12 education reform does not happen in a vacuum. The concept of “school choice” has arrived because communities with failing schools are often those that have been neglected and systematically segregated from society at large. We also must incentivize the teaching profession by compensating it much more substantially, create access to high-quality public preschools and reform funding structures that force low-income districts to draw on small pools of property taxes.
We are responsible for demanding these reforms from our representatives and for resisting any encroachments, intended or not, on the part of DeVos and Trump’s administration on the right of children to grow and learn safely and healthfully.
– Louis Lobron is a third-year sociology major and president of Northeastern’s Students for Educational Reform.
Photo courtesy White House photographer (public domain), Creative Commons