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Betsy DeVos as Trump’s Secretary of Education: A looming disaster for students

By Amanda Litvinov

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Public school supporters—those who believe that all children, living in every zip code, deserve equal access to educational opportunity—are speaking out in opposition to Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Trump and DeVos have so far promised nothing but dangerous policies that harm students and weaken the public education system, which is completely at odds with the Department of Education’s critical mission to protect opportunity for all students.

If she is confirmed, DeVos will be the first anti-public school crusader to hold the position. And the causes and policies she supports will have a direct and negative effect on students.


Betsy DeVos supports policies that take resources away from public schools.

Educators and parents know that investing in neighborhood schools is the best way to help students succeed. A well-resourced school offers students one-on-one time with educators and a well-rounded curriculum, and in some cases, community physical and mental health services. DeVos instead supports voucher schemes that direct money for public schools to private and religious schools and unaccountable charter schools that are not held to the same standards as public schools. More than 80 percent of Michigan’s charter schools are operated by for-profit companies.


Those policies often exacerbate inequities in education.

Public school advocates reject the idea that receiving a good education should depend on a lottery or living in the “right” zip code. The so-called “school choice” schemes DeVos promotes typically offer less choice for vulnerable students—those with special needs or who don’t speak English, and those whose families live in poverty—and leave communities with a two-tiered system.

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Betsy DeVos has worked against holding charter schools accountable.

Students’ futures should never take a backseat to corporate profits. In Michigan, DeVos has continued to support substandard charter schools and has thwarted attempts to hold them to the same standards as public schools. The DeVos family funds the Great Lakes Education Project, which was instrumental in halting a commission to regulate the opening and closing of charters in Detroit. The completely charterized district has been described as an “education fiasco perhaps unparalleled in the United States.” Detroit parents scramble to find schools they can access that will meet their students’ needs.


Betsy DeVos has no degree or experience in education; just immense wealth that she has used to manipulate the political process.

Students deserve leaders who have their best interests at heart, and a resume to back up their good intentions. But DeVos has no knowledge of what it’s like to teach in a public school, or what policies help students achieve and support educators. She never attended a public school, nor did her children. Yet she has invested millions of her family’s money to push privatization schemes that don’t improve outcomes for most students or close achievement gaps, and weaken educators’ ability to advocate for their students.


Betsy DeVos has a poor track record when it comes to civil rights.

Educators know that order to achieve at school, all students must first feel safe and supported. That’s why a key function of the Department of Education is enforcing laws that prevent discrimination based on gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, race and national origin, disabilities, or language spoken.

The school choice schemes Trump and DeVos promote increase racial segregation and undercut civil rights enforcement that is routine in public schools. And the DeVos family’s support for anti-LGBT causes is well-documented. Since 1998, the DeVos family has given more than $6.7 million to Focus on the Family, a group that supports “conversion therapy”—a debunked theory that purports to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian individuals that is strongly opposed by the American Psychiatric Association, the Human Rights Campaign, and scores of other medical and civil rights organizations.

If you believe that students deserve a Secretary of Education who defends their public schools, sign our open letter.

40 responses to “Betsy DeVos as Trump’s Secretary of Education: A looming disaster for students

  1. To Betsy DeVos:
    After vieing several edctional articles from the nea webpage and asking to leaea comment, the persoal opinion is to wait and see what your position of choice will be regading American education involving public, charter schools, vocational and higher education regarding high quality education for every student.

  2. I look at the accomplishments made by the progressive agenda of the DOE and if she is against the DOE, I’m all for her.

    1. AHP1081 – …and I’m against her b/c I look at the conservative agenda for public education at every level of govt. and I see nothing but attempts to defund it.

    2. She just wants to turn Education into a business with 0 accountability. I’ve seen it in Michigan first hand. Michigan Public schools are under under a microscope, Michigan academy/charter schools aren’t given any scrutiny. It’s ridiculous! I personally wouldn’t want my child attending an unaccountable school.

  3. Two things! The DeVos family (aka Amway) is the poster child of the 1%. Amway is a legalized pyramid scheme that funnels the money from the little people to a few at the top. This appointment is payback for their support in Michigan.

    Secondly, I have many years as a teacher in both high end private schools and normal public schools. One of the biases few consider is that private school kids have private school parents. These parents, who can afford the high tuition, are usually self-motivated, highy organized, college educated individuals. The amount of this I see in public schools is lacking.

    Private schools appear better because of sampling bias. The irony would be if voucher kids from public schools ended up watering down the level of academics and lack of disciplinary disruption. Conservatives with vouchers will end up bringing public school parents into their test scores. Few talk about this.

  4. Has NEA and others thought of organizing and holding a general strike on January 20, 2017 to remind Trump and his fellow Republicans that the American people rejected Trump by a margin of 2.8 million votes but only by a fluke did he win the Electoral College vote? If the American people do not stand up and make their voices heard loud and clear that they did not vote for this right-wing coup that promises to gut health care including Medicare, gutting Social Security, and destroying public education, then we will lose all we have strived for as Americans over these many years.

    1. I don’t think a general strike is the best kind of action to have because it would give fuel to the anti-public school crowd. I think it might be better to do something like wear black on that day to show our disagreement with Trump and his agenda.

      1. Let’s do a test case. Take a picture of vice president Biden, a picture of former President Clinton, a picture of former President George W. Bush and ask 12 Seniors in public High school to identify who they are at random on campus and then go to a Catholic High School and ask the same question the exact same way. If you were to bet a $1000. who would you bet on first of all. Would it be Public or private schools students and in the end who would get the most right answers.

        1. The question is, what does that prove? Teachers in public schools teach the curriculum given them. It is different than that of a Catholic school. Additionally, disruptive students are turned out of private schools, Catholic schools included. What is more, rarely are there children from lower socio-economic families in Catholic schools. When Catholic schools have to take any child in their district, a fair comparison might be made.

  5. If–as Trump and his off-the-planet supporters contend–public education is failing U.S. students, the reason lies “not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.” We have constant bombardment from individuals and groups that believe in vouchers, that believe private schools are superior to public schools and that believe charter schools will “save the Kingdom.” Wake up and see what has happened in Michigan.

    1. Private schools are superior to public schools, in general. There are many reasons but it is irrational to say that private schools are not better than public schools. Private schools can do what they want to solidify the learning environment, select students, expel trouble makers, set hours and days of instruction… on and on. What really needs to happen is a comprehensive examination of why private institutions produce results better than public schools and create a plan to address those issue that restrain public education.. To simply dismiss the idea that private education is not as good as public schools does nothing to fix issues with public schools.

      1. In reality there are good private schools and good public schools. There are also bad private schools and bad public schools. The same is true with charter schools.

        Public schools have a much more challenging task than private and charter schools. As you said, private schools can remove disruptive students and others who they think drag down the schools. Public schools have the obligation to educate those students. Every private and charter school student has a parent who has enough interest to see out the private or charter school. This is not true of every pubic school student.

        I can give you two examples of students who were not served well by private schools that probably would have been served better by public schools.

        One is someone in my family who was an intense special needs student. The school told the parents that everything was fine. The parents thought the reason they did that was that they wanted to keep the tuition. It was a public school that referred the parents to a specialized school that could address the special needs.

        The other was a boy who had moved around a lot and went back and forth between being educated in English and another language. The boy is intelligent, but linguistically confused During seventh and eighth grade he was in a small private school and was failing in classes that demanded language proficiency. The school tried, but didn’t have the personnel and other resources to do the intervention necessary. I am now doing that intervention remotely. A good public school would have been able to serve that student through a compensatory education program.

        I’m not saying that public schools are perfect. Far from it. But you can’t say that the world of private schools is uniformly a paradise because that just isn’t true.

        1. As I stated, in general, private schools are better than, in general, public schools. Of course there are many exceptions but since private schools can be and are, selective, they can produce better results. From my personal experience, for high school, I took a competitive entrance exam with 600 other students to select 200 for entrance. In my private high school, there were no discipline problems. No one skipped school more than once, there were no special needs students. Obviously that did not look like a public school but the results were quite significant: All but one student admitted to college, no non graduates. My point is this: private schools, when their goal is excellence, is achieved. So, public school advocates ought to examine what hold pubic schools back and figure out how to overcome those obstacles. Walking out of classes does not accomplish anything useful, only greater disrespect for the public system.

          1. I’ll grant that a very selective private school will show higher academic achievement than a public school because they can select their students. Public schools have to deal with the at risk which can be very difficult. In many lower socioeconomic neighborhoods charter schools take students whose families want a more private school like experience.

            Therefore, to say that private schools are better because they have high achievement is unfair.

            We always will have students who are harder to educate and public schools are charged with teaching these students. Do pubic schools always perform well? No. But to compare them with schools who have intentionally refused to take difficult to educate students is an unfair comparison.

            1. I would disagree that comparing is unfair. The effort should be in understanding the issues which solidify performance and figure out how to institutionalize those practices in public schools. Parents, money, motivation…….selective process…. all parts of it but to simply say comparison is unfair does not improve anything.

      2. What’s wrong w/this picture? You said, ‘select students’, expel trouble makers, set hours/days of instruction-
        Why is it private/charter schools cannot work with & teach ‘undesirable’ students while public schools do work w/them & teach them & get results/success-What do public schools have that private schools don’t?-seems to me they/private schools are lacking in a few things-whatever happened to “no child left behind”? Are you saying that private schools have to have these elements in order to be successful? Really? If you cannot teach an unruly student, you have no business teaching at all. That isn’t the way the world works in real life.
        In the real world, you don’t get to pick & choose who attends or not. You don’t get to choose your hours of operation-that is designated by the school system/school board of education & states themselves.

  6. Sandy – I hope you’re not an educator o/w you’re shooting yourself and your kids in the foot. Left solely to the mercy of local control, poor and disadvantaged kids tend to fare worse. Remember those “dog house” schools from your history books?

  7. Public education is not the only route to educate a child. I think people need to start seeing out of the box. Our current public education system is severely lacking and broken, don’t be afraid of change. The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. I wish the Nea will stop speaking on behalf of public Educators as if we all agreed with them, I don’t.

    1. Change is discomforting. Ralph Stayer, the head man at Johnsonville Sausage once said If it don’t make you fell like you want to go puke in the sink, it ain’t worth doing. True concept about change. Little baby steps wont get it done.

    2. Debra, not a defense of the NEA, but I believe too many so called leaders in education associations have never been exposed first hand to how the real world works. Try a stint in a Fortune company where you produce or bye-bye. The NEA (et al) need to reassess how measures are needed and people held accountable. In their crystal ball world, these people actually think they know more than those they presumably represent. The net result is what you observe, broad, vague generalizations that everyone in the organization thinks the same way. They can not see any other way.

      1. Produce or say bye-bye? Most teachers leave before teaching five years. Some reasons are teacher to student ratios, lack of resources, demonizing of the profession, excessive testing mandates, and don’t forget low wages. Most teachers don’t walk into the classroom with the skills to be a Master Teacher, they are long gone before developing those skills.
        Every time public education gets cut these problems grow. Taking money away from teaching the masses to increase profits for corporate education furthers the divide. God help us if DeVos is approved and does for all of us what she’s done for Michigan.

    3. Debra – I agree that public education shouldn’t be the only option but if the answer is to de-fund public schools then I’m against it. Private and charter schools don’t have a mandate to address students with special needs who are mainly from high poverty areas and require extra resources. The current subtext seems to be let the public schools struggle with educating these kids but w/o the proper support. Setting the system up for failure will breed more calls for charters and privatization. In whatever form, the system must be equitable and defend the right of EVERY kid to have a decent education. I think most public educators are in agreement with this belief and the NEA is simply speaking on their behalf.

    4. Thank you.
      Well said. Right now, with current levels of funding and access to resources, I really feel I am failing my students. Too often I am forced to dumb down instruction, reduce standards of assessment, revise plans to accommodate students who are unable to perform at the required level, even give grades to students who did “NO Work”.

      This is a result of the insanity you mentioned, doing what we have always done.

    5. What is flawed is the way public schools are funded and the litigious nature of individuals in our society that has unrealistic expectations for kids with disabilities. The sad thing is that schools are underfunded and an enormous amount of resources that are available are dedicated to the kids who will do the least with what has been provided for them. NCLB was a good idea in spirit but the letter of the law has overwhelmed public schools. The public school system is not broken and data based on testing that includes kids that don’t care, kids that don’t speak english, and kids with significant challenges both intellectually and medically do not reveal the efficacy of public schools providing effective education for the masses. Additionally private schools have agendas whether it be for profit or to promote ideology or to avoid “undesirable” people. Public funds should not be used for anything other than a “free and public” education.

  8. I live in Michigan. I am a product of Detroit Public Schools, class of 1962. I spent 30 years an a public educator and I know a great deal about of State’s schools and the damage caused by Betsy DeVos and her family. Many of our State’s elected officials are in bed with the DeVos clan -figuratively. Michigan used to be a state with excellent schools providing excellent education. We are now down to about 45th, with the Detroit district at the bottom
    of the barrel compared to ALL U.S. school districts. Hopefully some of these Republicans will wake up when it is time to confirm Trump’s nominations. She’s done enough to ruin Michigan, lets hope she does not have the opportunity to ruin all the public schools in the U.S.

  9. Maybe if “public school advocates” would stop reflexively using language like “opportunity,” “investment,” “success,” and “achievement,” and refuse to support horrid candidates like Hillary Clinton, a third of our membership wouldn’t have voted for Trump, and we wouldn’t be faced with this unmitigated disaster.

    1. If you think this is “an unmitigated disaster”, I agree with you 100%. Those who voted for Trump can’t be surprised at the kind of people he promotes. Now we have to make sure our Senators hear our objections to his appointments!

    1. The US Constitution does not specifically mention education. At the time it was written not everyone went to school. The Constitution does say that those powers not given to the federal government go to the states. Therefore, it is up to the states to provide for education and most if not all of their Constitutions say that it is their job to provide education.

      That said, the federal government does have a legitimate role in education. The Constitution does say in the Fourteenth Amendment that all persons born or naturalized in this country have the right to equal protection under the law. Therefore, there can’t be discrimination in education. Everyone is entitled to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and the federal government does have a role in making sure that happens.

      The question is whether Betsy DeVos has the mindset or experience to make that happen and there is plenty evidence that she doesn’t. At least for the foreseeable future the vast majority of students will be educated in public non-charter schools and they are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Betsy DeVos has absolutely to experience with public schools–not as a student, not as a parent, not as a teacher, not as an administrator. Many say she does not wish the pubic schools well.

      A person can value the contribution that charter schools properly regulated make to education without totally discounting public schools, but it does not appear that Betsy DeVos is that kind of person.

  10. Pence has been pushing vouchers in Indiana for several years. He was taught in a Catholic school.
    Yes , vouchers are to be funded by taxpayers to promote Religious schools.
    What happened to our Constitution with the Republicans?????

  11. Would Trump have hired an anti-corporate activist who has no experience with corporate governance to run one of his businesses? That’s essentially what he did in selecting Betsy DeVos who has never been a public school student or parent and has never been a teacher or school administrator as secretary of education.

    1. Larry – Ask yourself whether Trump hired her b/c she and her family were big financial backers of the Trump campaign. Trump called it “pay to play” and blasted the so called donor class during the campaign as being part of the problem with D.C. politics. Now those same donors who supported Trump and who he claimed he didn’t need are all getting the appointments. Imagine that.

  12. In Michigan, have seen the hand of Betsy DeVos in our Public Education that has seen repeated cuts to our Public Education through the hands of our GOP Governor Rick Snyder (the nerd who poisoned Flints children with lead in the water). Betsy DeVos et. al. and our GOP majority state Legislators have created loopholes around state laws to siphon off our Tax dollars to support their Charter schools- the Charter schools that fail to meet the Public School standards and fail the students the deem worthy to attend; see Charter schools get to pick and choose which children will attend their “schools”! Also as a side note Betsy DeVos ”Donated” $7 MILLION dollars to Support TRUMPS ELECTION! Betsy DeVos seems to be on a vendetta to destroy Public Education while further DUMBING DOWN OUR CHILDERN with subpar private i.e. Charter Schools ‘education’ or schools for the profit of those who create them.

  13. Thank God that DeVos is completely against the Department of Education! It is a disaster and needs to be abolished!

    1. The best thing that could ever happen for public education is for the federal government to get out of education issues. But then again, locals might not want to pay for illegal immigrant education.

    2. Sandy, are you a public school educator? I am an educator and strongly disagreed with the Race to the Top agenda put out by a man was not a certified teacher, but watched his mother tutor poor children. He and his sister started a school and then he was chosen as the head of the Chicago public school system.
      But as much as I disliked this man, the Department of Education has a place in our government. There are so many laws pertaining to education. Title IX, Title I, etc. Are we to let everything go to the states and let the chips fall where they may regarding distribution of funds, monitoring of compliance with these aforementioned laws and others. Think about it. I want to make one more point, as educators we need to shout from the rooftops and all demand to have our profession sent back to those of us who know what is needed for our students. Educators w/o connections to testing or publishing companies need to be in the department. Those I am speaking of should also have not been out of the classroom for more than three years and have at least 15 years of teaching experiences.

      1. The above comment is right on the money, at least in part: the part where the writer says:There are so many laws pertaining to education

        Exactly the problem, too much government, and not just in education

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