Students and Educators Can’t Take Four More Years of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump
As President Donald Trump’s secretary of education, Betsy DeVos has made it her mission to dismantle public education. She promotes the privatization of public schools through vouchers, continually calls for deep cuts to federal funding, rolls back protections for vulnerable children, and completely disregards their safety and the safety of educators during a global pandemic.
Scroll through this timeline to see what Betsy DeVos has done as education secretary. Each moment shows how she’s been a disastrous choice, just as educators and public education advocates knew she would be.
DeVos pressures schools to fully reopen for in-person instruction during COVID-19 pandemic:
Betsy DeVos threatens to cut off funds to public schools that don’t fully open in the fall and suggests that those funds could be diverted to private and religious schools. When pressed about whether or not she has a plan for safely reopening schools, DeVos was unable to answer.
U.S. Supreme Court hands Betsy DeVos a win in her war on public schools: In the Court’s ruling on Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue, a majority of justices took away the last constitutional barrier to state school voucher programs and the diversion of scarce taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools that are unaccountable to the public. DeVos vigorously backed the Espinoza plaintiffs and personally attended oral arguments for the case in January.
An investigation shows the DeVos family has funded the so-called Honest Elections Project, an organization that stokes fears about voter fraud and calls voter suppression “a myth.” The group plans to spend $250,000 fighting efforts to expand vote-by-mail options meant to protect voters during the pandemic. The group is part of the network that pushed U.S. Supreme Court picks Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
DeVos uses COVID-19 pandemic to push her privatization agenda.
DeVos seizes on the chance to steer hundreds of millions of dollars in public money away from public schools and students, and into private businesses and corporations. From Washington, D.C., DeVos used federal coronavirus-relief funds to create a $180-million voucher program for private and religious schools and has ordered states to redistribute CARES Act funds to private schools.
DeVos blocks emergency COVID-19 aid to DACA students: While the federal CARES Act has set aside more than $6 billion for emergency financial grants to college students to help them pay for food, rent, childcare, and other expenses during the coronavirus pandemic, Education Secretary DeVos specifically excluded some immigrant students who desperately need the help.
DeVos makes dangerous changes to Title IX rules:
DeVos’ rule changes include provisions that permit accused rapists to cross-examine their victims. With these changes, DeVos has made schools and campuses more dangerous, and put more students at risk of violence, educators and advocates say.
Bipartisan Congress rebukes DeVos for cruel re-write to “borrower defense” rule:
Education Secretary DeVos and her pro-privatization, anti-student agenda receive a big rebuke when a bipartisan majority of senators voted to block DeVos’ efforts to gut protections for student borrowers and taxpayers in her revision of the 30-year-old “borrower defense” rule. The resolution was later vetoed by President Trump.
DeVos moves to end Public Service Loan Forgiveness program: “Our proposal is to sunset the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The administration feels that incentivizing one type of work and one type of job over another is not called for.”
The Trump/DeVos budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 would slash education funding by $6.1 billion—8.4 percent—compared to the amount Congress provided the previous year. Tax credits could divert up to $5 billion in taxpayer money to private schools.
New Ed bookkeeping change cuts funding from nearly 800 rural schools. DeVos-approved bookkeeping change cuts funding from nearly 800 rural schools. By changing how districts report the percentage of students living in poverty, DeVos’ Department of Education hacked the budgets of many rural schools struggling to stay afloat. The move was met with bipartisan criticism in Congress.
DeVos refuses to testify in front of the House Committee on Education and Labor about denying debt relief to students defrauded by a for-profit college chain.
DOE blocks student loan investigations. National news outlets report that the DOE has been throwing roadblocks in front of state law enforcement officials and federal regulators who are pursuing legal action against companies accused of cheating and misleading student borrowers – a “brazen act of lawlessness, says one former enforcement lawyer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Tone-deaf in South Carolina. During a visit to Nephron, a South Carolina pharmaceuticals plant, to promote workforce development, DeVos fails to acknowledge that the 650 educators employed there had taken on a second job to make ends meet. South Carolina ranks 40th in the nation in educator pay and the many educators who take on second, even third jobs to stay afloat helped fuel the #RedforEd protests in Columbia in May.
Department of Ed dismissing LGBTQ student discrimination complaints.
According to a report by the Center for American Progress, under DeVos, the Education Department is nine times less likely than the Obama administration to take action on Title IX complaints related to sexual orientation or gender – no surprise given the DOE’s reversals of Obama-era guidelines affirming protections for transgender students.
NEA and CTA win lawsuit against DeVos. A federal court orders Betsy DeVos to implement protections for students in online programs—the latest blow to her anti-public education agenda.
DeVos Testifies. In testimony before a House subcommittee, DeVos struggles to defend her proposal to cut $7 billion from education programs, including eliminating all $18 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics. She fails to justify her claim that “students may be better served by being in larger classes.” (Her proposal includes a 26 percent reduction to state grants for special education and millions of dollars in cuts to programs for students who are blind.) And, pressed by Rep. Jahana Hayes, a former National Teacher of the Year, she declines to say that she would prevent the use of federal education money to arm and train teachers.
DeVos introduces regulations requiring cross-examination of victims of campus sexual assault. Experts, educators, and parents agree that the proposal will effectively deter survivors from coming forward to report assault. Universities would be held less responsible. Managing attorney of the Women’s Law Project Terry Fromson says these policies would allow schools to “ignore much of the sexual harassment that occurs in schools.”
Betsy DeVos’s interview on 60 Minutes interview is a must-watch.
DeVos is sued for repealing federal protections that hold predatory for-profit colleges accountable. DeVos violated federal law by revoking the Borrower Defense Rule, meant to make schools financially responsible for fraud, and forbid them from forcing students to resolve complaints outside court.
DeVos supports Trump budget proposal to slash funding for Department of Education by 13.5%. This proposal asks for a collective $9 billion in cuts to education, including after-school programs, career and technical education, and programs to hire and train teachers. The budget bolsters the Trump-DeVos privatization agenda with $250 million for vouchers while rolling back education spending to pre-2002 levels, (by today’s dollars). The Republican-controlled Congress rejects her entire request.
DeVos barely wins confirmation. Despite 1.1 million letters and 80,000 phone calls from NEA supporters urging senators to vote no, the U.S. Senate confirms DeVos. Vice President Mike Pence casts the deciding vote, the first time in the nation’s history a vice president’s vote was necessary to approve a cabinet nominee.
DeVos’ confirmation hearing raises further concern about her qualifications. She cannot address fundamental questions about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, including whether states and localities have to comply. She was unfamiliar with the difference between proficiency and growth. She won’t say whether she believes guns belong in schools and whether for-profit charters that receive public funding should be held to the same standards as public schools. Her most cringe-worthy answers—like the one about a school in Montana that might need guns to protect against a “potential grizzly” —go viral.
Educators denounce Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos. Elementary teacher and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García says DeVos will be “the first secretary of education with zero experience with public schools. She has never worked in a public school. She has never been a teacher, a school administrator, nor served on any public board of education. She didn’t even attend public schools or send her children to public schools. She is out of her league when it comes to knowing and doing what works for public school students.”
Betsy DeVos and her family spend millions promoting education privatization schemes. Long before she is Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos uses her family’s wealth to privatize public schools. She funds politicians who support voucher schemes. She chairs the pro-voucher American Federation for Children. In her home state of Michigan, DeVos is “one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system,” one that downplays regulation and accountability while draining resources from public schools. Even some privatization advocates have described it as “one of the biggest school reform disasters in the country.”
Betsy DeVos is the least qualified Secretary of Education in history and her agenda consistently harms the students she’s charged with protecting. She needs to go.