From the day she was announced as the nominee, educators have stood firmly against Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education due to her extreme lack of qualifications and horrible record in undermining public schools. In her three years as U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos has focused on cutting education spending, championing school privatization, and weakening oversight into everything from civil rights protections for students to fraudulent student loans. Time and again, bi-partisan majorities in Congress, as well as parents and voters across the country, have rejected her schemes.
By threatening the entire U.S. education system with annual budget cuts, pushing voucher programs, and refusing to protect our most vulnerable students, Betsy DeVos harms entire communities. Educators say that when public schools are not seen as vital by leaders, it’s up to educators to speak up for what is important. Each moment shows how she’s been a disastrous choice, just as public school supporters knew she would be.
Here are five specific reasons she should be fired:
1. She supports $9 billion in cuts to public education
DeVos supported President Donald Trump’s FY 2020 budget proposal to slash funding for the Department of Education by 13.5 percent. The proposal asked 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 while rolling back education spending to pre-2002 levels (by today’s dollars).
During testimony in the House in 2019, she continued to argue for funding cuts, larger class sizes and stood behind her proposal to cut grants for special education by 26 percent, and millions of dollars from programs for students who are blind.
Following his State of the Union Address, President Trump again announced billions of dollars in proposed cuts to education in the 2021 budget while trying to fund vouchers. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said the proposals are “extreme” and that the Trump/DeVos administration “is doubling down on their extreme agenda as they again call on Congress to pass the same voucher schemes that Republicans and Democrats in Congress have rejected, knowing that these programs have been proven to fail students.”
2. She’s unqualified
Neither Betsy DeVos nor her children ever attended, nor taught at a public school. She has zero experience working in public schools. When she spoke on 60 Minutes, she said that she had “never intentionally visited a school that is underperforming,” even to determine issues that could be resolved.
Elementary teacher and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said DeVos is “the first secretary of education with zero experience with public schools.”
While her complete lack of public education experience alone is troubling, worse yet is her decades of work to undermine public education.
3. She failed to protect student borrowers
On multiple occasions, Betsy DeVos has failed to protect our students, specifically young students taking out student loans to pay for college. Not only that, but she has violated laws meant to protect them, continuously hurting students, families, and communities.
In 2017, DeVos violated federal law by revoking the Borrower Defense Rule, meant to hold predatory for-profit schools financially responsible and accountable for fraud and forbid them from forcing students to resolve complaints outside court.
In June 2018, DeVos and the Department of Education were told to stop collecting the loans from students defrauded by for-profit college conglomerate, Corinthian Colleges, Inc. DeVos was later held in contempt of court for violating the order. The judge, who also fines the Department of Education $100,000, wrote in her order, “there is no question” that DeVos and the department violated the preliminary injunction, and, “also no question that defendants’ violations harmed individual borrowers.”
And in 2019, her department prevented state law enforcement officials and federal regulators from 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.
4. She supports Vouchers
DeVos has promoted the privatization of public schools through voucher programs that take scarce funding out of public schools where 90 percent of students attend and gives it to private schools. Long before she is Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos used her family’s wealth to privatize public schools, fund politicians who support voucher schemes and promote privatization. As Secretary, she advocated for a $250 million increase in education spending for vouchers, while cutting the rest of the budget, including cutting funding for the Special Olympics. Later in 2019, DeVos also lobbied for a voucher bill, a brazen scheme that would invest $50 billion in private school vouchers over 10 years.
“Taxpayers and voters have made it overwhelmingly clear that they do not want vouchers, rejecting them time and time again,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Betsy DeVos and her allies are using the Supreme Court to push their political agenda that seeks to dismantle our neighborhood public schools.”
5. She created “Ghost Schools” in Michigan
According to the Washington Post, thousands of charter schools across the country never opened or were quickly shut down. The state with the most charter schools that never opened was Michigan, home to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
In her home state, 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.” A total of 72 “ghost schools”, as they are called, never opened in the state she helped push the charter sector in, costing her own taxpayers millions of dollars. Regardless, DeVos continues to advocate for charter school funding.