Education News

7 ways DeVos has failed students and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Amanda Menas

Students, parents, and educators are grappling with a global crisis, trying to stay safe, facing a new virtual reality and struggling to connect. Now more than ever, school communities across the nation need support and leadership. Instead, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is using this pandemic to, once again, push her failed privatization agenda to defund public schools. 

DeVos’ actions confirm what educators already know about where her priorities lie–with the privatization movement. Despite the urgent need for resources among public schools, DeVos’ Department of Education has been slow in dispersing tens of billions of dollars approved by Congress from getting into the hands of educators, governors, and superintendents to help close quickly emerging budget gaps. She would rather divert funding from public schools to pay for her vouchers, further hurting our most vulnerable students. 

Here are seven ways DeVos has been missing during the COVID-19 outbreak:

She is using the COVID-19 crisis to push her radical voucher scheme

Time and again, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have rejected DeVos’s voucher proposals. But that hasn’t stopped her from trying to use the COVID crisis to push another radical voucher scheme that would siphon funding from public schools to direct it to private schools. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García put it best: “Simply put, Betsy DeVos is tone-deaf. American families are struggling to pay their bills as unemployment claims skyrocket. And while public school teachers and other educators are doing their best to meet the needs of students and showing why they are daily heroes, DeVos is raising the specter of her failed agenda.”

She has failed to protect our Education Support Professionals

DeVos has failed to advocate for even the most basic personal protective equipment (PPE) for ESPs and other school staff who continue to interact with students and their families. This group of everyday heroes includes food service workers who prepare and distribute meals, custodians who clean and disinfect buildings, security officers, and technology specialists. Additional training and guidance on how to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus for teachers, ESPs, and other school staff should be coming from DeVos’ Department of Education, but it is not. 

Educators are frontline workers. That’s why NEA is asking Congress to provide at least $56 million for PPE for educators. We are also asking The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to craft emergency standards to help protect our educators and healthcare professionals who are at risk of contracting the virus.

She harms immigrant students

DeVos was at the center of a heartless decision to target undocumented college students by restricting who can access federal emergency assistance. The funding, which can be used to cover food, childcare, and housing during this crisis, is not restricted to any group in the law itself. DeVos and the Department of Education specifically chose to bar students who do not already qualify for federal financial aid in yet another act in this administration’s continued policies of division, xenophobia and scapegoating of immigrants.

She is silent on closing the homework gap

Due to school closures across the country, 8 million to 12 million K-12 students are at risk of falling behind their peers because they don’t have access to necessary learning resources like high-speed internet, computers, or tablets at home. This lack of equity disproportionately affects students of color and rural areas. Yet, DeVos was silent as Congress debated efforts in the latest stimulus bill to close the gap and protect students, doing nothing to ensure all students have equal opportunity to learn. To address this issue, NEA is asking Congress to appropriate $2 billion for the successful E-Rate program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to help schools procure and distribute Wi-Fi hotspots and connected devices to K-12 students who don’t have them at home. 

She has held up state funding

In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27, 2020, nearly $30 billion is allocated for states to spend on education needs deemed necessary. It is DeVos’ responsibility to disburse that funding (of which $3 billion will go directly into the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund) and notify states how and when it will be sent. To date, DeVos has been far too slow in making sure those funds are actually reaching those who urgently need them. Governors say the funding is a lifeline during a time of “unprecedented uncertainty.” In a letter to DeVos, the National Governors Association explained: “States need time to establish both structures to evaluate student needs and processes to rapidly deploy these funds. That work cannot begin until the department provides guidance about how and when it will send funding to the states.” 

She is prioritizing for-profit colleges

The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund was funded at $14 billion through the CARES Act to aid colleges and universities struggling under the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The Department of Education has the authority to grant these funds to higher education institutions across the country. So far, less than one percent of funding earmarked for emergency financial aid for college students has been distributed. Senate Democrats sent a letter to DeVos urging her to focus the funding on public and non-profit institutions and to ensure that the funding that does reach for-profit colleges and universities is disbursed equitably and transparently.

Groups funded by the DeVos family are funding astroturf protests to prematurely and unsafely end social distancing

Far-right groups in Michigan staging dramatic protests of the governor’s stay-at-home orders have been linked to the DeVos family. Some protesters have carried signs comparing the governor to Hitler, carried Confederate flags, and brandished weapons. Gov. Whitmer said, “I think it’s really inappropriate for a sitting member of the United States president’s cabinet to be waging political attacks on any governor,” referring to the education secretary. Thousands attended a rally in Lansing on April 15, most without masks and ignoring social-distancing measures, despite the fact that Michigan has well over 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

51 responses to “7 ways DeVos has failed students and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic

  1. Students, families, schools, educators are what NEA is about. Anything that harms this deserves to be spotlighted and protested.

  2. Why would I expect anything else from the NEA? It’s sad the Union has become such a political entity, putting illegals ahead of our own American students of all colors and creeds.
    I’m not saying DeVos is good or bad, but the fearmongering and demonization from union members is mostly embarrassing.

    1. Well said. If DeVos herself handed NEA a check for a billion dollars, NEA would find a way to pick apart her choice of ink color to sign the check. Then blow the money.

  3. The nasty comments about our President and and Secretary of Education show the poor quality of some of the teachers and leadership in the teacher’s union. Our education tests scores have been going down every year since the 70″s. Are we the mouth piece for the Democratic Party or educators?

    1. If the President and the Secretary of Education would show decency to ALL AMERICANS, maybe educators and others wouldn’t be critical. There is no stability in the White House. They are the HAVES who don’t want any HAVE NOTS in this country and WE ALL KNOW IT. As for fear mongering, the President of the United States is the ring leader of it. Any person ( political or not) that speaks up or speaks out, he pounces on them and put them in a group called “ No Trumpers!” That is ludicrous!!! HE IS NOT GOD NOR THE CHOSEN ONE!!” And you say test scores have been going down since the 70’s, so I assumed your not for integration. I lived it! Southern states were the very last to integrate. Yes, I’m AFAM and an educator who have spent years in teaching and nurturing ALL RACES of children. As a matter of fact, AFAM teachers jump through more hoops than anyone else proving their competency and professionalism. It’s funny how much people lived public schools when they were supposedly “ separate but equal.” But when that was proven WRONG, all of sudd n public school is no good.

  4. Why is Mrs. Devos not being held accountable for her actions which appear pretty illegal according to her leadership or lack of it for Public Education.

  5. I’m saddened by the fighting. We all know the rich get richer unless people stand for their rights. Children need all of the adults to speak for them regardless of income, race, politics etc. i retired from education after over 32 years of seeing countless injustices…teachers underpaid …many special ed children not receiving what they needed(patents not told how to speak up for their children) schools varied according to area…teachers suffering daily due to exhaustion!!! I fought the good fight…in the trenches . Yes …it is sad that many Republicans etc..prefer to allow funds to trickle down. They “won”the position…’s their turn. November is the time to vote. I am bothered by people not mentioning all the wonderful “free “ benefits given to all from taxes ….public schools, ..librarians, state parks, museums, national monuments, post office, camps ground etc…people worked hard to create a level playing field …it is convenient to not support public education because the wealthy don’t need it to exist. Equality in services is expensive…but it is the ethical thing to do. Remember if you want to abolish public education don’t forget to take away all that other wonderful stuff we all enjoy. You can’t have it both ways…Vote!

  6. All public schools are local. I do not need the Federal Govt to tell me how
    to run my schools. Put the US Department of Education out of business
    and take their annual budget, and give the money to every local public
    school district in the USA.

  7. De Vos is just another example of cranial constipation in the White House.
    Trump, Pence, Barr need to wear masks just to protect us from the diarrhea spewing from their mouths!

    1. Did not hear one single thing she said during this needed time. Where did she hide? We need to get her out of the education system. She has nothing good to offer. Sad!!!

      1. I agree completely!! DeVos has been in total hibernation during this pandemic, while schools across the US had to figure out how to manage through this crisis! Never heard one word of concern, support or guidance from her. Talk about “Do Nothing”! She should be ashamed! She needs to go…….NOW!

  8. I will always support any individual who comes to America legally. Should we encourage individuals to brake the law by giving them financial support? I realize there are children brought to the U.S. by adults but how did these adult think that they were going to support their children when they were not here legally? I have several friends from India, Philippines and the African continent who did this legally and even they have expressed dissatisfaction for allowing individuals in who did not follow the rule of law. Furthermore, our schools have many students enrolled who are here legally, that would like to attend college but cannot. Wouldn’t funds best be spent on helping them to achieve their dreams?

  9. Devos is doing an excellent job by trying to provide an alternate choice for parents of failing schools. If anything, the teachers who bash Devos should instead work to end the Federal Gov’t’s involvement in our education system. One size doesn’t fit everyone. I like local control over a national control. Teacher’s should end the politicization of our education and focus on the local education of our students. Focus on the student’s in your town and work to educate them instead of trying to please people in other states. If you do this, you may be able to put out a good product and not worry about parents pulling their kids out of pubic schools and sending them to Charter schools. Something to think about.

    1. As an educator I am appalled by your comments Jim. DeVos is the Secretary of Education. I pay her salary. Her job is to represent public education.

      1. Thank You M.T. ! Jim has a lot to say but I know he couldn’t teach for 1/2 a day! It’s easy for people to say what teachers need to do when they have NO idea what we go through! I was a professor for 12 years and I wanted to try k-12 and sadly— when Covid 19 is over I’m going back to teaching adults until I die so I won’t have to deal with imbecile’s that support idiots that don’t support ALL students!

      2. As the EDUCATION Secretary, isn’t she responsible for representing all things education or is she only responsible for the public schools? I’m not a fan of hers, but many public schools are testing below state, national, and world levels here. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is wonderful example of a school district performing below grade levels. If I was a parent living within the CPS boundaries, I would do everything I could to get my kids the best education they could possibly receive and if vouchers were to give me a leg up on getting them a better education, I would do whatever it took to get them. As I am sure every educator in the state would. How many educators put their kids in private schools already? People with money have an advantage over those that don’t. Why not even the playing field for every student and give those under performing students a chance at success? If we start putting out a better product, parents wouldn’t think twice about moving their kids out of public schools.

        1. The problem with vouchers is that the vouchers won’t cover the cost of a private school. Low income children whose families who could not afford the extra cost of private schools would not be able to benefit from them, but would have their public schools even further underfunded.

    2. Devos had ample opportunity in the last six weeks to display some leadership with online education. I have heard and seen NOTHING!!!

      Jim – no apostrophe when you use the plural of students.

    3. Ms Devos does not represent the best interests of students ,
      teachers, and all other school employees. Her actions make that very clear. BTW, teachers seldom initiate political actions, but do forcefully respond to odious behavior by others whose
      intentions are NOT student centered, and are for political purposes.
      Teachers first look to the students, not politics. To think differently than this shows how wrong Devos and those of like ilk are. Students are our most important resource and thankfully teachers and support staff recognizes this. Perhaps Ms. Devos should spend a month in the classroom to experience and learn! As most teachers know, the best learning is experiential. A few hours here or there in a class does not show classroom reality, It’s like children on their best behavior at Grandma’s house for a few hours.

    4. Jim….you said all that needs to be said.  Great comment and I agree wholeheartedly.   While the teachers’ unions continue to vilify her and some in the media demonize her, DeVos has quietly built an impressive resume of rolling back federal government involvement in the classroom, promoting the expansion of school choice, and encouraging states to be innovative with their education policies. I would think this would be welcomed by educators, but apparently not as they obviously have their own agenda.  If people would do their own research and think for themselves, they’d realize Betsy DeVos isn’t as bad as the union leaders would like them  to believe. I’m also getting tired of the leaders pushing their political agenda. I’m an Independent, do my research and then decide what political views coincide with mine. I don’t need or want anyone telling me who/what I should vote for. I do my own thinking very well.

    5. Hey Jim, I can understand you wanting to have quality education (btw what state are you in.) I’m in Idaho and we struggle to reach our rural districts, yet local government doesn’t address that. Our city schools are nationally recognized every year, still we are one of THE lowest states in the nation for money spent per student. You didn’t mention students with special needs. DeVos has stated that we shouldn’t be afraid to teach those we can right now (so, “too bad” for those kids fall through the crevasse they are hurling towards?) Jim, charter schools generally do not have the staff or funding to provide services for these students. Also something to think about. DeVos is not qualified to hold her position. Maybe start there? Just because I’ve had my teeth cleaned doesn’t mean I’m a dentist.

    6. I agree, Jim. Well said. My .02? The angle a lot of people here don’t see is the parent angle. As 10-year 5th grade teacher AND a parent, I wouldn’t think twice about putting my own kids into a school where there isn’t a gang issue, isn’t such a pathetic mis-management of funds at the district/admin level, and where I don’t have to worry about my kid getting hit with thrown chairs on a daily basis (yes, this happens in my school). Soft consequences and lack of respect is the true pandemic affecting public education and this country.

    7. Teachers not singular possessive “Teacher’s” is the correct spelling. Same for “student’s”, as all you need is the plural noun, not the singular possessive form. Something to think about, Jim.

  10. Just like EVERY appointee by DT, she is a wealthy supporter, with NO BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE in the area she “leads” ( actually “DESTROYS” is more accurate ). It is a SLAP IN THE FACE for EVERY teacher ( most with Masters degrees ) to have this EVIL, UNCARING, IGNORANT person in a position of authority. This entire U.S. administration has decimated America’s public schools! ( This began, many years ago, with our government’s LACK OF RESPECT for education professionals. It worsened when Bill Gates, past U.S. presidents, & Pearson Co. decided to CONTROL, DICTATE & MANDATE standardized testing & “Common Core” curriculum. )
    NO TEACHERS ( education professionals ) were included in these decisions!
    Bill Gates has since admitted that CC was a failure! These people have ATTAINED HIGH LEVELS OF WEALTH at the expense of EVERY STUDENT in AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS & their PARENTS!
    If/when education decisions are MADE BY EDUCATION PROFESSIONALS, America COULD HAVE a viable system, once again!

      1. What a totally inaccurate statement but the over the to emotion is there. I am a retired teacher (3years) and the total r line began with Arnie, in Obama’s administrations. The push for standardized testing in the Bush (no.2) and Mo Child Left Behind and that is when I saw the beginning of the total decline of our educational system.

    1. Not sure how so many of you can be this brainwashed….oh what…you believe everything you read and hear, but only listen to few people..that talk the same as you. As much as its “nice” to have a department of education…its actually unconstitutional under the 10th amendment. I’m glad we are not being successful with this elearning, because all it would do is give a future powers that be the power to make teachers obsolete. NEA needs to fight against this, or why not just have 1 teacher teach 1st grade, and 2nd grade…all the way down the line. Wake up people

  11. Trump, his family, his adminstration, his donors, and the republican senate are all grifters. The nation needs to clean out them out come November.

  12. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García would make an EXCELLENT Education Secretary. Get rid of this heathen.

  13. A lawsuit should be filed against her and the Trump administration for failure to perform job duties in the time of a global emergency in a reasonable time frame.

  14. From a retired educator, DeVos’ choices have been and are still appalling! Counting the days until the election. 195 days.

  15. It’s clear that the appointments of this administration were all about helping others make money and attacking hardworking people. How else do you put a person in charge of education for the country who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and $5,000,000,000? No credentials in teaching or administration, unable to answer any questions posed by congress, but still got confirmed, and whose agenda was given to her to follow.

    1. I think you have connected the dots conclusively. We knew when she was appointed she had nothing to offer U. S. Education Department. She did not have the appropriate education credential and she had never served in a capacity that would suggest that she would be able to make a valuable contribution to to education in America.

      Immediately, her agenda became clear. She has consistently diverted funding from public education sources to private businesses and private schools.

      Under her leadership (if you can call it leadership) we have made giant steps backwards from our goals to help and assist all students achieve a quality education in our schools. We would have been better off with no Secretary of Education than to have her dismantle meaningful programs that had been established in previous administrations.

    2. Her family is one of the biggest donors to Trump. That how she got her job. She has always stated before this job she was against public schools and wanted private schools. Her and her family are also involved in building and profiting on all these make shift dormatories located all over the country to house minors taken from their parents at the southern border. Their have been reports that as much as $700 a day per child is being charged to US Goverment probably thru Homeland Security. Explains why there is no hurry to return them to their families.

    3. There is no reason this lady should ever be in charge of schools, anyone in office is to be there for everyone, she had shown too many times what her agenda is and is hurting millions just because she only has one sect in education and it certainly doesn’t involve public education, which is supposed to be for everyone and private schools getting everything is not doing our nation’s schools any good, helping schools NOT her agenda, just those that are private and only those whom she has chosen… true that anyone can go where they wish, but they pay for that and not hurt public schools funding, just because she has her own agenda. Certainly has proven what she wants and only those sections. She was elected for all schools and same monies for ALL schools, shame on her! Everyone deserves equality in funding in public schools

    1. The Trump administration needs to be replaced, their main aim is self gain not public service.

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