Politics

Trump Picks Public School Opponent For Education Sec.

| by Michael Allen

President-elect Donald Trump announced Nov. 23 that he has picked Betsy DeVos to be his Secretary of Education.

Trump called Betsy "a brilliant and passionate education advocate" in his statement, notes Politico, while she tweeted: "I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed is not acceptable."

In March, Betsy told the Washington Examiner that she didn't feel Trump "represents the Republican Party," and voted for Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio at the Republican National Convention in August.

Betsy's brother is Erik Prince, who headed the mercenary organization Blackwater that was contracted by the Bush-Cheney administration during the Iraq War, notes Inside Philanthropy. Blackwater became infamous for its questionable tactics which reportedly included killing innocent Iraqi civilians.

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Betsy is married to Dick DeVos, whose billionaire father, Richard DeVos Sr., co-founded the Amway Corporation.

Inside Philanthropy notes that the Devos family has donated heavily to the Republican Party, Christian schools, and conservative activist groups such as Freedomworks, American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and anti-gay, pro-Christian organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family.

Politico reports that Betsy heads the American Federation for Children, which pushes for charter schools and taxpayer-funded school vouchers for private schools, something that Trump wants to do.

According to Chalkbeat, a national education news network, Betsy's kids have never gone to public schools, but rather private Christian schools in Michigan.

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Chalkbeat notes: "Roughly 80 percent of charters in Michigan are run by private companies, far more than in any other state. And state authorities have done little up to now to ensure that charter schools are effectively serving students, eliciting concern from current federal authorities."

U.S. Secretary of Education John King told Chalkbeat in October: "There are a lot of schools that are doing poorly and charter authorizers do not seem to be taking the necessary actions to either improve performance or close those underperforming charters."

Two major education unions slammed Trump's choice of Betsy, notes Politico.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement:

DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia added:

She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education. By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.

Betsy was also slammed by some conservatives because of her reported support of Common Core standards in the past, which she disavowed on Twitter Nov. 22: "I am not a supporter — period."

Frank Cannon, president of American Principles Project, said in a statement:

President-elect Trump rightly slammed Gov. Jeb Bush for his support of Common Core on the campaign trail. Betsy DeVos would be a very Jeb-like pick. It is puzzling, then, to see reports that the Trump transition team is considering an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of Education.

"Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course," Betsy said in a statement. "But that's not my position. Sometimes it's not just students who need to do their homework."

Chalkbeat reports that Betsy is on the board of Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was started by Bush to push for Common Core and charter/private school choice.

Sources: Politico, Chalkbeat, Inside Philanthropy / Photo credit: Keith A. Almli/Wikimedia Commons

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