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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos needs to go back to school

While the Trump Administration has been anything but stable, one figure stands alone in their consistent ineptitude. Betsy DeVos, the sixty-year-old Education Secretary, has continued to exude a sense of cluelessness that rivals the likes of George W. Bush. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, due to her lack of any real experience in the educational field prior to becoming Trump’s top educational advisor.

Unfortunately for her, much of the public was introduced to Betsy DeVos when the video footage of her confirmation hearing went viral. During the three-and-a-half hour hearing, DeVos was raked through the coals by several senators in a manner resembling that of a Comedy Central Celebrity Roast [please go and watch the highlights of this hearing, its’ horrifically priceless]. She then continued her trend of C-Span stupidity during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. It started when Sen. Katherine Clark D-MA asked Devos if she would hold schools receiving Federal Funding accountable for practicing non-discriminatory actions, particularly during the admissions process, for all students. Sen. Clark made sure to mention transgender students as well as students with disabilities who often face challenges getting into non-public schools. DeVos’s response was “Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law, period.”  While that may sound like confirmation of protection, there is no federal law protecting Trans students from educational discrimination, meaning if schools turn away students for their gender choices they are breaking no laws. Clark knew this and pressed Devos for a straightforward yes or no answer. Devos proceeded to repeat the same answer fourteen times in the span of two minutes until finally she cracked, letting out an exasperated “Yes!” 

She again flashed her crafty question dodging abilities, and her slightly off-putting smile,  during last weeks interview with Lesley Stahl that aired as a segment on 60 Minutes. The interview was prompted by her appointment as head of a new commission on school safety in wake of the latest mass shooting. When asked her opinion on teachers being armed, she acknowledged the strangeness of it all, but felt that it should be an option left for individual states and communities to decide. While this sounds absurd to most, I see no issue in letting states decide this on their own. On the day I wrote this article, a school shooting was stopped when the building’s armed police officer engaged the shooter, leaving him dead. Yes it was a trained officer and not a teacher, but if a state’s citizens think that those teachers who ungo the proper training should be armed and ready to protect their students, who am I to stop them?

So, DeVos had started off strong. She was confident, she looked like she knew where she was. She quickly countered a trap question about USA test scores, pointing out the USA’s  continued stay in the “middle of the pack” compared to the rest of the world even with our improving scores. When asked what could be done to fix this, she broke into her scripted answer about how she would be giving parents the choices through her pro-private school voucher program. While the idea that her plan could work is ludicrous, she sounded upbeat and ready for the challenge.

It was when she was confronted with the fact that schools in her home state of Michigan have not improved under a plan she helped set up that she really got nervous. She started fumbling her words and sputtering nonsense. At one point she forgot that her job was to talk about schools as a collective: “I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.” While half of that statement is true, giving students choices on where to go to school means nothing if the schools “in general” are failing.   DeVos started to look like the sort of underprepared, overwhelmed, and underachieving politician that’s been rampant throughout this administration. Stahl, who seemed annoyed that she had been sent to interview such a dud, asked if she had made a point to visit schools that were underperforming in attempts to understand the issues they face. Caught in the moment DeVos stammered out, “I have not…I have not…I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.” An amused Stahl suggested “maybe you should” to which Devos answered “Maybe I should, yes.”

Yes, maybe you should start visiting the schools you are failing the most Mrs. DeVos. Isn’t it bad enough we have a President who is barely qualified for this job? DeVos currently holds the future of quality public education in her hands, yet it sounds like she’s never attended a public school in her life. As Trump and his team move into their second year we need to continue to keep a eye on those around him. DeVos has fallen flat on her face right out the gate. Let us pray she gets her shit together or schools around the country could be in for dark days.

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