by Ashley Cimino–
Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the eleventh United States Secretary of Education after an unprecedented tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence. Much controversy surrounding DeVos’ devotion to private school education has caused widespread public concern both leading up to and following her confirmation.
Concerns were initially revealed during her senate confirmation hearing. Professor Nicholas Goedert of the Department of Political Science of Virginia Tech explained that the controversy surrounding her nomination was partly due to the ideological conflicts that are common with cabinet nominees.
“There were [questions], largely revealed in her confirmation hearings, related to her competence to do the job, as she had almost no work experience in education and seemed unaware of broad principles and terms commonly used in the state administration of education.” said Goedert.
Clips of Virginia Senator and former Vice President Candidate Tim Kaine’s questioning of DeVos’ during her senate hearing was shared on social media and many became concerned about DeVos’ inability to agree that public and private schools should be held equally accountable if receiving federal funds.
No Child Left Behind, now replaced by the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA)Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), introduced higher accountability for schools and school districts receiving funding. ESSA, signed in 2015 by President Obama, shifts for power over education to the states and moves away from the “one size fits all” approach to education in schools. Still, DeVos would be reviewing each state’s ESSA plans outlining their education goals and plans to reach them.
Montgomery County Public School teachers and administrators are very concerned that DeVos doesn’t have the expertise to handle the one trillion dollar budget of the United States Department of Education or fix the current state of the public education system. In a survey of 99 MCPS faculty, nearly all respondents agreed that Ms. DeVos seems unfit for the job.
In regards to accountability, one teacher said, “[I don’t] see her lack of experience bringing any of the accountability issues to the forefront.”
However, most of their concerns were regarding money and where it was going to go. When asked to describe a way that DeVos’ policies could impact their work and their students, one respondent said, “Her policies and desires to take money from public schools and put it towards private schools (which are not held to the same standards) will greatly impact the already hurting public school system.”
Amongst the many negative responses to the survey lay tiny glimmers of hope within the MCPS community.
One faculty member said, “I work for a fantastic public school. We offer a huge amount of programs for our students and the administration works hard to not leave any student behind. Public schools are not disasters.”