Education System

Betsy DeVos’s Public Fight

Betsy DeVos, current Secretary of Education for President Trump, may seem like a soft spoken, even passive figure in an otherwise bold and and aggressive administration, but she is anything but. As the daughter of the wealthy and influential Prince family in Holland, Michigan and the wife of the even wealthier Dick DeVos, she has a history of using her immense wealth and power to push her agenda in the public sphere. Much of her focus has been on Michigan’s education system.

 

For much of her career, Betsy DeVos has spearheaded an effort to move public funding away from public schools and into charter schools. The idea behind this move was to create a more diverse market for parents to choose from when looking to place their children in schools, thereby increasing competition with public schools and pressuring them to perform better. She also fought for these tax dollars to pay for tuition at private schools, which included religious schools. Critics argue that the ultimate plan was to starve public schools of all funding and force them to close. Supporters argue that the competition and free market this model creates drives schools to perform better and only closes under-performing institutions.

 

Detroit currently has the highest concentration of charter schools in the nation, and many of them do not meet performance standards. Public schools, in the meantime, have deteriorated and are some of the lowest-rated in the nation, with some of the highest competition for funding dollars. Still, Ms. DeVos passionately supports this model and created a group called the Great Lakes Education Project, which opposed a bill proposed by the state that would force failing charter schools to close. Her fierce behind-the-scenes and influence won over, and the group managed to stop the bill.

 

The Betsy DeVos that divided political groups in Michigan continues to stir controversy in the nation. Her public image since joining the Trump administration has wavered, somewhat. Even opponents described her as pragmatic and generous, despite their opposition to her views on charter schools and blending of religion and politics. She is described as “unprepared,” and “tone deaf,” since taking the national stage. Time will continue to tell what impact Ms. DeVos will have on the national public education system. Critics worry about the ramifications of her position in the Cabinet, but if anything is to be said about Betsy DeVos, it is that she is unwavering in her beliefs in her cause. Given her history in Michigan, she will continue down the path she believes in and handle public opinion and criticisms graciously.

 

To learn more, visit http://www.betsydevos.com/.

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