Photo Courtesy of Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post
Story by Brinley Hineman / News Editor and Andrew Wigdor / Assistant News Editor
Last Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary. The vote made history when it came to a 50-50 split among the Senate, requiring Vice President Mike Pence to step in to break the tie – the first time a vice president has been called to do so.
Pence broke the tie, opting to vote in favor of DeVos, despite stout opposition from members within the Republican Party.
DeVos has received many harsh remarks from what her critics consider a lack of experience. While DeVos’s family has a long background of donating to the Republican Party, she has limited experience in public schools with both her children and herself being the product of private education.
In Michigan, DeVos spearheaded a campaign to expand charter schools and has received intense backlash, as she is an advocate for unregulated charter schools. Many of the charter schools in Michigan have fallen below the mark for test scores. DeVos steered funds away from public schools and towards private education.
The two Republicans who voted against DeVos are Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Murkowski stated her opposition to DeVos, citing the “thousands of messages” she had received urging her to vote against DeVos.
Since her nomination, DeVos has become the butt of many jokes due to her remark of schools in Wyoming having access to guns in case of a rogue grizzly bear attack. This was after DeVos claimed “confusion” to Senator Tim Kaine about the federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). When asked if DeVos believed schools that receive government funding should be required to support IDEA, DeVos replied that it should be left to the states.
The citizens who will be directly affected by Donald Trump’s choice of Education Secretary are the teachers, students and future educators of America.
Julia Strickland, a freshman and comprehensive special education major, and April Prather, a sophomore and interdisciplinary studies major, weighed in on the historically divisive nomination.
“I think she is not qualified to be in charge of our entire country’s education system. She has never worked in education a day in her life. I have a problem with her not being qualified when teachers have to be qualified for their jobs,” Strickland said.
“She should have at least been a principal or been on the school board. She has probably never stepped a foot in an inner city school a day in her life, and she probably doesn’t know what it’s like there,” Prather said.
Both future educators explained their concerns for the way DeVos may change the educational system the United States currently has in place.
“I am personally worried that she’s going to use a large sum of federal funding for charter schools, which I think will negatively impact public schools. A lot of public schools already don’t have enough money. That will hurt teachers and students as a whole.” Strickland said.
“I’m scared that once (schools) are underfunded, they are just going to start pulling programs that are really beneficial for students. After school activities like theater, music, art – that’s always the first to go. I know a lot of our education people that might not have jobs when they graduate, because we won’t have the funding,” Prather stated.
Another future teacher explained why he believes DeVos is the wrong choice for Education Secretary. Tyler Reed, a history major and sophomore, voiced similar concerns about the use of federal funding.
“I think she is a bad pick because she advocates using school vouchers. That takes money away from poor schools. It hurts the poorest kids the most. She has no experience in public education, so she’s very unqualified,” Reed said.
Despite his worries about her qualifications and beliefs, Reed stated that DeVos can only create so much change for the teachers and students.
“Luckily, the department of education is one of those jobs where it is really hard to do a really good job or a really bad job. Most of the authority is left up to the state. There are other departments where Trump appointees could do way more damage,” said Reed.
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