What does the education world think about Betsy DeVos, the Michigan philanthropist and voucher advocate whom Donald Trump picked as his education secretary nominee?
Some groups, mostly ones that have included vouchers in their vision for school choice, are lavishing praise on DeVos in statements that began pouring in shortly after Trump’s day-before-Thanksgiving announcement. Others are tempering their congratulations with questions.
And many are expressing deep concern — about the racist rhetoric that fueled Trump’s campaign and has characterized some reaction to his election, the impact of Trump’s education agenda on students of color and immigrant students, and the future of public education as an institution.
Here are excerpts from the reaction that has come in so far. We’ll keep updating this list — so please send perspectives we’ve missed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arthur Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank: “Betsy is a passionate, hands-on advocate for school reform. She is a true champion for the competition of ideas. She pursues innovative solutions in education by engaging all players, from policymakers to reformers to parents and community leaders. Her strong conviction that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue comes at a pivotal time, when Washington is in urgent need of productive cooperation.”
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, whose Foundation for Excellence in Education counts DeVos as a board member: “I cannot think of a more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision, one in which students, rather than adults and bureaucracies, become the priority in our nation’s classrooms.”
Peter Cunningham, the editor of Education Post who formerly worked in the Obama administration: “Betsy DeVos is a well-known proponent of school choice, but her home state of Michigan, where she has played an active role in expanding choice, has a mixed record on charter school authorizing and accountability. … We are hopeful that, under her leadership, the U.S. Department of Education will continue to protect children of every race, income level, background, and ability by speaking out against discrimination, intolerance and bullying, by encouraging high standards, and by demanding absolute transparency around results and robust systems of accountability.”
Co-founders of the teacher advocacy group Educators 4 Excellence, Sydney Morris and Evan Stone: “As Ms. DeVos has never been a teacher, school leader, or school system administrator, we call on her to listen to and include the ideas and voices of educators in the critical decisions she will make that will help shape the future of education in the United States. … We hope that, if confirmed as Education Secretary, Ms. DeVos will leverage this important position to uplift — not dismantle — our public schools.”
Teach for America: “Teach For America lives by our values and always stands in solidarity with the most vulnerable students. … The Teach For America community includes more than 50,000 people from all backgrounds and political ideologies. We value diversity, equity, and inclusiveness, and we refuse to accept racism, bigotry, or discrimination in any form. We call on the secretary designee and president-elect to uphold these values in pursuit of an excellent and equitable public education for all.”
Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, which urged Democrats not to work in Trump’s education department: “DFER remains deeply concerned by the President-elect’s education agenda, which by proposing to cut money from Title I and to eliminate the federal role on accountability, undermines progress made under the Obama administration to ensure all children have access to good schools. We applaud Mrs. Devos’s commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools, but hope, at the same time, she will be a voice that opposes policies that would hurt kids, both on the education front and concerning inter-related issues including proposals to kick 20 million families off of healthcare, deport millions of Dreamers, and accelerate stop-and-frisk practices that would lead to the imprisonment of larger numbers of low-income parents on low-level, non-violent offenses.”
The National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the country: “Her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. 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.”
The Education Trust, a group that promotes high achievement for students of color and poor students: “As U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has the opportunity to continue our nation’s upward trajectory by working to ensure that students are given the opportunities they need to succeed academically, and that schools and institutions are responsible for the success of all students. But there is a very real risk of undoing this hard-won progress if resources are diverted from the young people who most need them, or if the federal government fails to uphold its responsibility to protecting the needs and interests of all students — especially the most vulnerable.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican: Michiganders know the passion Betsy has for reforming education in a way that puts kids first. Betsy’s appointment will mean great things for Michigan and for children around the nation as she takes her no-nonsense commitment to empowering parents to the highest levels in Washington.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation Teachers: “Betsy DeVos is everything Donald Trump said is wrong in America — an ultra-wealthy heiress who uses her money to game the system and push a special-interest agenda that is opposed by the majority of voters. Installing her in the Department of Education is the opposite of Trump’s promise to drain the swamp.”
Eliza Byard, executive director of GLSEN, which advocates for LGBTQ students: “We are deeply concerned by the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education. GLSEN is committed to the principle that all students have a right to high-quality public education free from discrimination. DeVos’s record of advocacy for vouchers and tuition tax credits represents a rejection of that principle.”
Correction (Nov. 28, 2016): This piece has been updated to correct the name of Arthur Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute.