Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education, is under a lot of scrutiny after her confirmation hearing in front of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee on Jan. 17, 2017. DeVos was questioned about her experience in the public school system, her ties to businesses, and gun laws in schools.
DeVos demonstrated that she has no experience teaching in public schools, nor has she or her children ever been enrolled in a public school. She has never held a public office, and she has zero experience with Pell Grants. This information collected during her confirmation hearing is disappointing.
Katie Manker, a senior music education major from Holtville, is concerned for her career as a music educator.
“If you cut public funding, you’ll cut music,” Manker said. “That could potentially keep me from having a job.”
Having experience in public education is crucial for DeVos’ potential position, and Manker said she is “absolutely not” qualified because of this.
“The fact that she is not aware of the funding that goes behind education really disqualifies her,” Manker said.
Many people have been angered by DeVos’ controversial statement that states should decide whether they need special education. Kaitlin Curington, a sophomore English major from Apollo Beach, Florida, is worried.
“There should be no exceptions for any state officials to not uphold the needs for special-education students,” Curington said. “If DeVos is to take the position, I feel that there will be a huge question mark when it comes to the future of my career and the students I will teach.”
Joe Johnson, edTPA coordinator and assistant professor, does not believe DeVos is qualified. He believes that the secretary of education needs to have extensive knowledge in working with all types of schools.
“I would like she or he to have a full understanding of the difference between the urban school systems and the challenges they face, versus the rural school systems and the challenges they face,” Johnson said.
Is Betsy DeVos qualified in terms of knowing how different school systems work? She and her family have donated incredible amounts of money to charter schools, and this makes me think her focus is not on public school systems.
“Her background promoting charter schools, vouchers and school choice is not a background of ‘let’s make the American education system holistically work together,’ ” Johnson said. “We can’t put all our eggs in one basket.”
Johnson then mentioned something to think about: Would we want someone who has never been an administrator to become chancellor of Troy University? Would we want a math teacher who has never taught a math course in his or her life? Of course not.
In my opinion, we cannot trust someone with zero experience in public schools to assume a position that makes decisions for them.
DeVos’ lack of experience in the public school system is concerning for many, including Diane Orlofsky, professor of music and music education.
“I believe every administrator who speaks for a population should have experience in that population,” Orlofsky said.
She applauds DeVos for her mentoring in schools, but solely volunteering cannot give a person full knowledge of how to run the public school system.
“Volunteering in a system, and being responsible for the execution of standards and outcomes are two separate things,” Orlofsky said.
Orlofsky also teaches educators how to teach students with special needs. Special education students deserve equal opportunity in schools, and this is why The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) exists.
“I was teaching when Public Law 94-142 (now IDEA) was initially implemented,” Orlofsky said. “It basically states that all students deserve an appropriate education with least restrictive environment, to the maximum extent possible.
“So to say, multiple times, that that piece of legislation is subject to being overturned by a state entity is baffling. These kids have the human right, I believe, to be taught appropriately.”
During her confirmation hearing, DeVos said that “if confirmed” she would be a “strong advocate for great public schools.” How can she be an advocate for something she knows absolutely nothing about?
The secretary of education nominee should be knowledgeable about IDEA, and he or she should be well versed in how to teach in public schools by experiencing it personally.
It would be an absolute disaster if Betsy DeVos were to assume the position of secretary of education. The American people need someone who treats everyone equally and honors federal laws. Betsy DeVos is not the answer for the American education system.