Washington Post - It is tempting to conclude that after six months as education secretary, Betsy DeVos hasn’t accomplished all that much.
Congress has not been kind to her legislative agenda, and Republicans have joined with Democrats in criticizing her proposed budget cuts. She faces protests at many public appearances, which is why she receives special protection from the U.S. Marshals Service, at an average cost so far this year of $1 million a month. Her department, like many others in the Trump administration, has yet to fill a long list of empty jobs.
But, like it or not, DeVos has taken some major steps to change education policy, and her very presence at the head of the U.S. Education Department signals something important about the past, present and future of public education in the United States.
DeVos is a Michigan billionaire who has labored tirelessly for decades to promote school choice, or alternatives to traditional public schools, and is seen by critics as the most ideological and anti-public-education secretary in the more than 40 years of the department’s history.
She has made clear her K-12 priority is expanding charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — and vouchers or voucher-like programs, which use public money to pay for private and religious schools in different ways. Her supporters say those measures offer parents more choices, but her critics say they drain resources from the public education system, the most important civic institution in the United States.
In every speech she delivers she finds a way to promote school choice, sometimes saying things that aren’t true, as in February when she said that historically black colleges and universities were “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” They weren’t. They were founded because blacks were barred from white colleges. Graduating students at a historically black university in Florida, Bethune-Cookman, protested the comments, booing and turning their back on her while she made a commencement speech in May.