DeVos Unqualified for Position

Luke Mullin, editor-in-chief

With any new President comes the changing of the guard. Out with the old and in with the new, especially in the area of trusted advisers and Cabinet appointees. Many of Trump’s appointees for Cabinet positions have arrived with tremendous scrutiny, notably Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Rick Perry, Ben Carson and most of all, Betsy DeVos. Flynn’s ties with Russia have caused him to resign his position in shame, Sessions has been criticized for being racist (which is neither here nor there, but is worth noting that Sessions called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American), Perry notably vowed to abolish the Department of Energy, which he now leads and Carson, despite working as a brain surgeon his whole life, has been named to Housing and Urban Development. While there are very legitimate concerns for all of these individuals, none can demonstrate incompetence to the same level of Betsy DeVos, the recently confirmed Secretary of Education.


To fully understand DeVos’ level of incompetence, the history of the position and her history must first be considered. John King, who served under Barack Obama, worked as the New York Commissioner of Education before serving on the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission. From there, he was promoted to Secretary. Before King came Arne Duncan, who started his career in education improving low-performing schools before moving on to become CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where he remained until appointed as Secretary. Before Duncan was Margaret Spellings, a George W. Bush appointee, who had previously worked on an education reform commission for Texas Public Schools. When contrasted with these three past individuals, it becomes clear how unqualified DeVos is for the job. She never attended public school, taught in public schools or served in education in any regard. She has spent much of her life advocating for increases in charter schools and for the use of federal funds to help private schools, but she has never shown a shred of competency in regards to public education.


At DeVos’ Senate hearing on Tuesday, January 17, DeVos showed the country the fraud she was. DeVos skirted around many essential questions about the future of the nation’s public schools, and when she didn’t decline to answer the question, she rarely gave satisfactory explanations. When asked about her stance on guns in schools, DeVos said, “I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi (R-WY) and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.” The most disturbing exchange came when Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine inquired as to equal accountability standards for schools receiving federal funds. Here is some of their dialogue:


Kaine: “If confirmed will you insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter or private?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Equal accountability?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Is that a yes or a no?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Do you not want to answer my question?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Let me ask you this. I think all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be equally accountable. Do you agree?”
DeVos: “Well they don’t, they are not today.”
Kaine: “Well, I think they should. Do you agree with me?
DeVos: “Well no . . . ”


Kaine then moved on to two more questions, pertaining to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and in regards to reporting of harassment, discipline and bullying. DeVos did not give a concrete answer, which be seen in the full video.


With this in mind, it begs to be asked: how in the world has DeVos found herself in this position? Simply put, DeVos and her family are mega-donors of the Republican party. In 1997, DeVos wrote, “My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee. I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.” Of course, the issue DeVos was referring to was in regards to senators and representative voting records, not any appointment to public office, but it does serve as a reason for her nomination.


When it came time for the Senate to vote on DeVos’ confirmation, it split down party lines, with two Republicans putting their country above party and voting against DeVos. Alas, Mike Pence split the 50-50 vote and DeVos was confirmed. An interesting note to consider, though, is that many of the Republicans who voted to confirm DeVos received money from the DeVos family. Marco Rubio received $98,000, John McCain got $50,000 and Mitch McConnell received $36,000, as well. Interestingly, one of the dissenting Senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska had received $43,200, but still voted against DeVos. To Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine, I salute them for their integrity in light of a split down party lines. And to the 50 senators who voted in favor of DeVos, including Nebraska senators Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, I must question whether they were swayed by money or party loyalty. Either way, they have made a mistake, which could prove costly as a clearly unqualified Betsy DeVos will now be in charge of the educational future of millions of young Americans, a future that looks dimmer by the day.

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