Since President Donald Trump first identified Betsy Devos as his candidate for the next US Secretary of Education, I’ve spoken with close to a couple dozen colleagues in education about her nomination and whether people think she is a strong candidate. I’m not speaking out on either side about this one for several reasons, but I’ll save that for a possible future article (or maybe not). Instead, I want to share what I’m reading and hearing in my conversations with people so far. I should probably note that almost all of my conversations are with people who have direct experience in K-12 or higher education in the United States. I’ve listened, read, and considered; but here are the ten most common pros that supporters share with me, as well as the ten most common cons that opponents point out to me. I took out some of the more inflammatory wording in both lists, but as you will read, I tried in include comments that still represent the strong emotions, direct statements, and firm convictions underlying people’s stances. As a reminder, I am not writing these as my words, but they are what I am hearing and understanding from others.
- she has a record of being a champion for school choice, giving students and parents choices on the type of school that is a best fit for them. Her work in the American Federation for Children is evidence of this.
- She is not in the back pocket of teacher unions and other education insiders who resist significant educational change.
- She is an advocate for education reform and she cares more about quality education regardless of the type of school (traditional public, public charter, private, parochial, etc.).
- She is Trump’s choice and they support Trump’s agenda.
- She pushes for every family to have a choice of schools just like so many wealthy people have for their children. She is not satisfied supporting a system that essentially forces poor families to the local community school while rich or more advantaged families have a choice of schools.
- She has been a strong voice for choice and innovation in Michigan schools.
- She is an advocate of charter schools and charter schools are generally a good thing.
- She is a firm advocate for pushing as many education decisions as possible down to the state and local level where decisions can be made that best reflect the need and desires of people in states and local communities.
- She will help get rid of government bureaucracy that is preventing educational innovation and other efforts to serve students to the best of our ability.
- She does not support the Common Core State Standards and will get rid of it (along with what they view as the negative impact of the CCSS).
- she is not a traditional public education insider. She doesn’t have experience as a public school student, teacher, or as a school or district leader.
- She is not informed. Or, as some say claim, she is unqualified when it comes to public education. She has not demonstrated a deep understanding of the field of education, especially critical issues posed by people in the hearing. She does not have experience leading anything as complex as the US Department of Education.
- She doesn’t have a background in higher education issues.
- Her advocacy work in Michigan has not produced desirable results.
- She is not a champion for traditional public schools. Or, as some critics say it, she is trying to destroy public schools.
- Her financial/business connections have potential conflicts of interest.
- She is an advocate of charter schools and charter schools are bad (or her view of charter school law is too lax).
- By pushing as many education decisions as possible down to the state and local level, she risks undermining important federal regulations and laws related to safety, access, opportunity, and protecting federal investments in programs like the federal financial aid program.
- Her claim that the education system is broken is an insult to educators around the nation.
- She provided several disturbing answers to questions in the hearing, especially one about guns in schools to protect against bears, and another about the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
Again, these are not my words, but I share them to summarize the most persistent arguments that I’m hearing and reading for and against Devos. If you think a central pro or con is missing, feel free to share it in the comment area.
Or, if you prefer, here is a shortened but visual version of the pros and cons.