With the new administration in office, a lot of focus is being put on President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations and the appointment hearings surrounding them, accompanied by the media attention and discussion are large amounts of concern as well.
The nominee that has amassed the most criticism and alarm is Trump’s appointment for Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos. There are many reasons for the apprehension and outright hysteria that has accompanied her nomination, from her inability to answer fundamental questions about education on the senate floor with regard to the debate between proficiency and growth by Senator Al Franken, to her lack of qualifications within the realm of education other than the $4 million her family has donated to the Republican Party and the nearly $900,000 she donated specifically to Senators who voted for her nomination (according to The Independent), there is a lot of blowback.
Lack of qualifications and apparent blatant corruption aside, let us focus on a separate aspect of her nomination, confirmation (which required a historic tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence), and future as head of the Department of Education. Let’s focus on what policy she wants to implement with her position, and how this will affect us as students and citizens. After all, when reviewing how important cabinet members are, we must address two main questions: How influential are nominee’s ideas and goals on actual public policy, and how do these ideas and policy proposals of Cabinet nominees potentially impact every day Americans’ lives?
The job of the Secretary of Education, broadly, is to head the Department of Education and advise the president on all matters related to education. According to allgov.com , the general function of this department is “to provide federal monies to bolster programs that teach children how to read, promote science, and help students attend college, among other things.”
Essentially, the real, tangible influence DeVos will have as head of this department is how, where, and to whom she advises the allocation of funding. All public school programs that we (students) may use or have used are affected by the apportioning of money from this department.
It is clear that there is a very direct relationship between DeVos and the quality of public education programs. That being said, what does DeVos want to do with the overall funding of education? Let’s look at her past statements and what kind of education funding she supports:
DeVos once said, “Public schools are not succeeding,” and that this has led many to support, “reforms like vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts.” She is a known advocate for what is called “school-choice,” which would attempt to funnel money from public sector education to private education. This takes shape in many forms, her strongest support going to “vouchers.” This would allow for students who cannot afford private schools to attend them for free on a government-funded basis. It would, of course, greatly decrease funding for public schools.
If this shift were to take place on a national level, it would mark a radical transformation – from public education being the prominent backbone of democracy and education, to private education, which is known for its struggles to live up to the same standards as public education and its inability to inclusively guarantee an education to all children regardless of geography and income.
It appears the biggest tangible impact DeVos can have on citizens is to reduce the amount and quality of public education and enhance the funding to private corporations in the form of schools. She also may save us from, in her own words, “potential grizzlies,” but that is a separate discussion for another day.