Has there ever been a more polarizing figure in American education than Betsy DeVos? The US Education Secretary took office in 2016 under President Trump’s administration and has been working alongside legislators in every state to figure out a way to improve education. DeVos believes in educational choice, but not all states have been so eager to jump at the new legislation.
For many years, DeVos has worked in education reform. She has become a political maven, starting off her education at Calvin College and working her way up through the Republican Party, including a run for a bill in early 2000s called “Kids First! Coalition” in Michigan. However, the bill did not pass. DeVos has been working hard to change people’s minds about educational choice, but there are a few road blocks.
Despite what people misconstrue as a lack of education in public school education, DeVos is quite familiar. After all, her mother was a public school teacher and inspired DeVos to work on the side of education reform because she could see how it affected her as a teacher and how it affected students. DeVos talked about the new plans in a recent interview with Leslie Stahl for “60 Minutes.”
Stahl had many questions for the new US Education Secretary. He said that many do not like the policy because it would use public funding to support private schools, a fact which Betsy DeVos says is misleading because philanthropy has largely paid for funding private school vouchers since the beginning. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton are among the biggest donors to the campaign. Of course, her own foundation has supported many of the scholarship programs as well.
While Stahl was skeptical that any of the programs had been successful, DeVos said that Florida had experienced the most success with educational choice. She points out that students have the most options to go to different schools than what they were zoned for, which is the whole point of her legislation. She believes that students and parents should be able to choose a different school than where they were zoned, especially if that is a failing school. DeVos says this is how students are able to get into better programs and actually like going to school.
However, it hasn’t been so easy for DeVos, who has been going around the country talking to schools about these plans in the hopes that students and teachers will be able to see that there is a difference to be made with educational choice.
In addition to these duties, she has taken on school safety reform under the appointment of President Trump, who wants the US Education Secretary to head up the fight against gun violence in schools and make schools safer for children. Stahl did ask DeVos if she thought that teachers should have guns, to which DeVos wasn’t sure. She didn’t believe that it had to get to that point, but there were other ways to revert schools back to a safe space.
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