Devos Wins; American Students Lose

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Betsy Devos was confirmed as Secretary of Education in a 51-50 vote that featured a tie-breaker from Vice President Mike Pence and defections from Republican Senators Murkowski (AK) and Collins (ME).

The Democrats held the Senate floor for the 24 hours prior to the vote railing against Devos, her lack of qualifications, her tepid preparation for her confirmation hearing, and her views which favor taking funds from public schools to support private schools. Despite some signs that a handful of Republican Senators were wavering in the face of enormous pressure from constituents, most fell in line and supported Trump’s choice.

But what’s next?

The Secretary of Education should be a champion of our public schools and public school teachers, but Devos has essentially no support from any public school teachers. She may be a good executive and leader, skills that her Republican supporters touted during her confirmation hearings, but convincing rank and file teachers that she is on their side and wants what’s best for them and their students is likely beyond her skills.

What we’ll be watching:

  1. Funding: Most school districts fund their local schools with revenues raised in their own communities – the US Department of Education provides little budget relief. Watch for Devos’ policies, however, to reduce funds for public schools, making it even more difficult for struggling schools to excel.
  2. Failure: It may be that Devos learned from her failure to improve test scores and learning in Michigan schools despite two decades and millions of dollars spent. The senators who voted to confirm her seem to think she will do better on a national level. Watch for Devos to repeat the policies that failed Michigan students and schools.
  3. Faith: Betsy Devos makes no secret of her faith and her devotion to Christian principles. She has even commented in the past on the ways that public education could be used to advance God’s Kingdom. Watch for attempts to promote these beliefs more widely.

Devos had only a slim hope of being a successful education secretary to begin with – her lack of preparation for her hearings coupled with the manner that she was approved leave her with no credibility and little chance to get much of anything done.

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