From the start, Betsy DeVos’ position as the US Secretary of Education has been a rocky one. Barely confirmed to her position by a Senate vote of 51-50, her tenure since has been fraught with combat. While DeVos may publicly present a united front with President Donald Trump’s policies, her actual position behind the scenes may be anything but.
Controversy and conflict are nothing new to DeVos. The daughter of billionaire businessman Edgar Prince and the wife of the scion of an even wealthier family has been making a name in the political arena for quite some time. A strong advocate of the charter school system, she has fought for nearly three decades in her native state of Michigan to create stronger support for charter schools, while chipping away at support for traditional public schools.
While detractors may claim that her support of charter schools is harming a public school system already in chaos, there can be no doubt that she has been widely successful in bolstering charter education in Michigan. Detroit boast the nation’s largest concentration of charter schools, although in some cases, supply actually exceeds demand. Opponents fear she will repeat this victory on a national level in Washington.
Already, Ms. DeVos has shown that her opponent’s fears are not without merit. While DeVos stated in her confirmation hearings that nothing was going to change the fact that the vast majority of American students attend public schools, she seemed to have something quite different to say once in office. After visiting a Washington public school, she was quoted as deriding public school teachers by saying they were simply waiting to be told what to do, rather than taking initiative.
One DeVos supporter, however, defended her position claiming that she simply understood what most Americans did not: that even the best public schools in the US are still underperforming in contrast to schools in other developed nations. Prominent Michigan Republican Greg McNeilly went on to say that he feels that DeVos simply wants to have a more public conversation with America about focusing more on what should be expected from schools and less on the form the delivery system of education takes.
One thing both proponents and opponents of DeVos agree upon, however, is how fiercely determined she is. In addition, while her politics may be staunchly Republican, that doesn’t mean she is always in agreement with President Trump’s policies. In spite of giving no public sign of disagreement with the President’s recent rescinding of a federal policy regarding the use of school bathrooms by transgender students, reports abound that she was not so compliant behind closed doors.
In Michigan, she earned a reputation for being a relentless defender of her political beliefs, while still maintaining a publicly gracious image. It seems that one thing all parties can rest assured of is that DeVos is not simply a meek and mild “yes-woman” that will simply get on board with any policies presented to her. While she may not bare her fangs in public, that does not in any way mean she lacks them.
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