Betsy DeVos does not possess the knowledge to lead the Department of Education. Her confirmation hearing revealed how ill-prepared she is to undertake the responsibility of managing public education.
DeVos was selected because she is an important Republican donor dedicated to school reform. Her declared priority of giving a voice and educational options to parents is commendable. They are reasonably frustrated in light of the difficulties their children are having in preparing adequately for the future.
The school system in uneven, and this hurts families with fewer resources. The path is to strengthen public education not destroy it by defunding it, as will happen if DeVos has her way.
The nominee is proposing that the money allocated for public education is given out in the form of coupons so that parents can send their children to religious and private schools. This may seem like an attractive idea to many, but its impact makes it questionable. School choice exists in well-regulated charter schools.
However, the problems with DeVos are only beginning.
She would be in charge of guaranteeing civil rights in education but showed no knowledge about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; she stated that it is “premature” to say if she would continue with the practice of reporting sexual assault in colleges, and opposes a prohibition to carrying guns in schools, saying that students may need them to protect themselves from grizzly bears.
To make matters worse, she ignores the basics on the debate over educational “growth” versus “proficiency” being discussed at a federal level.
As for higher education, DeVos blatantly rejects free college, which exists in most countries throughout the world. She also seemed confused when asked to act against abusive practices carried out by for-profit universities.
The hearing was done quickly, unusually protecting DeVos from the questions by placing a time limit to formulate them. It was also held without the completed ethics report required for every nominee. This is extremely serious, as she is practically the owner of a student loan debt collection company.
Free higher education would kill her profitable gig of going after the big business of student debt, the same debt she would be able to control through the federal loans offered by the agency she will lead.
DeVos is the least suitable person to head the Department of Education because she does not have ideas but prejudice about what happens in public education, and because of a clear conflict of interest. The Senate must reject her nomination.