Secretary of Education Trump Administration. Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education

Donald Trump selects Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education

Betsy DeVos serves as the 11th U.S. Secretary of Education. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on February 7, 2017 after being nominated by President Donald J. Trump.

DeVos, 58, is seen as a national leader in the school choice movement, which she has called an attempt to “empower” parents to find good schools for their children, whether they be traditional public schools in other neighborhoods, charter schools, virtual schools or private institutions.

“Betsy DeVos is a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” Trump said Wednesday in a statement. “Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”

Trump's appointment of DeVos is subject to confirmation by the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

On Tuesday, former Washington, D.C., school chancellor Michelle Rhee took herself out of the running for education secretary, clearing the path for DeVos’ appointment.

In a statement, DeVos said she was honored to help Trump “make American education great again” — a play on Trump’s campaign slogan.

“The status quo in education is not acceptable,” DeVos said. “Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

Trump’s decision to have DeVos run the U.S. Department of Education comes four days after she met with the president-elect and Vice President-elect Mike Pence at Trump’s golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey.

At that meeting, Trump, Pence and DeVos discussed Common Core and “setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation,” according to a statement released Saturday from Trump’s transition team.

DeVos is part of multiple groups that have offered support for the controversial Common Core state curriculum standards. But her views on the subject are less than clear.

Trump has vowed to get rid of the standards, calling them a “disaster” and saying the education curriculum “has to be local.” During the GOP primaries, Trump suggested he might get rid of the Department of Education altogether.

DeVos is chair of the American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C.-based single-issue organization devoted to expanding school of choice options across the country.

Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education with President Donald Trump

Secretary of Education DeVos has been involved in education policy for nearly three decades as an advocate for children and a voice for parents. She is especially passionate about reforms that help underserved children gain access to a quality education.

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education in Trump Administration

DeVos' interest in education was sparked at an early age by her mother, a public school teacher. It grew when she sent her own children to school and was confronted with the reality that not every child in America is granted an equal opportunity to receive a great education. DeVos saw firsthand the work leaders in her hometown were doing to increase educational opportunities for students and choices for parents, and she has been involved in the fight to provide better educational options across the nation ever since.

For 15 years, DeVos served as an in-school mentor for at-risk children in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Public Schools. Her interactions there with students, families and teachers, according to DeVos, "changed my life and my perspective about education forever."

A leader in the movement to empower parents, DeVos has worked to support the creation of new educational choices for students in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

As secretary, DeVos will work with President Trump to advance equal opportunities for quality education for all students. DeVos firmly believes that neither the ZIP code in which a child lives nor a child's household income should be the principal determinant of his or her opportunity to receive a world-class education. As secretary, she will advocate for returning control of education to states and localities, giving parents greater power to choose the educational settings that are best for their children and ensuring that higher education puts students on the path to successful careers.

Prior to her confirmation, DeVos served as chairman of The Windquest Group, an enterprise and investment management firm. In addition to her leadership in the education arena, DeVos has also served on the boards of numerous national and local charitable and civic organizations, including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Kids Hope USA, ArtPrize, Mars Hill Bible Church and the Kendall College of Art and Design.

DeVos is a graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She is married to entrepreneur, philanthropist and community activist Dick DeVos, and together they have four children and seven grandchildren.

Speaking in July during a school choice forum at the Republican National Convention in Ohio, DeVos accused teachers unions of holding back innovation in education and called them “a formidable foe” at both state and national levels.

In Michigan, DeVos sits on the board of the Great Lakes Education Project, which has operated as her influential family’s school choice advocacy arm in Lansing. For the past 14 years, the group has been actively advocating its education reform agenda in both the Capitol and state House and Senate elections, particularly Republican primaries.

The Great Lakes Education Project, known as GLEP, was instrumental earlier this year in getting the Michigan Legislature to abandon a plan to create a citywide commission in Detroit to regulate the opening and closure of charter schools.

DeVos is a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman whose husband, Dick, unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006.

The DeVos family, heirs to the Amway Corp. fortune, are the most prolific donors to the Michigan Republican Party, GOP officeholders and candidates.

During the presidential campaign, Betsy and Dick DeVos never publicly supported Trump, although other members of DeVos clan donated $245,000 to a fund to help elect Trump and other Republican candidates.

In 2000, Betsy and Dick DeVos funded an unsuccessful statewide ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution to allow tax dollars to be used for private school tuition through education vouchers. They have since advocated for school vouchers in other states.

In 2012, Dick DeVos led the charge in getting the Legislature to make Michigan a right-to-work state, eliminating work rules that made financial support of unions a condition of employment for teachers in public schools.

The DeVoses founded their own charter high school, the West Michigan Aviation Academy, located on the grounds of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids.

The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, a nonprofit 501c3 organization, gave a $3 million no-interest loan to the school in tax year 2014, according to IRS records. Their Grand Rapids-based Windquest Group private investment firm also lists the school in its portfolio.

The family foundation reported a $55.7 million balance in 2014, the most recent filing available, including various investments with a fair-market value of $51.7 million.

Is Betsy DeVos America's last secretary of education?

If President Trump moves to merge the Departments of Labor and Education, as the Office of Management and Budget proposes, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos could be the nation's last education secretary

DeVos' tenure thus far as secretary of education has been a somewhat controversial one. 

DeVos, an advocate for school choice, has for decades criticized federal meddling in local education. But she has spearheaded an at-times muscular implementation of Obama's Every Student Succeeds Act, and chided some states' plans for failing to set higher goals for students. 

After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 students dead in February, the School Safety Commission DeVos established is not taking a look at the role guns have played in such tragedies. 

"That is not a part of the commission's charge per se," DeVos said in a Senate hearing earlier this year.

DeVos also sparked controversy by narrowing how the department investigates discrimination, and reversing Obama-era policy on how to treat campus sexual assault. 

So, is DeVos working herself out of a job? She has praised the proposal to merge the Labor and Education Departments as the next "big step" to fulfilling Mr. Trump's campaign promise. 

Will Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos be able to reform the American school?

“It’s tempting to conclude that Betsy Devos did not achieve anything significant in the first six months of his term as Secretary of Education,” Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post. And why, in fact, seductive? Yes, because it has become a "common place" to criticize Betsy and wish her failure.

Congress did not support her plans. Both Republicans and Democrats rejected her budget cuts. In her department, as, indeed, in many others in the administration of the Trump, a lot of unfilled vacancies, which, of course, adversely affects the work of the apparatus. And the personality of Elizabeth Betsy Devos, the 11th US Secretary of Education, is so contradictory that the mere appearance of her at any public event provokes protests. It was necessary to allocate for it a special additional protection by the forces of the service of federal marshals, and this costs the American taxpayers monthly $ 1 million.

She was greeted with hostility from the first steps. Numerous critics, in her own words, have turned her life into a "real hell." Even in the bowels of the ministry, says Devas, is full of detractors.

Perhaps never before in the history of American enlightenment has there been such a controversial figure. As it is known, her approval in the Senate hung in the balance, the votes were equally divided, and only the intervention of Vice President Mike Pence, who supported Devos, decided the outcome of the deadlocked vote. At the very first public school that the minister visited in the capital, Jefferson Middle School Academy, pickets of demonstrators blocked her way. In another school, in

The San Diego, which Devos wanted to visit, the teachers' council voted not to invite her, in other words, pointed to the door. But six months did not pass for her for nothing. Devos resisted and managed to dissuade some opponents by their actions.

The Washington Post is a liberal newspaper. Nevertheless, her observer Valerie Strauss had the objectivity to admit: “Whether you like it or not, in a short time Devos made significant steps towards changing the educational system, and her mere presence as head of the ministry signals something important about the past, present and future Education in the United States. "

This billionaire from Michigan was able to take to heart the problems and evils of the American school. And although many of her views are not to their liking, she is persuaded by the consistency with which she defends them. For decades, Devos has been protecting the right of parents to choose, to an alternative to public schools, which, in her opinion, do not give children either sufficient knowledge or serious preparation for the challenges of the 21st century.

In an interview, she said: “I expect there will be more charter schools. More private schools. There will be more virtual schools. I expect there will be schools of all kinds that have ever been invented. ”

That is, hopes are placed on diversity. And instead of a unified system of public education regulated by officials from Washington, there is freedom to choose on the ground what is more appropriate in each particular case.

By the charter can be treated differently. But no one can deny such objective indicators as exam scores. The New York State Department of Education recently published statistics showing the results of tests in the English language and math in the third to eighth grades in the spring.

In general, the number of students who showed good results in English (third and fourth level) increased from 37.9% (in 2016) to 39.8%. Growth of 1.9%. In mathematics, respectively, the indicators rose from 39.1% to 40.2%. That is more by 1.1%. Although small, but progress. Chancellor of the Board of Regents, Betty Rosa, said: “This modest improvement in ratings gives me hope.”

But if you look at the section on charter schools, the word modest is hardly appropriate. The average state of the indicators in the English language increased by 4.7%, and in the city of New York - by 5.2%. In math less: 2.8% on average for the state and 3% for the city of New York. But still better compared to the general indicators.

And what is also very important: charter schools in “disadvantaged” areas where low-income families and minorities live, give such results that they could never achieve in public. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Eva Moskowitz, head of the Success Academy charter school group, noted that the mathematics performance of children in central Harlem doubled compared to 2013, and this was 96% at the expense of charter students. The latest statistical summary of the Office of Education supports its calculations. And this destroys the myth that charter schools are something for the elect, for children from wealthy families. As it turned out, quite the opposite.

Is there a way out of the "deadlock"?

So, according to Devos, the possibilities of public schools are exhausted. The situation in which they are now, she described as a "dead end". The future is for alternative educational institutions: charter, voucher, online, etc. She sees salvation in them, and also in instilling “love of American values ​​and educating character” in classes - something that is now completely absent “in our realistic and politically correct world.”

The author of the article in the Washington Post quite reasonably notes that charter and vouchers are not a panacea, and that with them, too, in many cases, there are unpleasant, and even scandalous situations. Both financial abuse and inefficiency. For example, in April, studies were conducted among a group of students in Washington who received vouchers for money from federal funds. It turned out that after a year of studying in private schools, their performance on examinations was worse than that of previous classmates who continued their studies in the public education system. Of course, you can say: this is a special case. Right. It is not worth making any far-reaching conclusions on it. But it is also impossible to pass by.

In recognizing the achievements of Devos for six months, made by the Washington Post journalist, the key words are “whether you like it or not.” Valerie Strauss doesn't like a lot. In particular, the fact that the Minister "managed to push ideas that were previously considered radical to the national stage." Allegedly, her private attacks on the excessive intervention of the federal government may portend the liquidation of the Ministry of Education. Is she cutting the branch on which she sits?

“It does not frighten me at all that I will remain without work,” the minister admits. - But this is unlikely to happen. I’m not sure that there will be supporters of the destruction of the ministry in Congress. ” Indeed, it still looks like utopia. However, the functions of this body and the degree of its influence may change. I remember the famous Ronald Reagan statement: “There are no more frightening words in English than“ I am from the government and I am here to help. ” The government, they say, does not solve problems as much as it creates them. Devos agrees with Reagan. And its nihilism in relation to the government can lead to the fact that Americans everywhere develop an aversion to the public education system. Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of children study in the schools of this system and will study in them in the coming years, no matter how far the events turn.

Arnie Dunken, education minister in President Obama’s administration, a supporter of charter schools (but not vouchers), continues to argue that public schools are necessary and useful. Well, he is a democrat. But then, Margaret Spellingz, who headed the ministry under Republican Bush, publicly declares that it is impossible to manage without public education and that it should be regulated and managed from the top.

But Devos is more focused on another Margaret - Englishwoman Margaret Thatcher, who also, although few people remember about it, was the minister of education in the government of Edward Heath before she became head of the Conservative Party of Great Britain.

In July, speaking at the conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council, Betsy Devos recalled the “Iron Lady”:

“Thatcher often spoke with regret about those who blamed society for all their problems. “But what is society? She asked. - There's no such thing. There are individuals, men and women, and their families. And it is the families that can do something, not the government. ” "Iron Lady" was right then. She is right today. ”

Together with Trump, Devos prepared a draft budget for 2018, which provided for reductions in the education system as a whole. At the same time, it was planned to allocate $ 400 million to charter schools and vouchers in addition to $ 1 billion for the entire restructuring of the system, providing parents with ample choice. In addition, it was proposed to increase tax credits for students as part of the overall tax reform. Congressmen made it clear that they would not agree with a decrease in spending on the public education system. Not expressed enthusiasm for the extra money for vouchers. In general, they positively reacted to the increase in tax credits, but only to a small extent. So this round Devos lost. But she is determined to continue the fight, and the last word has not yet been said.

We must pay tribute to her devotion to the ideas that continue to inspire her. Devos from a very wealthy family. She has four children. Could enjoy without any worries the pleasures of secured privacy. But no. Together with her husband Richard, they have been fighting for decades for the concept of choosing different types of schools. Both played an important role in that in their state of Michigan in 1993, a law on charter schools and vouchers was passed. It was then that among her opponents spread the conviction that Betsy Devos is going to privatize all education in America. This is an exaggeration. But there is no smoke without fire. She does not hide her ambitious plans and speaks about education in the language of business.

Alternative schools are for her “the equivalent of companies like Uber, Lyft and the like.” Education is an investment. Opponents from the American Federation of Teachers entered into polemics: “Betsy Devos says that you need to invest money in individual students. No, we must invest in a system of excellent public schools for all children. ” The dialogue with the teachers' union continues in the same “financial” way.

“I could not believe my eyes when I read this, although I am impressed by their frankness,” objects Devos. “But they made it very clear that they were more concerned about the system created in the 1800s than the students themselves.” They believe that education is not an investment in specific individual students. They are absolutely wrong. ”

The next six months promise to be no less tumultuous for Betsy Devos than the first six months. Her undertakings still meet with resistance. Wherever she appears, protests erupt. Gail Collins, New York Times columnist, recently arranged a sarcastic contest for the title of worst minister in Trump's office. Who do you think won? Well, of course, Betsy Devos. But ridicule and protests cannot stop her.

“After Dick and I were convinced that philanthropy can help only a limited number of children, we decided to act in the public arena and change the lives of as many schoolchildren and their parents as possible,” she said in the already mentioned speech at the American Legislative Exchange Council . “This is the only way to bring about a fundamental and inevitable shift in the approach to education in America.”

Will she succeed? The question remains open ...

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos promotes ‘pathways to success’ at FFA Convention

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made a stop in Indianapolis Friday as a key note speaker at the 2018 National FFA Convention.

Prior to her speech the secretary toured the convention and participated in a round-table with student leaders. During her remarks at the FFA General Session at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, she encouraged students to explore the multiple pathways to success. Adding that she wants young people to rethink how they can succeed, and what it will take to get them there.

“Too often what students learn while earning a degree isn’t actually what they need to do the work they’re hired to do,” DeVos said to the crowd of thousands.

Devos went on to add that it’s important to encourage young people to pursue the many options they have in the global economy.

“There’s a mismatch in our workforce between preparation and possibility,” she said.

A recent Purdue study found that heading into 2020, more than 60,000 agriculture jobs would become available each year, but that only about half of that amount of graduates is expected to emerge with related or necessary degrees. During her tour, DeVos praised organizations like the FFA for showing young people “what’s possible.”

“These students are having exposure to and experience with some of the career paths that they may have never have thought of absent this opportunity,” she said.

DeVos also answered questions about education policies affecting Hoosiers, namely the distribution of school vouchers and what strings should be attached in order for schools to receive them. She also addressed online charter schools and a spate of reports detailing their shortcomings. In both cases, her answer was that any decisions that are made should come without federal interference.

“I support states deciding and figuring out what is best for students in their state,” she said.

DeVos’ visit is a precursor to President Trump. The president is scheduled to speak Saturday at the convention. A big topic he’ll potentially address is the how the administration’s trade dispute with China is affecting farmers’ bottom line.


[1] Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education -- Biography -

[2] Donald Trump selects Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education

[3]  Betsy DeVos puts protecting for-profit schools ahead of students