Despite all our efforts, Betsy DeVos is the Secretary of Education. She's been on the job for several weeks now, and we've got a good idea of where she's taking America's public schools. In short: it's nowhere good.
So what has she been up to since she was confirmed?
She erased student debt protections against high fees charged to borrowers by guaranty agencies.
She installed a white woman as head of the department's Office for Civil Rights whose only real experience with civil rights law is 1) claiming she was discriminated against because she couldn't join a class section reserved for minorities and 2) writing an op-ed for the campus newspaper whining about affirmative action. Also, she apparently thinks women are only telling the truth about being sexually assaulted if they accuse a liberal man of attacking them.
She talked the talk about protecting trans students, but hasn't walked the walk. It's nice that she got language about LGBT students deserving protection from bullying, but it would've been nicer if she'd insisted they be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. (You can join Laverne Cox's postcard writing campaign here.)
She's a huge proponent of the voucher programs that pour public money into private religious schools (yes, even the ones that use a terrible curriculum like ACE) – and this after it's been shown that voucher students "have fared worse academically compared to their closely matched peers attending public schools." Also, too, voucher programs are a great way to enable unscrupulous people to line their pockets with federal and state taxpayer money.
She paraded around at a STEM education event without mentioning the fact that Trump wants to eliminate NASA's education office, and the deep cuts his administration wants to make to her own Department of Education.
She blew off the concerns of undocumented students worried about Trump's anti-immigrant policies. She reassured them that Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelley had said rounding up DREAMers wasn't a priority. Of course, "not a priority" doesn't mean "won't ever happen," and DREAMers are, in fact, being deported by this administration at an ever-increasing rate. So we can see exactly what her assurances are worth.
She's all aboard with a proposed budget that devastates successful public school programs while funneling public funds to vastly inferior private and for-profit schools. She's deluded enough to claim that this budget "protects 'the nation's most vulnerable populations.'" I don't think she understands what vulnerable populations are or what they actually need.
She's displayed more of her penny-wise-pound-foolish tendencies by scrapping Obama administration plans to streamline federal student loan management – meaning companies that have already screwed borrowers over can continue to do so, and many former students will end up not being told of all their options when they fall on hard times.
She thinks kids are lacking in "values and character development" education – a judgement most often wielded against minority and disadvantaged/disabled students, resulting in excessive and disproportionate discipline that can compromise or end their schooling.
She's sure that all of us who have been protesting her appointment aren't genuine. We're all supposedly shills sicced on her by her enemies. That's so precious.
She's excessively keen on making education a state and local affair – to the extent she'd prefer to eliminate the department she was confirmed to run.
She has family and financial ties to an organization that wants to abolish the Department of Education, reducing it to an advisory council. They also want the Ten Commandments to be displayed and Bible classes taught in all public schools, "promote instruction 'from a Judeo-Christian perspective,'" and envision a "gradual, voluntary return at all levels to free-market private schools, church schools, and home schools as the normative American practice." Comprehensive public education propelled us to the status of a world superpower, but these people want to return us to colonial times.
She founded (and provided much of the funding for) a group dedicated to promoting charter schools in Michigan, whose head thinks it's appropriate to talk about shaking the female state official who challenged him, just like he claims to do to his wife.
And she managed to insult dedicated public school teachers from the beginning.
Great work, Secretary DeVos. Really first class. For unaccountable private school values of "first class."
We have a lot of work to do in order to protect the free and comprehensive education every child in this country is entitled to. Our public schools are too precious to lose. Please let your representatives on the local, state, and federal levels know that you're watching, and you will hold them accountable for the decisions they make. And watch this space for ways to oppose Secretary DeVos's misguided mismanagement of our nation's schools.