President-elect Donald Trump has selected GOP donor and school choice activist Betsy DeVos to serve as head of the U.S. Department of Education under his administration — a move criticized by both conservatives and liberals.
DeVos, who served as chair of the Michigan Republican party from 1996 to 2000, is known for promoting charter schools and school voucher programs. Following her appointment last Tuesday, some conservatives were quick to point out her affiliation with groups that are pro-Common Core standards, which Trump has vowed to nix. She chairs the American Federation for Children, a group that promotes charter school education, and has served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that promotes school choice and the Common Core education standards.
“[Trump] repeatedly assured parents across the heartland that he intended to return power over education to local schools,” Frank Cannon, president of the anti-Common Core American Principles Project, told CNN prior to DeVos’ official appointment. “It is puzzling, then, to see reports that the Trump transition team is considering an establishment, pro-Common Core secretary of education — this would not qualify as ‘draining the swamp’ — and it seems to fly in the face of what Trump has stated on education policy up to this point.”
DeVos, however, worked to immediately address concerns, stating, “I am not a supporter … period.” Instead, on her website, she professes to support “high standards, strong accountability, and local control.”
Not surprisingly, Trump’s selection has also been criticized by liberals, who say DeVos has no experience and believe her appointment could mean the end of public education. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan released a statement expressing its concern.
“We strongly urge Congress to scrutinize the record of Betsy DeVos, who has been a staunch proponent of school vouchers, a misguided idea that diverts taxpayer dollars into private and parochial schools,” Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan Kary Moss said in the statement. “… She has ardently supported the unlimited, unregulated growth of charter schools in Michigan, elevating for-profit schools with no consideration of the severe harm done to traditional public schools.”
While many believe DeVos will advocate for expanded school choice in K-12 education, not much is known about her position on higher education following a campaign in which college costs were a hot-button issue.