EDITORIAL: Criticize the confirmation of Betsy DeVos
Last Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos for education secretary by a 51-to-50 vote. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote, marking the first time in history that the vice president acted as a tiebreaker for a cabinet nomination.
This board urges the University and the Education Studies department to take note of DeVos’ confirmation and begin to devise ways to counteract the damage her tenure will have on elementary, middle, and high school students — inevitably members of future incoming classes at Brandeis.
To an unprecedented extent, DeVos is woefully underqualified to represent the nation’s educational system as a whole. Her predecessor, John King, Jr., had considerable qualifications and experience in the field of education, including earning a master’s degree and doctorate in education administrative practice, teaching and holding the offices of U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and New York Education Commissioner, according to an Oct. 2, 2015 NPR article. By contrast, DeVos lacks conventional experience in education; she has served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and as chairman of the American Federation for Children, which advocates for school choice, according to her website. DeVos does not have firsthand experience of public education either, as she comes from a family of considerable wealth and did not attend public school. Consequently, DeVos has little, if any, working knowledge of the realities of public education.
Beyond that, DeVos has expressed concerning views. According to a Feb. 7 BBC article, she supports increasing federal funding for charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools. Worse, despite the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act — a federal law that requires states and school districts to offer education to students with disabilities — DeVos has said that special education support for children with disabilities should be decided on the state level, according to a Feb. 7 New York Times article.
On Jan. 23, this board published an editorial commending the University’s commitment to economic diversity and urging the University to continue admitting students of lower-income backgrounds. Under DeVos’ tenure as education secretary, these are the students who will be hurt the most, as traditional public schools that are already struggling financially may lose significant portions of their funding. This board implores the University to attempt to offset DeVos’ damage by supporting outreach programs for affected groups in order to ensure that all students still have an opportunity to attend Brandeis.
Furthermore, the students of the Brandeis Education department should view DeVos’ nomination as a call to action to advocate for and implement better policies once they begin their careers in education.