Betsy Devos: Is she fit to be queen of education?

Taylor Huff

In a thrilling turn of events,  Betsy DeVos, a longtime political advocate for the Republican Party and business aficionado, was confirmed as Secretary of Education thanks to a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence this past Tuesday.

DeVos raised questions by many Senate Democrats during her confirmation hearing when she was asked if she thought it was appropriate to have guns in schools. Her response seemed to justify the notion as she cited a school in Wyoming that may have use for guns in the case of potential grizzly bear attacks. Politifact found this claim to be all bark and no bear and rated her claim false.

I think we can all remember where we stood when the Sacramento Grizzly Gang wreaked havoc on that unsuspecting school back in ’09.

In addition to not having any prior experience in the field of education, DeVos has been criticized for attempting to privatize education under the guise of charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that can legally set their own individual curriculum.

Charter schools, at face value, seem like a good idea for parents who support school choice and want to send their kids to better schools outside of their zip code, which is perfectly justifiable. However, unlike public schools, charter schools accept public money without the same oversight as public schools. This is unsettling for public schools because it means schools that aren’t held to the same academic standards are taking money that could be used to enrich public schools that play by the rules. Not cool Betsy, if that’s even your real name.

Charter schools are also gaining momentum here in Kentucky. In his State of the Commonwealth address last Wednesday, Gov. Matt Bevin promised that “charter schools are coming to Kentucky.” With Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, if Bevin were to propose charter schools it would almost seem inevitable for Kentucky to embrace them.

Another cause of concern for senators was DeVos’s apparent lack of knowledge surrounding the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, IDEA.

According to the Washington Post, when asked about the issue in her confirmation hearing she said, “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states”. After being informed that IDEA is a federal law and agreeing that federal law must be followed, Devos came clean saying, “I may have confused it.” Classic “Trump Gotcha” moment there.

Kentucky Representative Phil Moffett, in an interview with Insider Louisville, said he expects the first charter schools in the state to open for the 2018/2019 school year and Bowling Green is a likely area to see the first charter schools.

In order to get a better sense of the local implications of electing someone like DeVos, I sat down with Melissa Rudloff, SKyTeach Master Teacher here at WKU.

I was curious if the confirmation of DeVos would have implications for the Bowling Green, but Rudloff said she didn’t believe students here in Bowling Green would necessarily sense some radical difference that would occur from a top-down standpoint.

However, she did go on to stress some of the worries she did have. 

“What is of concern is funding and initiatives and support to strengthen public education that comes from a federal level and, if that isn’t there, then I see some aspects of our public education locally suffering as a result overtime,” Rudloff said.

Don’t get me wrong. DeVos is an intelligent individual with many notable accomplishments, mostly outside of public education. However, should she be in charge of billions of dollars of federal funding for our next generation’s scholars? I think I speak for many Americans when I say: WRONG!