Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has been confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 50-51. Vice President Mike Pence acted as a tiebreaker to the 50-50 Senate split, according to NPR. DeVos will now lead the Department of Education and is responsible for setting the nation’s education policy.
NPR stated that the decision was made despite the opposition of two Republican senators, angry citizens flooding Senate offices — with up to 1.5 million calls a day — and Democrats in protest throughout the night.
Betsy Devos has been heavily criticized for her inexperience and is deemed unfit for the role, primarily because of her push for charter schools and vouchers, which allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools. This disconnects disconnecting and allocates funds away from public schools, according to New York Times.
DeVos and her children have never attended public school. In addition, she has no experience with student loans or Pell grants, including pulling a student loan for herself, as Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren stated after Devos’ testimony to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. As the education secretary, she will be responsible for running a student loan bank of approximately $1 trillion dollars.
There are concerns regarding the weeks and months following the Senate’s decision, especially considering that The Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization. In DeVos’ hearing, she said that it would be “premature” to say she would uphold a 2011 rule that requires colleges to take an active role to prevent sexual assault. DeVos was also dismissive of the idea of free tuition, stating, “There’s nothing in life that’s truly free.” Additionally, DeVos would “review” rather than uphold the gainful employment rule, which requires colleges to demonstrate that they were preparing a significant percentage of their students for the job market, stated Huffington Post.
In regards to K-12 education, DeVos indicated that she believes states should have more responsibility in determining how schools should be improved stating,”It is necessary and critical for states to have flexibility to determine how to identify and improve schools.”
NPR stated that the organization she chaired, the American Federation for Children, favors both vouchers and a device called “tax credit scholarships,” which allows companies to offset tax liability by funding students to attend private schools. In Florida, which the AFC has called out as a model program, 70 percent of these scholarships go to religiously affiliated schools.
With DeVos as Education Secretary, there is great uncertainty as to how education will be reauthorized, and what this will mean for students of middle to lower-class backgrounds.