With his nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education, President-elect Donald Trump seems to be making good on his campaign promise to promote school choice.
Trump has proposed a $20 million fund to support school choice for students, namely through charters and vouchers. DeVos, who has no professional experience working in schools, is a vocal proponent of school choice and vouchers. Currently, she chairs the American Federation for Children, which promotes school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.
[Read the higher education version of this story here.]
A Polarizing Issue; A Potentially Polarizing Nomination
Vouchers are a polarizing issue for many in the education community, with opponents saying they funnel valuable public school dollars to private institutions that aren’t always accountable. Several state courts have heard cases involving students using vouchers to attend private religious schools.
Voucher supporters say they enable students to break free from geographical or financial constraints and pursue a quality education at the institution of their choice.
DeVos has ties to the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a pro-Common Core organization, but said on her website that she is not a fan of the Common Core because “along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle.” Trump said he wanted to abolish the standards, but that could prove difficult. Because they are implemented at the state level, a president likely cannot abolish the standards, though lawmakers in Republican-controlled Common Core states might feel more empowered to challenge the standards or call for Trump to offer incentives for states to move away from them.
Earlier this year, DeVos was vocal about her belief that Trump did not represent the Republican party, as well as her hope that voters would move away from supporting him.
Yet, in a statement, Trump said DeVos is “a brilliant and passionate education advocate. Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”
(Next page: Education stakeholders react to the nomination–find out what they said)