Americans United and other advocates of church-state separation put up a spirited fight, but voucher advocate Betsy DeVos was confirmed as U.S. secretary of education Feb. 7.
It was a close vote. The Senate tied 50-50 on DeVos, and she got the job only because Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie. It was the first time in history that a cabinet secretary appointee received a tie vote.
It’s an inauspicious beginning, and we have no reason to believe things will suddenly get better for public education in America. DeVos is simply not qualified for the job she has just been handed. Ninety percent of America’s school-aged children attend public schools, and DeVos doesn’t even support that system. She has dedicated her professional career to promoting misguided voucher schemes.
It’s not necessary that the secretary of education have classroom experience – although that would be a refreshing change of pace – but at a minimum, the person who oversees education in America should support the system the vast majority of our children rely on every day.
The only good news about this appointment is that it has energized people all over America, including, most importantly, parents. Despite the propaganda from the far right, Americans really do support public education. Americans know that strong public schools make strong neighborhoods and strong communities.
DeVos and President Donald Trump favor privatization on a massive scale. During his campaign, Trump proposed a nationwide, $20 billion voucher plan. There is no way a plan of that size and scale could be implemented without doing massive damage to our public schools.
The battle lines have been drawn. DeVos, whom Church & State once called “a four-star general in the war on public schools,” may be in the driver’s seat, but if her plan calls for dismantling public education she’ll soon find that Americans will stand up and derail her.