With a 51-50 victory, President Trump’s education secretary nomination, Betsy DeVos, has been confirmed. After the tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, the overnight protest held by the Democrats, angry constituents, and controversial hearings, she now holds the office.
Betsy DeVos education secretary, a philanthropist, and activist from Michigan will take leadership and management of 4,400 employees with a $68 billion annual budget.
Many are skeptical of President Trump’s choice and wonder what changes will be made that will affect the 50 million public school students and 20 million college students.
Although she is now the education secretary, DeVos’ role is limited with less than 10% of funding for K-12 schools coming from the feds.
The Higher Education Act is up for reauthorization and we are keeping our eye on three specific issues that may come up: the role of for-profit colleges, college costs and enforcement of Title IX (which governs sex discrimination).
* Title IX: DeVos stated during her hearing that it would be “premature” to say whether she would uphold the 2011 rule requiring colleges to actively prevent sexual assault on their campus’
* College Costs: “Free tuition” proposals from Democrats drew a lot of attention during the campaign however, as DeVos wisely dismissed the idea in her hearing stating, “There’s nothing in life that’s truly free.”
* For-profit Colleges: This has been a very controversial issue as of late when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went after many for-profit colleges alleging fraud and predatory lending. The two main ones that were forced to shut down were the Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute. The gainful employment rule was another point of concern during the hearings, which requires colleges to demonstrate that they were preparing a significant percentage of their students for the job market. DeVos said she would “review” rather than uphold that rule.
More state decision-making power is the name of the game with DeVos.
This is in line with the education law that was reauthorized last year, the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA, which covers annual testing, etc., and gives more authority to the states at the expense of the federal government, to identify and rectify failing schools.
Some have voiced concern that without a strong federal hand, some states will drop the ball on this. DeVos responded to this concern during her hearing stating, “It is necessary and critical for states to have the flexibility to determine how to identify and improve schools.”
DeVos has backed for-profit charter school operators in Michigan as her husband previously held financial stakes in the for-profit and online K12 and she defends virtual schools in her written answers to the Senate.
The American Federation for Children, for whom DeVos was a chair member, promotes vouchers and tax credit scholarships, which allow companies to offset tax liability by funding students to attend private schools. In Florida, 70% of these students go to religiously affiliated schools.