Editorial: Betsy DeVos’ Education Plans Will Negatively Affect Public School Students

Lily Reavis, Editor-in-Chief

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the United States Education Secretary, with a senate vote of 51-50. As a Colorado public high school student, this affects my peers and I greatly.

Not only is DeVos wildly unqualified for the job via her lack of experience with public education or student loans, the schools that she is already responsible for are failing. Douglas N. Harris, professor of Economics at Tulane University, wrote in a 2016 New York Times op-ed that DeVos was partly responsible for “what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country.” The upcoming major push of public funds to private and charter schools is sobering, and it’s obvious that public school students will be affected.

DeVos is one of the architects of Detroit’s charter school system. These schools participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Many other schools who participate in the test, such as Baltimore or Cleveland, are among of the lowest-scoring school districts in the country. Even among these low-performing schools, Detroit is the lowest in math and reading scores, barely boasting 1% of students labeled as “proficient or above.”

In Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet, D, voted “no” on DeVos’ appointment while Sen. Cory Gardner, R, voted “yes.”  In Denver prior to the senate vote, over 100 people gathered outside of Gardner’s office to urge him to vote against DeVos. After the vote, protesters showed up at Gardner’s Denver office again, this time to show their disappointment with his vote.

Many have noted that Gardner has approved every nominee Trump has brought up. Others have pointed out that DeVos and her family donated around $46,800 to Gardner on his campaign. 23 sitting senators have received donations from DeVos’ family since 1993, and the only senator to recieve funds and vote “no” on DeVos was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Lobbyist billionaires are buying votes from elected officials, forcing our democratic system to tilt. 

As a public school student in Colorado, I feel an immense amount of pride for Sen. Bennet’s extreme opposition to DeVos. When the democratic party took the senate floor overnight on Monday, Feb. 6, he said “I am addressing the president and not Mrs. DeVos when I say that this nomination is an insult to schoolchildren and their families, to teachers and principals and communities fighting to improve their public schools all across this country.” This not only exemplifies the government attitude that makes democracy tick, but the unwillingness of Bennett to be “bought” by lobbyists. On the other side, however, I am ashamed at Sen. Gardner’s outright refusal to listen to his constituents. 

The appointment of DeVos, who has no experience in student loans, teaching or public education, therefore shows that the current government system is corrupt. Surely more than two republican senators are aware of the severe incompetence she possesses, but only two took action against it on Tuesday. Elected officials are aware of their actions and know that they are no longer representing the people, but keep doing so out of need for a future relationship with the president and the imminent wrath of GOP leaders if they stray from the status quo. 

As a public school student, I do not support the defunding of public schools, an apparent step in DeVos’ plan to shift the American focus from public to private and charter schools. To truly benefit every child, no matter their income level, public schools must be accepted, valued and continually improved by the government. The new Education Secretary fails to follow this plan, and could consequently embody the worst possible outcome for American education.

We have come too far to revert back to educating the wealthy and turning a blind eye to the poor. To benefit as a society and a nation, we must discourage the actions of Betsy DeVos and the capitalistic sellouts that have become our elected officials.