JOSEPH CANNING | firstname.lastname@example.org
A Historic Controversy
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made history on January 31st by becoming the first cabinet nominee in United State’s history to be appointed following a tie-breaking vote being cast by Vice President Mike Pence.
DeVos’s nomination had been tormented by scathing allegations from Democrat, Independent, and Republican Senators alike that she was ill-suited to advise President Donald Trump regarding education.
DeVos was voted in entirely by Republicans, which was no surprise given her extensive involvement with the party’s affiliate in her home state of Michigan between 1992 and 2005.
Additionally, the Secretary is a billionaire from her numerous investments and involvement with a multitude of corporations. Through the All Children Matter PAC she has contributed millions of dollars to GOP campaigns that fought for federally funded school vouchers that would allow American students to attend private schools. However, absent from her credentials is any experience in an educational role—whether in administration or teaching—whatsoever.
DeVos’s zealous support for private schools, her myriad business commitments, and her failure to complete her ethics review—intended to assure no conflicts of interest arise—until two days after her confirmation hearing inflamed the already heated opposition to her nomination. Senate Democrats led the charge against DeVos in a 24-hour stand on the senate floor just before the confirmation vote.
Debate in the Senate
Her critics censured her unwillingness to consider the efficacy of the long-standing public school system in face of the privatization that she had spent decades supporting. This would inevitably draw federal funds away from public schools. Public schools in cities already struggle to get the funds they need, and many Democrat Senators expressed concern that students who attend such schools may not get the education they deserve.
Republican Senators—and the Secretary herself—defended their positions by insisting school vouchers and charter schools would provide the same quality of education to the poor that has been available to the wealthy. Proponents of these for-profit schools also stress the economic incentive to open them and the supposed bounty of options they will open to parents and their children.
The future of college education in the United States under the guidance of Secretary DeVos is unclear. The funding of state university systems such as the University of Wisconsin are unlikely to have their funding be disrupted directly by the assured privatization initiative; however, the increasingly unmanageable and prohibitive cost of financial aid that hinders many students in their college careers is a titanic problem and DeVos, having an admitted dearth of experience with student loans, will probably fail to ameliorate the issue.
In the area of civil rights, DeVos has much more power over state schools—and UW-Parkside—than in financial areas. Since 1975, the federal government has guaranteed certain rights for disabled students, but when DeVos was questioned about these students at her confirmation hearing, she responded by saying it was an “issue best left to the states.” She also urged states to consider allowing weapons on campus.
Though Secretary of Education DeVos’s role in Trump’s cabinet is likely to bring more changes to primary and secondary education, college students can expect possible social change on campus and, unfortunately, prospects look grim for a solution to student debt.