Trump’s education secretary faces public backlash

Trump’s education secretary faces public backlash
Trump education secretary, photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

Betsy DeVos raised eyebrows over her less-than-composed manner in her first TV interview as the United States Secretary for Education under the Trump administration. It has only contributed to the controversy surrounding Trump and his questionable choices for government officials.

Nominated by Donald Trump to serve as education secretary after his first pick, Jerry Falwell Jr, rejected his offer, Betsy DeVos’ position was confirmed by a historically close margin. With a vote of 51-50 by the Senate, it was the first time that a Cabinet nomination was dependent on the US Vice President’s tie-breaking vote.

Coming from a rich family that has financially supported the United States Republic party, Betsy DeVos’ nomination caused a public stir. Her advocacy for the diversion of public school funding into schemes which allow parents to send their children to private, religious, and charter schools has attracted an amount of controversy.

And it seems that Betsy DeVos still has a long way to go in proving herself as the right choice for Secretary for Education to the U.S. public. The education secretary’s visit to the school in Parkland, Florida recently affected by a shooting resulted in a huge amount of social media backlash with students labeling it as a clear publicity stunt. Her recent appearance on a TV interview hasn’t helped her reputation in the public sphere.

In the interview, DeVos demonstrated a continued support of charter and private schools. She asserted a belief that above all, parents should be given options for their children’s education. DeVos defended her position, stating that studies in Florida have shown when more options for schooling are given, public schools have performed better.

When asked about the declining performance of public schools in Michigan, however, DeVos had little to say for her home state’s education system with which she has had much involvement, simply agreeing they needed to do better.

DeVos’ advocacy for parents to have access to more schooling options seems like a noble proposition. But is it practical to divert funds from the public schooling system that 90% of US students attend, to the private and charter schools which mostly service children of higher-earning citizens?

When questioned about DeVos’ interview, The White House press secretary emphasised Trump’s focus on developing a policy for school safety over any interviews by his cabinet members. Despite DeVos saying she struggled to picture her teachers handling a gun, Trump’s position on gun laws indicate that this is the direction future reform will take.