It is obvious that the Republican Party currently maintains a higher position of power in the government because of the election of a new president. However, with many unqualified people being selected for important positions, a real question is posed: Is the Republican Party being convinced to follow its members without assessing how successful the candidates will be?
On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the secretary of education despite her worrisome background with education. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) said in DeVos’ confirmation hearing in January, “the financial futures of an entire generation of young people depends on (her) department getting (its job) right.”
Supporters of DeVos mention that they want control over schools to go back to states and communities. This could even allow for religious control over schools. This does not ensure that everyone will receive the same education, because it will cause standards to vary and be inconsistent, which will further divide our country. It is also essential that her followers realize that not everyone is a follower of her beliefs but that they should still receive equal and non-discriminatory education. Now that she has been confirmed, the quality of our public education could decrease, affecting at least 50.4 million public K-12 students and ultimately moving our society backward.
There is minimal evidence for why Republicans voted yes on DeVos for everyone’s best interests, not just their own. Only two voted against her.
Her visions do not have the best interests of any of us at heart. Proper education should not be a privilege, because with it, we are a better society. It seems as though the Republican Party does not care about education — the priority for its members seems to be money. DeVos has personally donated about $115,000 to Republican senators prior to her confirmation, and her foundation contributed $1.45 million to the party and to candidates who lobbied for a Detroit Public Schools plan that ultimately would cause the poorly performing public schools to close, but not the bad charter schools. She has been blamed for destroying the public school system in Michigan, especially in Detroit. Our state’s education ranking has fallen over the years and is predicted to fall further by 2030.
An exchange between Warren and DeVos affirms she has little to no idea about how financial aid works. Since she is someone of higher socioeconomic status, she cannot fully understand how money is a limiting factor for people of lower socioeconomic statuses in pursuing education. It’s hard to forget that she has not attended, worked in or sent her children to public schools. The way students will be treated will be affected because of her views. She cannot identify with many of us, and her actions will only benefit the families who can afford to send their children to private school because her policies will have little to no effect on them.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) also questioned her during her confirmation hearing, asking, “Do you think if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family has not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican party, that you would be sitting here today?” Her rebuttal mentioned that she worked with low-income students, yet she has not even glanced at the under-funded schools in Detroit. Her “donated” money ultimately went into buying herself a spot in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet.
She claims that every student should have access to high-quality options for education, but she would not agree to work with Sanders to make public colleges free.
Even for moral issues, she could not explicitly say she supports that every taxpayer-funded K-12 school be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Care Act. Instead, she believes it should be up to states, which means she does not believe that the existing law that protects disabled students should be enforced. Sen. Tim Kaine (D–Va.) simply states why this is problematic: “Some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states not so good and, what then, people could just move around the country if they don’t like how kids are being treated?” She had the same solution on schools reporting discipline, harassment and bullying: leave it up to the state. If she does not want to enforce a safe school environment for all children, how can the Republicans who voted for her identify with her and support her choices?
Her actions hit even closer to home for many college students, namely because she could not commit to preserving Title IX guidance, passed to prevent gender discrimination and protect sexual violence survivors and act against sexual assault by investigating immediately, which Trump wants to repeal. Her donations include thousands of dollars to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that has fought legislation aimed to prevent campus sexual assault.
DeVos threatens schools not only in an ideological sense but also because of her inexperience and financial support of groups that are working against creating equality for all. Every student should be able to access public education without partisan politics muddling its quality.
Anurima Kumar is an LSA freshman.