After Betsy DeVos, the 59 year old billionaire philanthropist and activist from Michigan, was announced to be Secretary of Education, UMBC students and the press had conflicting feelings regarding her new position.
On Feb. 7, the Senate confirmed DeVos as President Trump’s education secretary at her confirmation hearing. The vote was 51-50 with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Preceding the Cabinet pick, according to NPR, two Republican senators announced their plans to defect, enticing Democrats to rally overnight in hopes that one more Republican would vote against DeVos’s confirmation.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, she will be managing 4,400 employees and a $68 billion annual budget. Shortly after the announcement that DeVos would be Secretary of Education, UMBC students voiced their opinions of the recent Cabinet pick.
Amanda Moy, a sophomore biological sciences major, stated, “She is wholly unqualified for the position and I think that she will damage our educational system to the point where we will feel repercussions long past this current administration.” She added, “Also I’m super excited that she’s finally addressing the important grizzly bear epidemic that our public schools have been facing. A true American hero.”
Jackie Johnson, a sophomore political science major, stated, “There is already so much talk surrounding the standard of our public education system in comparison with the rest of the world. To nominate and approve of someone who has no experience with our public schooling system to be the head of education is not the best way to raise our standards. It could change the education system in the country for the worse.”
Leah Prescott, an education major who has been interning in inner-city Baltimore Public Schools for the past two years, also had strong opinions regarding the recent Cabinet pick.
She stated, “This woman cannot represent each type of education, given that she has stated her opposition to public education and that the public schools within her state of Michigan are failing. This is not reflective on public schooling, but rather DeVos’s insistence in placing charter, religious, homeschooling and for-profit schools above public schooling”
Prescott added that DeVos’s government subsidy program “may lead to major problems in our educational system” and “…may lead to overflooding of “high-performance” schools, making classroom sizes much larger and instruction less individualized.”
“This could create financial inequity among schools and students. I fear that this will displace lower-income, POC students to public, or cheaper charter schools, which will have less support and resources. As someone involved in the Inner-City Baltimore School District, I think DeVos’s actions will directly hinder the black youth,” Prescott stated.
Brett Ford Strong, a sophomore mathematics major, had contradictory opinions regarding DeVos’s new position. He stated, “I am very happy that Betsy Devos has become the secretary of education. I strongly support school choice since it allows students to leave their failing public schools and receive a higher quality education elsewhere and I also support Title IX reform.”
Strong added, “I support reducing the influence of the teacher’s union. She will almost certainly be a net positive. However, I even more so support the complete abolition of the department of education.”
Exactly how DeVos’s leadership as Secretary of Education will impact public universities across the nation remains to be seen.