New education leader earns an F during hearings

Noor Naji, Asst. Opinion Editor

If there was one word to describe the Trump administration and his cabinet members, it would be unqualified. Not surprisingly, this perfectly describes Trump’s choice for the secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

The new leader of the Department of Education has had no actual experience in the field before landing this position. Besides saying that guns may be needed in schools because of “potential grizzlies,” DeVos has had some strong stances on certain education-related issues.

Also, not only is Betsy DeVos unqualified for her job, there is a major conflict of interest. According to CNN, she has given donations to a number of the senators on the education panel. Additionally, according to NowThis, she has donated to the campaigns of 22 senators who were present during her confirmation hearing, including Marco Rubio, John McCain, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  

Prior to this, she has been an advocate for school vouchers and charter schools, most apparent in her home state of Michigan. Her family’s foundation donated millions of dollars and strongly lobbied for such schools.

“My orientation is around parents and children,” DeVos said. “When parents choose charter schools, they are doing so because they think it’s a great choice for their children.”

Many parents and educators have accused the billionaire of creating unregulated schools,which resulted in poor performance in schools, because of her stance and funding of charter schools in Michigan. According to NBC news, “the state has 300 charter schools, and more than 80 percent are run by for-profit companies — the highest rate in the nation.”

          Most believe that for-profit schools care less about education and more about making money. This was made  apparent by results showing  that charter school students in Michigan scored lower than students in traditional schools on performance tests. According to a Detroit Free Press’ investigation on the matter, 150 charter schools in the state have been around for only 10 years and 64 percent of them ranked in the bottom half of ranked schools.

Moreover, in one of her weakest moments during her confirmation hearing, DeVos said that it was “premature” for her to commit to Obama’s 2011 regulations that requires colleges to further investigate cases of sexual assault on campus.

Additionally, DeVos seemed evasive, and at times, idiotic when answering questions at her first confirmation hearing. She stated that it should be up to the states and locales to enforce the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, which “guarantees students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate education.” However, she later said that she fully supports the act, and claimed to be “confused” about the four-decade old law.

In comparison to Obama’s secretary of Education, unqualified would be an understatement for Trump’s pick. DeVos has a bachelor’s degree from Calvin College, whereas, Obama’s Secretary of Education John King Jr. earned a degree from Harvard, a master’s and doctorate degree from Columbia and a law degree from Yale. Moreover, King was a New York commission of education prior to his job. During Obama’s first term, before King, Arne Duncan served as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools before becoming secretary of Education.

Duncan also attended the University of Chicago, then later achieved a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Harvard. Both had prior experience in the field, unlike Devos.

This trend can be seen in Trump’s entire cabinet, some with minimal degrees, and others, such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who did not attend graduate school at all. Trump’s Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, has a degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M. Perry also pledged to get rid of the department he is now the head of when he ran  for president in 2012.

Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz, Obama’s secretaries of Energy were extremely more suited for the job in comparison with Perry. Chu was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and is currently a professor of Physics and Molecular & Cellular Physiology at Stanford University. He also has a B.A. in Math, a B.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from Berkeley. His successor Moniz earned a Ph.D. from Stanford in theoretical physics. Moniz is now the head of the physics department at MIT. Compared to all of Obama’s picks, Trump’s choice seems to be lacking an essential of the department she is head of–education.

As DeVos takes her new position, she has the opportunity  to change things–for the worse–for students across the nation.