Education Secretary gets an education
by Emma Cassidy
Staff Education Lover
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos faced heavy criticism after her 60 Minutes interview last week in which she was unable to answer questions about schools in her own state. DeVos sat down with veteran journalist Lesley Stahl to discuss the steps she has taken in the past year and to weigh in on recent issues surrounding gun control.
During DeVos’ thirteen minute interview, the education secretary was stumped in the face of questions about school choice and campus sexual assault. DeVos’ also seemed to lack answers to questions asked about the performance of schools in Michigan, DeVos’ home state.
Lesley Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?
Betsy DeVos: I don’t know. Overall, I– I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.
Lesley Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.
Betsy DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this– the students are doing well and–
Lesley Stahl: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.
Betsy DeVos: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.
Lesley Stahl: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.
Betsy DeVos: Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.
Lesley Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?
Betsy DeVos: I have not, I have not, I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.
Lesley Stahl: Maybe you should.
Betsy DeVos: Maybe I should, yes.
DeVos failed to answer many of the journalist’s questions, or did so with little research and statistical background. As one of the richest and most controversial member of President Trump’s Cabinet, her responses added fuel to her enemy’s fire.
DeVos took to Twitter to defend herself from critics of her interview and attack 60 Minutes for cutting out some of her school statistics. She tweeted, saying: “also missing from @60Minutes: students at charter schools in Detroit are doing 2x better than their peers. The reforms are helping, but there’s so much more to do. We must help all students be better prepared for strong futures.”
Along with questions about the status of Michigan schools, Stahl also asked DeVos questions about the recent Florida school shooting and whether or not teachers should be armed.
With the social media movement that has uprooted due to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. DeVos has often found herself staring down the barrel of angry students. 17 people were killed at the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and now people want answers to their questions about gun reform.
With little over a year passing since her Senate confirmation hearing, DeVos has collected no shortage of critics. From the start, Democrats and some Republicans were hesitant to welcome President Trump’s choice of cabinet member with open arms due to Devos’ lack of experience as a school administrator or as an elected official.
Critics of DeVos fear for what her reforms will do to public education. DeVos is a known advocate and donor for private and charter schools and has little-to-no interaction with public schools. She said, “we should be funding and investing in students, not in school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.”
Many believe the reason Betsy DeVos wanted to be secretary of education was so she could promote school choice, offering parents options other than traditional public schools, such as private and charter schools. She has proposed massive cuts in public education funding and wants to shift billions to alternative players like private, parochial and charter schools.
Last week, President Trump is expected to appoint her as head of a new commission on school safety charged with developing policies to prevent school violence.