Secretary Betsy DeVos could severely derail higher education

If she does not take issues seriously, there will be lasting, ruinous implications

This last week, senate Democrats and Republicans faced off for President Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos. Now, acting Secretary DeVos has been criticized by a slew of Congress members about her clear lack of experience on several tiers.

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., cross-examined DeVos, she uncovered one sad reality: DeVos has never relied on a government assistance program — now she is in charge of one.

DeVos also revealed gross misunderstandings of foundational debates in the theory of education, stemming from her ineptitude in answering questions on proficiency versus growth from an educator’s standpoint.

It certainly is no surprise that the secretary was accepted by both the senate and the house. The GOP holds a strong majority in both, and Devos’ family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans in Congress. However, two GOP senators had the moral fortitude to vote against DeVos, forcing the vote into a tie offset by Vice President Mike Pence’s vote Tuesday.

Now, with DeVos confirmed, the prospect of strong federal leadership in education is grim. Secretary DeVos has been scornful of public education, advocating for privately-owned and for-profit schooling. When asked about accountability processes and procedures, her answer was clearly reflective of her inexperience. Even worse, in her defense of guns in school settings — an apparent point of contention in educational policy — DeVos invoked the example of a school in Montana that had a grizzly bear problem, and completely evaded the real, legitimate concerns about unfettered gun access and gun violence, especially after tragic events like the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. Her rationale — or lack thereof — behind these issues sends the message that she is grotesquely unprepared for her job.

Even more unclear is DeVos’ plans for higher education, though, we assume, she doesn’t have any concrete, resolute directives, and if she does, perhaps her staff should ensure they aren’t plagiarized.

We are in a time of staggering student loan defaults, and our campuses are stricken by an epidemic of sexual assault. The Department of Education is the gatekeeper of a more than $1 trillion student aid portfolio. And the Obama administration made significant changes in combating campus sexual assault. But if DeVos does not take these issues seriously, there will be lasting, ruinous implications for higher education in the U.S.

It’s saddening to see a billionaire at the helm of the education department, especially one who — by all available evidence — has never interacted with a public school. But with an administration that only seeks to turn the establishment on its head, DeVos’ confirmation is unsurprising. With a cavalier disregard for students’ right to education, DeVos won’t enrich the next generation of students, she’ll only strengthen her own pitiful ignorance.