For many years now, Betsy DeVos has been at the forefront of the school choice movement. She has not only become a symbol of this movement, but she has also completely changed the conversation regarding it. Before, the argument was that vouchers for private Christian schools would violate the separation of church and state. Now, DeVos and her supporters are claiming that both the separation of church and state and the right for school choice should be upholded on equal footing. We truly live in interesting times indeed.
For those who know Betsy DeVos well, a portrait of two individuals has emerged. Critics love to point out that there is the Betsy DeVos who is passionate about giving to generous causes and is wholly devoted to Michigan politics and remaking the state education in a version that is fair to everyone. On the other hand, many individuals feel that the Betsy DeVos who has made her mark as education secretary within the Trump administration is “tone deaf”, “unprepared” and “insulated.” Although it might seem like they are discussing two separate Betsy DeVos personas, these critics are pouncing on some of the gaffes DeVos in her first few months on the job as Trump’s education secretary.
One of the first mistakes that Betsy DeVos made was in praising historically black colleges and universities (HCBU’s) as being “pioneers” of school choice. Unfortunately, classifying these proud institutions as arising out of “school choice” is not right. HCBU’s originally arose simply because intelligent black persons were not able to go to a predominantly white college. In short, most HCBU’s were founded simply as a response to NO CHOICE, not as a result of choice. Betsy DeVos also ran into a bit of trouble because she told an individual representing Sandy Hook parents that some schools should allow guns “in order to protect against grizzly bears.” All of this unfortunately made her appear to be astonishingly ignorant.
However, on the other hand, many individuals will readily agree that they see in Betsy DeVos an individual who is not afraid to stand by her convictions. One recent incident was where she quietly disagreed with President Trump and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on removing the Obama transgender bathroom policy. She was in favor of keeping it; they decided to go ahead and remove it. Even the political enemies of Betsy DeVos found this to be a good thing. There is no question that Betsy DeVos has a good heart, and there is no question she is a reformer as well.
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