Donald Trump names Betsy DeVos as education secretary

23rd November 2016 at 18:55
Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, education secretary
The incoming president has chosen an advocate of charter schools and private school vouchers as his first education secretary

Donald Trump has named Betsy DeVos – an advocate for charter schools and private school vouchers – as his new education secretary.

The incoming president described Ms Devos as a “brilliant and passionate education advocate”. She becomes the second woman to be appointed to his cabinet.

On Twitter, Ms DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican party, said: “I am honored to work with the President-elect on his vision to make American education great again. The status quo in ed is not acceptable.

“Together, we can work to make transformational change to ensure every student has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.”

Ms DeVos had met with Mr Trump at the weekend to discuss the role. A statement from his transition team said their conversation had “focused on the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation”.

Education activist Ms DeVos is currently the chair of the American Federation for Children, which promotes charter schools and vouchers for private schools. As an advocate for parental choice, she has also promoted the right for students to attend schools in other neighborhoods and virtual schools.

Ms DeVos moved quickly after being appointed to address what some had seen as a point of contention between her and Mr Trump - the Common Core.

During the presidential race, Mr Trump described the Common Core as a "disaster", but Ms DeVos is associated with a number of organisations that has supported the policy. She is on the board of directors of Excellence In Education, a non-profit established by former Florida Governoe Jeb Bush, which promotes school choice and the Common Core.

But Ms DeVos posted on Twitter that she did not back the policy, with a link to her website. A statement there read: "I am not a supporter—period. I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control. When Governors such as John Engler, Mike Huckabee, and Mike Pence were driving the conversation on voluntary high standards driven by local voices, it all made sense. 

"Have organizations that I have been a part of supported Common Core? Of course. But that’s not my position. Sometimes it’s not just students who need to do their homework.

"However, along the way, it got turned into a federalized boondoggle. Above all, I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education."

Michelle Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of schools in Washington DC, had also been in the running for the role of education secretary.

However, having met with Mr Trump at the weekend she publicly withdrew from the contest today.

In a series of tweets, Ms Rhee said: "I am not pursuing a position with the Administration but I have appreciated the opportunity to share my thoughts on education with the PEOTUS (president elect of the United States). Interestingly many colleagues warned me against doing so. They are wrong. Our job as Americans is to want him to succeed.

"Wishing for his failure would be wanting the failure of our millions of American children who desperately need a better education."

Mr Trump said relatively little about education during his election campaign. However, he did pledge to make $20 billion available to introduce more choice and competition into the public school system. He also, like Ms DeVos, supports charter schools and private school vouchers.

Mr Trump also vowed during his election campaign to cut the education department “way, way, way back”, although it is unclear if he intends to push ahead with that pledge.

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