Since his election, there have been numerous high-profile national figures competing for the attention of the President-Elect. However, Trump’s pick for Education, school voucher advocate and philanthropist, Betsy DeVos from Michigan, has kept a low profile.
DeVos, who currently serves as the Chair of the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy group, is a clear signal that Trump intends to follow through on school choice promises and educational reforms he proposed early in his campaign. Though DeVos has no apparent classroom experience, her consistent philanthropic efforts, ranging from the Foundation for Excellence in Education to securing tax-credit scholarships in Florida show that she has a commitment to reform in the educational system.
Trump was forceful on the stump leading up to his election that American schools were failing. He reserved harsh criticism for public schools, especially in America’s cities. Trump vowed to use federal funds to help states make school choice a reality through voucher programs. This has, seemingly, been at the core of DeVos’ advocacy.
Trump has also campaigned strenuously about the need to do-away with the Common Core Educational standards put forward by the Obama Administration and derided by parents and teachers across the nation as being an attempt at top-down administration of classrooms and learning environments. A brief review of DeVos’ public statements do not seem to provide her view on the subject, but one can be certain that marching orders from the President will be a review and repeal of many of the onerous restrictions placed on teachers and students.
It is important to note that DeVos was not firmly aboard the “Trump Train,” choosing, instead, to support John Kasich at the GOP nominating convention. She was a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and has made a mark in Party politics through raising large sums of money for GOP causes.
The selection of DeVos seems, at least at the outset, to be a consensus choice from the right to accomplish many of the educational reforms that Republican politicians have been pushing for decades. Rather than selecting a Democrat, as several names were thrown around for Education Secretary, Trump has decided to fall-in with the Party line in order to accomplish his objectives. This is likely to result in his successful ability to leave his mark on the educational system.
In tapping a philanthropist Republican, there will likely be some snapback from Democrats who will think Ms. DeVos is a puppet of the Party. However, the advocacy for school choice and her commitment to learning seem to be her life’s mission that she can continue in leadership. Also, given her significant experience leading organizations, there is likely little doubt she will be able to step into the role without much difficulty.