President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to nominate Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education has sent progressives around the country into a tizzy, with teachers unions and other groups denouncing her as a dramatic threat to the current status quo of public education.
Within the Republican Party, Trump’s choice was seen as a form of outreach, bringing in a woman who was a close ally of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and who had harshly criticized Trump during the GOP primaries.
But on the other side of American politics, DeVos made some figures apoplectic. DeVos, who chairs the American Federation for Children, has a long history of pushing for enhanced school choice around the country. According to the country’s top teachers unions, though, her true agenda is a corporate takeover of America’s schools.
“The president-elect, in his selection of Betsy DeVos, has chosen the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education,” said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten in a statement. “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America.”
The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, was equally unhappy.
“[DeVos] has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education,” complained the group’s president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”
Union hostility towards DeVos is no surprise. Charter schools and private schools, for which DeVos is a top advocate, both are far less unionized than regular public schools.
The progressive advocacy group Center for American Progress (CAP), meanwhile, complained that DeVos has no history of focusing on early childhood education or fighting against bullying, which it suggested should be top priorities for the secretary of education. It also warned that the DeVos pick could herald an effort to defund the Department of Education.
“By nominating a candidate with a proven record of hostility toward public education, Donald Trump is sending a troubling signal about his plans to privatize education from cradle to career, as well as scale back the Department of Education’s resources,” said CAP’s education vice president Catherine Brown.
While unions warned of a corporate takeover of education, other groups argued DeVos’s support for school vouchers would lurch America towards a theocracy.
“[DeVos] has fought to divert resources away from public schools into private, mostly religious institutions,” said Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This is indeed a dark day for public education in America.”
Similarly, the Interfaith Alliance said the DeVos pick suggested Trump has “little regard” for “the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”
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