One billionaire education reformer about another: DeVos is ‘unprepared and unqualified’

Donald Trump’s education nominee Betsy DeVos cleared a Senate committee vote but may face a challenge with the full Senate now. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In some ways, Eli Broad and Betsy DeVos are remarkably similar. Both billionaires, they champion charter schools and devote considerable sums to the cause.

They both grew up in Michigan. DeVos was born to a billionaire business owner and married another, Dick DeVos, whose father co-founded Amway. Born to Lithuanian immigrants, Broad became a billionaire, building two Fortune 500 companies, SunAmerica Inc. and KB Home (formerly Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation).

But Broad does not believe DeVos should be confirmed as U.S. education secretary, declaring in a letter to U.S. senators she is neither qualified nor prepared.

Broad’s letter comes in a week where two Republican senators broke with the GOP pack and announced they will not vote for DeVos. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska say she lacks the experience to lead the federal education agency.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has given $590 million to schools and students. One of the foundation’s principles: “We believe public schools must remain public.”

DeVos, on the other hand, endorses privatization, saying,  “We think of the educational choice movement as involving many parts: vouchers and tax credits, certainly, but also virtual schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and charter schools.”

The Broad Foundation created the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education, which came with a $1 million award. Gwinnett County Public Schools won in 2014 and 2010. (The award program was suspended in 2015.) Broad has handed out $123 million in public school improvement grants and $16 million in college scholarships. Charter schools supported by his foundation educate 109,000 students.

Here is his letter to senators about why DeVos should not be approved:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee vote yesterday to refer President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to the full Senate for confirmation was surprising and disappointing. I am writing to urge you to vote against Mrs. DeVos’s confirmation. Like many Americans, including public school educators and parents, I watched the committee’s confirmation hearing with dismay. While I have never met Mrs. DeVos, she undoubtedly is kind and well-intended and cares deeply about children, as evidenced by her philanthropic work. However, these personal characteristics do not qualify someone for the massive responsibility of overseeing the education of our nation’s students. I am a big believer in high-quality public schools and strong accountability for all public schools, traditional and charter.

Before Mrs. DeVos’s hearing, I had serious concerns about her support for unregulated charter schools and vouchers as well as the potential conflicts of interest she might bring to the job. Her testimony not only reinforced my concerns but also added to them. I now also question her ability to enforce key provisions of the range of federal statutes entrusted to this role. Indeed, with Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, much of the good work that has been accomplished to improve public education for all of America’s children could be undone.

At the risk of stating the obvious, we must have a Secretary of Education who believes in public education and the need to keep public schools public. We must have a Secretary of Education who will vigorously defend the rights of all students to have safe, fair and equitable learning opportunities and who recognizes the critical role of the Department of Education’s Office of

Civil Rights. And after far too many school shootings in this country, we must have a Secretary of Education who believes guns have no place in our schools. In short, I believe she is unprepared and unqualified for the position. As someone who is deeply committed to the belief that all children deserve access to a strong public education, I hope you will join me in opposing Mrs. DeVos’s nomination

 

Reader Comments 0

215 comments
Michael Cline
Michael Cline

Brought her position....Senators took the money and America's children be damned.

Jack Warner
Jack Warner

so she is a successful woman? why are you against this ajc?

Bill Sanders
Bill Sanders

Eli Broad is unqualified and unasked to make that statement

Darryn Stevens
Darryn Stevens

Duh...our children's education is in jeopardy under this band of idiots...SMH #thanksforreading

Ron Elekes
Ron Elekes

Most of our puplic schools are terrible. Our kids come out and have to take classes just to start college.

Lynda Perot
Lynda Perot

Vote this woman in. She can do a better job that what's been going on for the last 8 years. Our children's education depends on it

Tommy Frizzell
Tommy Frizzell

Time to try a different approach! What we are doing has not been working for years!

Don Orem
Don Orem

The vote for confirmation will speak volumes about whether this is about partisan politics or sustaining/improving our country's education system. This candidate is not qualified to oversee our Education System. Bought her nomination and has NEVER EVER been involved in any way with Public Education. Based strictly on merit this should be a NO-BRAINER for all of us. No...No & No ! In the best interest of our country not a political agenda. Hold your elected officials accountable for protecting us.

Tommy Frizzell
Tommy Frizzell

Our school system has been broken for years! We are graduating high schoolers that can barely read and write! We need to change our approach and our thinking to move past the roadblocks! Let's get out of the ditch of failure and welcome new ideas! Can't get any worse!

Don Orem
Don Orem

Tommy Frizzell could not agree more. My position is however to bring in someone who understands the process and needs. This candidate is not qualified and has a one sided view point. She bought her nomination and I have a problem with that. Thanks for a civil response.

Judie Gittner-Kelly
Judie Gittner-Kelly

I don't agree with Charter schools. There is absolutely nothing wrong with public schools. No, I don't think she's qualified.

Daniel Horner
Daniel Horner

In liberals eyes no one is qualified if they can not control them.

Barbara Austen Cheng
Barbara Austen Cheng

DeVos serves Republican interests well. She doesn't support public schools. Given all the charter nonsense - Republicans don't support public schools. They support investors and businesses who want to feed off the tax payer funded education budget. DeVos is their champion. Educating our kids is the least of their concerns - otherwise we wouldn't have this ridiculous amount to testing etc. Huge money to be made in education and we tax payers pay and so do our kids with a substandard education. Republicans also don't believe in separation of church and state. Again - DeVos education background doesn't matter - as long as she knows her Bible. Science, facts and critical thinking is a problem for the religious right and it's clear from the Senate Hearings - DeVos isn't interested in any of that stuff. So I'm sure Republicans love DeVos. She upholds all of their values and don't be fooled otherwise ... Public education is NOT a Republican value.

#SoreLosers
#SoreLosers

"I hope you'll confirm Betsy DeVos' nomination to be Secretary of Education. I think it's in our national interest to give her a chance."

"Everything I have seen tells me that Betsy is ready to take on this assignment and do it very well."

-- former Senator and Democratic nominee for Vice-President Joe Lieberman 

Diann VanLouvender
Diann VanLouvender

i hope she gets in. our kids are not doing well in these schools. parents should be able to send their kids to a good school and the states should pay. the unions don't like her. the gov picks and chooses where their kids go and we the tax payer pays for it. plus they get kick back from the unions. the schools arent teaching the childern right. they took out the flag, the prayer,s the pledge because it affends the muslims? get real .

David R. Thead
David R. Thead

Sounds like Eli's going to miss his kickback from the Unions.....poor guy, Time to get an apartment because you can no longer afford your giant home. Evil is always uncovered.

Donna Ross
Donna Ross

Billionaire billionaire wtf you gtta be rich what do they care bout you if youre not rich??????????

Shalinda Thompson-Evans
Shalinda Thompson-Evans

I wonder have anybody research that Michigan her own home state I which this charter schools thing have been tried for last 5 yrs don't even support her. 1. The schools there has turned into for profit schools because there's no gov. regulation in turn the children suffer. Parents must pay even if the teachers not teaching up to par with educational system, Look up the reports for Michigan's charter school in fact the charter schools have scored way below the public schools in same area on testing in just about every subject. So basically the plan she wants for education is a disaster and the only person profitting is whoever running the charter schools. Also the people that live in rural areas this is a disaster because if your hometown only have one or 2 schools if they fail you can't transfer like the bigger cities. And by reading some of the comments it is easy to tell that some of the supporters didn't do their own research and but also had a bad education as well \U0001f60e

TaMeka Peebles
TaMeka Peebles

That's why as parents we can't leave our children's education in the hands of the teachers or the government.

Bryan Sorohan
Bryan Sorohan

About 30 million other Americans, including quite a few education professionals, have been saying that since Trump nominated her. But I guess it takes somebody with money before the newshawks at the AJC will notice.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

I note that many arguing in favor of DeVos do not really seem to have any factual support for their opinions - just some oft repeated variation on,  "Unions and teachers bad, m'kay?" or  "Charters good, m'kay?" or "Public schools failing, m'kay?"


Or for some reason they feel the need to bring up Obama, who has absolutely nothing to do with this issue.


Sad.

Starik
Starik

@Quidocetdiscit I note that teachers and unions vehemently oppose change in the public educational system, because, I firmly believe, bad and mediocre teachers might lose their jobs and drop out of the middle class. That has to happen if we're going to revive public schools - an institution I firmly support.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Starik @Quidocetdiscit


How many teachers do you honestly know, Starik?  I know quite a few, and the number of bad teachers is about comparable to any other profession.  I have known about three or four horrible teachers and an handful of mediocre.  Most teachers are average to good - a few are super.  Really bad teachers do not last long these days.  I know it doesn't fit the talking points, but this is not an easy job... I am not sure what you expect - only superb teachers?  Maybe if teachers got more support and respect from the public.  Maybe if their pay hadn't stagnated over the past decade.  Maybe if their benefits were not being eroded.  Maybe if the general public didn't casually suggest they are all "lazy takers who can't do any sort of REAL job" (whatever the heck that is...) Maybe then, the profession could attract a bunch of super teachers... but under current conditions? Not likely.


As far as having bad teachers maintain their positions in schools - this is less the fault of unions than many other factors. I have worked in union states and non union states.  I found that non-union states tended to have MORE bad teachers in place.  That is because teaching conditions are often worse in non-union states.  Unions work for better teaching conditions and benefits and thus attack better teachers. In non union states, it is easier for a bad teacher to remain in place because no one else will take the position, except another bad teacher.  Better schools and better districts have no trouble attracting good teachers. You can also lay some of the blame for entrenched poor teachers at the feet of spineless or lazy administrators who will not bother with the documentation required to get rid of poor teachers.  Plus there is always the ubiquitous family and friends plan in which higher ups cover for the misdeeds of fellow educators who happen to be "friends or family"... 


By the way, unions do not "vehemently oppose change in the pubic educational system" as a rule of thumb.  There are many changes they have fought for to improve education for students.  I am not completely pro-teachers union.  They have made some truly bone-headed moves in my opinion - and some of them are too powerful for my taste.  However, there are also upsides to unions and having worked for both union states and non-union states, I can tell you that in this "Right to work" state, I have had to deal with practices that impact my students and myself negatively which never were allowed in union states. 


Unions, as with any powerful lobby force, can be a force for positive or negative policies.  There are not, in themselves, good or bad.

Starik
Starik

@Quidocetdiscit @Starik I post regularly of my respect for teachers, good teachers. I've had contact with lots of them. At least a third shouldn't be teaching, and that goes for the principals too. I agree with most of what you say above.

Donna Delgadillo
Donna Delgadillo

Is ANYONE in the trump admin qualified or prepared? Most, like DeVos, are downright hostile to the department they are supposed to head.

Kenny Flanagan
Kenny Flanagan

The only qualification she needs is to be able to gut, and eventually shut down the Dept. Of Education. $15B budget to rank in the 20s in Math, Science, and Reading? No thanks. Let the states run their own education programs. Common Core is absurb.

Bryan Sorohan
Bryan Sorohan

Maybe they should teach more grammar, spelling, and punctuation in our schools.

Nia Webb
Nia Webb

Then Kenny would know the word is "absurd".

Winston Smith
Winston Smith

No--it does that all by itself. Leaving education to the states is the worst thing we could do. Unless you do think creationism is science.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

How about some honesty when discussing such statistics.  Such as ranking in the 20s when compared with countries which do not test all of their students but only the top ones, which do not educate all of their students, which do not have the level of income inequity that we suffer, or which provide a much higher level of funding for their educational systems.

Kenny Flanagan
Kenny Flanagan

'Vote against their own interests". And there it is. Democrats/Statists know what's best for everyone. If only we'd shut up and get in line.

Tim Chadd Sr.
Tim Chadd Sr.

Kenny your entire argument is faulty. States already are in control of their curriculum and the requirements to graduate, etc. The Federal government controls how the states receive funding and that is always up for debate on who should get what, but if your state is one of the bottom feeder states like Georgia it's because Georgia doesn't prioritize education like other progressive states do. I blame everyone there for continuing to vote for Republicans at the state level.

Ralph Johnson
Ralph Johnson

Yes stupid as hell like Georgia education or like you!

Kenny Flanagan
Kenny Flanagan

The DOE is not some foundation of America. It was formed in 1979 by Carter. One of those dumb Christian rednecks you guys are inferring about Georgians. While the Baby Boomer generation went through a school system that was top rated in the world at the time, the education ranking slipped for the generations to come. One report says we returned to a high ranking in 1985, but began the slide again and haven't recovered since. So I would surmise (thats my word of the day) that the DOE has been inefficient and ineffective for far more years than its been an asset.

Kenny Flanagan
Kenny Flanagan

So? My only concern with her is my original comment.

Winston Smith
Winston Smith

No one said Carter was a dumb Christian redneck--that's just a ruse to divert us from the fact that white Southern Christians in general have a tendency to vote against common sense and their own interest. And people like DeVos, looking for profit, and people like you, looking for some kind of home rule, have no vested interest in anyone getting educated at all--at least not in a freely accessible public school system.

Winston Smith
Winston Smith

I'm not a Democrat. And that Southern voting patterns have kept the South uneducated, unemancipated, and dependent on the federal government is clear to anyone. If you want to deny the South is poor and suffering from a continued brain drain, that's fine--but you're only proving my point by denying what's obvious. By all means, wallow in your white privileged ignorance, but you don't live far from Atlanta, which for many Southerners is the last stop on their way out.

Kenny Flanagan
Kenny Flanagan

Lmao. Dropped a 'white privilege'. Didn't know I was talking to a potato.