Hard lessons for Betsy DeVos: Will she stay or will she go?

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a dinner hosted by the Washington Policy Center in Bellevue, Wash. DeVos’ school choice agenda got a bit of a boost from the Republican tax bill, which would allow parents to use education savings accounts to pay tuition at private and religious elementary and secondary schools. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Over the last few months, news reports have touched on Betsy DeVos’ rising frustration with the inflexible bureaucracy of the U.S. Department of Education, the limited power of her office and the failure to get traction on her school choice agenda.

Now, a profile in Politico is fueling speculation that there will be a short tenure for her as Secretary of Education. Huffington Post asked last night: “Will Betsy DeVos Make It A Year As U.S. Education Secretary?”

Let me say this upfront: I think DeVos has probably been surprised at the limits of her office, but I don’t see strong evidence that she will resign or be forced out. She is a true believer in her cause and still has a national podium with which to promote her education philosophy.

Describing DeVos as treading water, the in-depth profile by Tim Alberta in Politico says:

She has yet to fill senior staff positions, and it’s widely known that numerous prominent Republicans having turned down offers. She has struggled to acclimate to the proverbial big ship that turns slowly. Perhaps most significant, she failed to persuade the committees of jurisdiction in Congress to approve her and the department’s budget request, which would have slashed funding to other initiatives in the name of expanding DeVos’ pet cause, school choice. It amounted to an embarrassing repudiation of a president and a secretary in their first year, when there is traditionally the most political capital to spend—especially considering Republicans control both the House and Senate.

“She can talk about bureaucracy and how constraining it is for her, but a Republican-controlled Congress rejected her budget proposals. She can’t fill her senior staff slots. Morale is terrible at the department,” says Thomas Toch, the director of FutureEd, an independent education think tank at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy. “And I’ll tell you, in Washington education circles, the conversation is already about the post-DeVos landscape, because the assumption is she won’t stay long. And for my money, I don’t think it would be a bad thing if she left. I think she’s been probably one of the most ineffective people to ever hold the job.”

In the profile, DeVos complains the Trump transition team sent her into the contentious Senate confirmation hearings “undercoached.” (She will never live down her grizzly bear response to why guns are needed in schools.) Nor did DeVos agree with the Trump team’s strategy of keeping her away from the press during that time, telling Politico, “So it gave weeks and weeks of open shots for my opponents to take.”

That may seem surprising candor from the appointee of a mercurial president known to value loyalty above all else. Either DeVos feels secure in her job or doesn’t see a future in it.  I would argue for the former — she has the support of the president and believes her job is safe.

In the end, the Politico writer suggests DeVos will hang in there, despite her thinned expectations of what she can accomplish, writing: “Anyone betting against DeVos serving all four years of Trump’s first term—which, she tells me, she plans to do—is underestimating the sense of duty and moral righteousness deeply embedded in someone who could be doing just about anything else right now. “

Reader Comments 0

28 comments
tman53
tman53

The Department of Education provides a significant amount of money to local school districts. The federal Title I, Title III, and special education monies are huge.

Tcope
Tcope

If we shut down the department of education at the federal level, none of us would notice the difference.  How much is budgeted for this department annually?

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

“She can talk about bureaucracy and how constraining it is for her, but a Republican-controlled Congress rejected her budget proposals. She can’t fill her senior staff slots. Morale is terrible at the department,” 


Looks like the 'great anti-school hope' that a lot of you deplorables were claiming would change education is nothing but an empty dress...

AudreyMiles
AudreyMiles

Vouchers are the biggest lie. If every parent is given $5000 Voucher per child, that does NOT guarantee they will get their children placed in a school let alone one in their area! Imagine spending the summer trying to find a school for two kids so you can avoid jail for not having them enrolled somewhere by August.

jerryeads
jerryeads

The only questions for Trump's administration to answer for her continuing tenure are (1) is she sufficiently clueless and incompetent and (2) can she do adequately extensive damage to the public education system?

At both the state and federal level, it appears that the goal of the Republicans (although I'll excuse Mr. Deal from this) is to ensure that there continues to be a sufficient supply of ill-educated and hence adequately gullible voters who will vote to make their lives worse and those of the "upper crust" better. Cutting funds to public schooling and making teaching as least desirable a profession as possible helps to ensure that Republicans can continue to replace democracy with their brand of authoritarianism most evidenced by their highly successful efforts at gerrymandering.

I get a huge kick out of the gullibles who want the state to pay for private schooling. State kicks in what, maybe $4k (might be 5)? The tuition for the private schools worth attending are something north of, say, $12k. The really good ones are $25k (here in metro Atlanta). So conning bigoted white people to resegregate the schools by sending their kids to grossly substandard (and unmonitored) private "schools" ensures a continuing supply of white dupes for the Republicans.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

" (She will never live down her grizzly bear response to why guns are needed in schools.)"

Self-fulfilling prophecy, Maureen. She certainly won't if you continue to bring it up.

Susan Culbreth
Susan Culbreth

GOOOOOO! You should never have gotten the appointment.

Q1225
Q1225

Get government out of the school business.  Mothers should teach their daughters to cook and tend to the house, while fathers should teach their sons a trade and proper marksmanship.  Both parents should instill Christian values in their children.  No school, public or private, is fit for this job.  Period.

2alt.ajc
2alt.ajc

The liberals over at Politico know that Secretary DeVos is not only a beacon of hope to parents frustrated by failing public schools. 

She has also overturned wrongheaded department policy in areas including adjudicating accusations of campus sexual assault, and is focused on bringing about a sane policy regarding race and discipline in public schools.

Paul Spencer
Paul Spencer

I'm for school choice and vouchers for families to send their children to private schools or to help defray the cost of home school.

Mary Ingram Finney
Mary Ingram Finney

That would be fabulous except those vouchers would pull money from the public schools & leave them with nothing. That punishes kids for the ability to have a free, fair public education.

Paul Spencer
Paul Spencer

Keeping the money in bad public schools also punishes students.

Paul Spencer
Paul Spencer

And we have tried public schools and they fail.

Melinda Nguyen
Melinda Nguyen

Perhaps if politicians who have no experience in education stopped making stupid decisions that effects our day to day.. maybe we wouldn't be "failing".

Bob Doty
Bob Doty

From my perspective, public education has been destroying itself for the past 30 some-odd years.

Dan Whisenhunt
Dan Whisenhunt

It's impossible for a public institution to destroy itself. They are ultimately an extension of the public that elects its leaders. Years of politicized rhetoric about education has eroded confidence in the system. When we have people insisting that Creationism get equal billing with evolution in history textbooks, we have a serious, serious problem.

Astropig
Astropig

 It doesn't really matter,except to her (numerous) enemies.The DOE doesn't hire teachers,fire teachers,set curricula,build schools or set any licensing standards.The department has a lot more influence over higher education than state or local schools.


She fought back against the kangaroo courts that relate to college sexual assault cases by letting schools know that due process would be looked on with favor in her department.If she does nothing else during whatever time she spends in the job,I'll consider her a rousing success.Standing up for the right thing after 8 years of a mostly lawless and clueless administration has been a breath of fresh air.She refused to buckle under to paid protesters and doesn't apologize for what she believes,so I think she'll be just fine.


Like we've seen at the state level,this job is more about setting a tone and symbolic gesture than any real power.Real power is putting her family's money to work to expand educational choice for less well off parents,and you can bet your boots that she'll go back to doing that when she leaves government.

Blynne Roberts
Blynne Roberts

No future for her if she's going to "destroy" Education in America!!! Go back to where you don't have to care about people or follow rules... #BeGone