Betsy Devos began her career as the new head of the Education Department in the Trump administration amid a certain amount of controversy. Her confirmation hearings had her embattled, and she was only confirmed to the position when Vice President Pence was called in to break a 50-50 tie vote. Since then, DeVos has continued in her position amidst criticism that she knows little about public schools, as she never served in one, nor did her children ever attend one. Now, Devos has raised a few more eyebrows with her actions of seemingly going behind the back of President Trump after his recent action on transgender bathroom use.
During the Obama administration, Obama okayed a federal policy that allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms of their newly assigned gender. Trump, however, took action to rescind that policy, and publicly, Devos supported the move, saying that Obama’s ruling was an example of “executive overreach.” Privately, however, Devos met with a representative for gay and transgender people in her department, to warn them that the ruling was coming.
A Private and Public Face
All of this supports the criticism that has come of Devos that she behaves very meekly in public, but privately, she is a hard-charging political fighter who will behave fiercely in order to get her way. As a Republican party chairwoman in Michigan, Devos had a reputation for using her position, and her vast wealth (she is a billionaire) to achieve her political ends. She was known to be very “determined” and “steely” when she had her mind set on a certain goal. Others noted that she did in fact “instill fear” in some people, with her way of setting her own agenda, regardless of the cost to others.
An Interest in Charter Schools
As the head of the department of education, DeVos is in charge of public schools in the United States. Her lack of experience in managing or even taking part in the administration of a public school is part of what lead to the controversy surrounding her appointment to the position. DeVos has, in fact, been very involved in the charter schools movement in Michigan, promoting the use of vouchers for students who wanted to leave a failing public school. Right now, the situation with public schools in Michigan is deteriorating, and the voucher approach apparently hasn’t helped lead to any improvements. More than anything, DeVos seems to support a free market approach to schools, and she is in favor of schools run as for profit businesses.
Right now, the situation with the school system in Detroit is described as “chaotic,” and DeVos, thus far, has made no real moves to improve the situation.
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