Prominent education figures on both the left and right have raised concerns about Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald J. Trump’s presumptive nominee for Secretary of Education, as she comes closer to confirmation hearings.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump announced his attention to appoint DeVos to lead the department, which provides funding and oversight to American schools and universities. DeVos, a billionaire by virtue of her marriage to Amway heir Richard DeVos, has been a prominent advocate for education reform in her home state of Michigan.
Among DeVos’ efforts have been a push for more charter schools – publicly-funded, privately-run educational institutions – and drastic changes to the employment terms and the pay rates of teachers and other educators.
These reforms, many of which were enacted after Rick Snyder was elected Michigan Governor in 2010, have been fiercely opposed by teachers’ unions. Charter schools are typically exempt from the strong contracts that organized labor has negotiated with public schools, a policy that is anathema to teachers’ unions.
After Trump’s plan to nominate DeVos was announced, teachers’ unions predictably howled. However, The Washington Post reports that opposition to the DeVos nomination has also come from prominent school choice activists.
Many are worried that DeVos will make school choice policies synonymous with her brand of conservative Republican ideology and make charter schools and other educational innovations less popular in urban areas, which have seen dramatic growth in the number of charters in recent years.