President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary is a conservative billionaire who attended private schools and appears to have little personal experience with traditional public education.
Betsy DeVos, who Trump on Wednesday named to lead the U.S. Department of Education, has poured millions into promoting charter schools and education vouchers. She will head federal policy for the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools if confirmed to the Trump administration Cabinet post.
DeVos’ history suggests little familiarity with traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of U.S. students. She graduated from a private, Christian high school in Michigan, and attended a private college, according to Yahoo. Her four children also attended private, Christian schools, according to the education news site Chalkbeat. DeVos has never worked in public education, the outlet reported.
Instead, DeVos has worked to expand support and access to school vouchers and charter schools, which are privately run and publicly funded. DeVos, who is married to an heir of the marketing company Amway, has given millions to promote expanded access to school-choice options. That includes vouchers, which allow children to use public money to attend private schools.
Trump said during the campaign he supports vouchers and charter schools, and will be “the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice.”
Trump’s choice of DeVos cheered advocates for charter schools and voucher programs.
“Throughout her career Mrs. DeVos has worked to empower parents and give families strong educational options, so they can do what is best for their child,” the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said in a statement.
The Black Alliance for Educational Options called DeVos, “a strong champion for parental choice, ensuring that all children, regardless of race or economic status, have access to excellent schools.”
“We have no doubt she will make a great education secretary,” the group said in a statement.
The nation’s two major teachers unions ― which both endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton ― lamented Trump’s choice. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called DeVos the most “anti-public education nominee” in the history of the U.S. Department of Education.
“In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America,” Weingarten said in a statement. “DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan.”
The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, took aim at DeVos’ support of school vouchers, saying vouchers “take away funding and local control from our public schools — to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense.”
“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,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement.