DeVos Hearing: What We Heard and What We Didn’t
Last night, education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos did what advocates are supposed to do: Point out a problem and make a case for their theory of action for how to solve that problem.
The issue with last night’s Senate confirmation hearing, though, is that we didn’t get much else.
DeVos believes school choice is the answer for improving our schools. But that begs a question. As Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) pointed out, choice isn’t a viable option everywhere. And even where it is, data and research show that choice, in and of itself—and particularly private school choice—isn’t a silver bullet. Simply put, when it comes to improving schools for all students, and especially low-income students and students of color, what else is in the toolbox?
The job of the secretary of education is much broader than one issue. At a minimum, a nominee for secretary should be conversant with the wide range of issues the education department is responsible for.
DeVos was not asked about, nor did she discuss, her strategies to improve college completion. We did not hear about the importance of Pell Grants for low-income students. Indeed, we didn’t hear much at all about higher education.
On the K-12 side, we did hear that she was pro-accountability, but there was no discussion about what that actually means. When she starts to approve plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in a few months, how will she be evaluating those plans?
We heard that she believes all students should be able to go to schools free from discrimination. But we did not hear about the role the department would play under her leadership in ensuring students’ civil rights.
We agree with DeVos on the problem: Far too many students—disproportionately students of color and low-income students—are not getting a quality education. But, history and data tell us that her theory of action alone is insufficient. America’s students deserve a more complete strategy for raising achievement and tackling disparities.
In all likelihood, DeVos is going to be confirmed. Our hope, especially after last night, is that she surrounds herself with smart, experienced people and builds her knowledge on these critical issues.
Photo credit: BetsyDeVos.com