President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education, and on Jan. 17, she will appear in front of the Senate HELP Committee for her confirmation hearing.

As secretary, DeVos will be the lead administrator for hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of programs that affect every facet of public education from pre-K through college. She’ll oversee the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), make critical decisions that affect college access and success, and assume responsibility for protecting the civil rights of all students.

Senators will use the hearing next week to get her thoughts on a wide range of issues with which she will have to deal as secretary. Here at Ed Trust, we will be watching this hearing closely to get a better sense of how DeVos approaches some of the issues most critical to advancing opportunity and outcomes for all groups of students.

Certainly, because we have a state office in Michigan, we know what her priorities have been there. But in this new, national leadership role, we — along with many other Americans — will want to better understand her thinking on the critical challenges that face American education and the role that the Department of Education should play in helping solve them. For example:

  1. What does she see as the role and purpose of the U.S. Department of Education?
  2. Overwhelming data consistently show huge gaps in opportunity for low-income students and students of color in our country. How will she address these disparate opportunities to learn?
  3. Given the billions of dollars of federal funding invested in K-12 education, what kind of return on investment can and should taxpayers expect? How will she ensure ALL schools are showing progress for all groups of students?
  4. What strategies for school improvement does she support? Certainly expanded choice may be part of a strategy in densely populated parts of the country, but what else should be in the toolbox? And what about rural areas, where expanded school choice is probably not a viable option?
  5. Will she champion Pell Grants, the foundation of our student aid system, by supporting the reinstatement of year-round Pell and an increase in the maximum award to correspond with increasing college costs?
  6. Does she believe colleges and universities should be held accountable for student results? And if so, on which metrics?
  7. Colleges and universities with the greatest resources enroll too few low-income students, and low-income students and students of color are more likely to attend institutions with poor outcomes. How will she address this issue?

Answers to questions like these can clue us in to DeVos’ priorities and what her expectations might be for states, schools, colleges, and educators. We’ll be listening closely next Tuesday to hear if and how she prioritizes resources for — and the academic outcomes of — students who have been historically underserved by our education system.

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