As Betsy DeVos took office in 2016, many were excited for a new voice in educational reform. DeVos had been a proponent of educational choice for many years before she took office. Her career started in Calvin College where she was politically active and began her studies in educational reform. She worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign and then branched out into philanthropy, where she started to work with charter schools in an effort to help students in Michigan.
However, she has always faced opposition. In fact, she is one of the most polarizing figures in American politics. She has gone across America, championing educational reform, but she has been met with opposition from public school teachers and students alike. What is the issue? DeVos says that it is a lack of information on the issue which is creating the problem.
In a recent interview with 60 Minutes, DeVos talked to interviewer Leslie Stahl about the challenges facing America’s education system. Stahl had some tough questions, including whether any of the programs had proven to be successful yet. It has only been a year or so since their implementation, according to DeVos. Standardized testing and educational reform have been around for almost 20 years with very little success.
Still, the question remained whether she thought there would be any success for the educational choice movement. DeVos pointed to states where the programs had been fully implemented so far, places like Florida and Louisiana. Florida now has the most selections for educational choice, including magnet programs, virtual schools, homeschooling, charter schools, and private schools. However, it’s the tuition-based scholarship program that has made the most significance. Students are able to go to any school of their choice with these vouchers.
While many believe that public school funding is in jeopardy with these new policies, DeVos has shown that much of the vouchers and support has come from philanthropy, including her own foundation. However, some of the other donors include Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton. The new programs have yet to be definitively more effective than standardized testing, but DeVos says that these programs need more time. She still has another couple of years in office to make things work. However, she has not been able to implement as many of the plans as she wanted in different states.
In addition, her campaigns have been cut short due to the American school violence and the issue of gun control. She is now in charge of a massive school safety movement that will help America’s schools stay safe in the wake of many school shootings. When asked if she thought that teachers needed gun training, she wasn’t sure that was the direction to go in. She is currently meeting with other legislators to determine different policies and regulations that will help with school safety.
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