Betsy DeVos and the Educational Choice Movement

Betsy DeVos is one of the most polarizing figures in American politics today. She has been known for her educational choice campaign, as well as school safety reform and philanthropy in education. Since her appointment to the 11th US Secretary of Education office, she has been criticized for her policies by those who say it sets up public schools for failure.


DeVos sits calmly in her interview with Lesley Stahl, gearing up for “60 Minutes.” You can tell that the questions planned are hard-hitting, with Stahl picking up reports on standardized testing. In fact, DeVos is asked what she thinks of standardized test scores going up by 20 percent in the last 10 years. Then, she is asked whether any of her programs have been successful. DeVos was just appointed in 2017 and many states don’t have to change their education policies.


DeVos talks about school performance in Florida and Louisiana. She says how Florida has excelled with educational choice. The state has the most educational choice options, including magnet programs, private schools, charter schools, virtual schools, and homeschooling programs.


In addition, Florida has a tuition-based scholarship program that makes it possible for kids to go to a school of their choice once accepted. The program has been helping students who would have been zoned for schools in failing districts. While DeVos wants to tackle that problem, she believes that policies should be student first.


When asked whether public funds are being used for private schools, DeVos says that people who say that don’t understand. Currently, educational choice campaigns and funding comes from philanthropy, through donations from DeVos Family Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Sam Walton. In total, there have been over $150 million donations to educational choice.


DeVos isn’t deterred by her opponents. She has been working in educational choice for a long time, ever since the 1980s when the Reagan Administration first came out with reports that showed America’s schools were underperforming.


In addition to her work in educational choice, she has been working in school safety reform. Gun violence caused questions to arise over whether guns should be allowed by teachers, and DeVos answered that she wasn’t sure she liked the idea of more guns on school campuses. New policies were introduced before the 2018-2019 school season in order to prevent gun violence. Schools have been working on new drills and safety measures as well.


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