I usually stay away from any broad political commentary in my posts and focus on educational policy considerations rather than the actions or in this case qualifications of one individual. However, with the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the new Secretary of Education I am compelled to violate that self-imposed rule. Our country has become so divided that political dialogue now frequently degenerates into personal attacks rather than an examination of the merits of any position or in this case a true examination of the fitness of an individual for the post to which they have been nominated. It is the duty of the United States Senate to hold hearings to give "advice and consent" to the president's appointment of individuals to lead the various departments of the executive branch in order to ensure they are qualified for the position they seek to hold. This week, the Senate failed in that duty in a most spectacular fashion.
Sadly, I have come to expect little from the United States Congress. They are so caught up in rigid partisan bickering and gridlock that nothing substantive can be accomplished unless the majority party at any given time can ram it down the minority party’s throat. However, this shameful act of blatantly putting Party before Country truly hits a new low even for that body. I cannot see Republican Senators honestly asserting that Mrs. DeVos is qualified for the position to which she was appointed. This leaves two, equally deplorable, possible reasons for their approval: 1. They feel beholden to her for the millions of dollars her family has donated to them or 2. They are blindly following their president. In doing so they are abrogating their responsibility as Senators to ensure that those who are appointed to run executive departments are qualified to do so.
I have not been a fan of the last couple of educational secretaries. They had a tendency to a bureaucratic mindset and to propagate policies that added layers of bureaucracy to an already overburdened system. Rather than support the truly transformational changes needed in our educational system these Secretaries of Education merely continued to repackage the failed test and punish policies of the last 20 years. HOWEVER, even so, I will agree that these individuals had the qualifications which made them fit for the position even if I disagreed with their policies. That is most definitely NOT the case with Betsy DeVos.
I understand and support the principle that Presidents have the right to appoint members of their team who they believe will be able to implement their policy agenda. There are actually a couple of these current cabinet appointees that I feel will do a good job in the positions to which they have been appointed. Others I have serious reservations about and have major concerns about their ethical conflicts, political ideologies and policy beliefs, yet concede they are “qualified” through experience and/or education for the posts they now hold. Once again however, this is most definitely NOT the case with Betsy DeVos.
Ms. DeVos has never been an educator nor has she been involved in public education. Her only “experience” in this realm has been take any action, support any initiative or fund any campaign that seeks to undermine and pull money from public education and funnel it into private education or charters. She has demonstrated through her record that she does not intend to support public education, but rather her intent is to destroy that institution that is and has always been the bedrock of our democracy. One need only look to her home state of Michigan and the mess poorly regulated charters have made of the educational system in Detroit to see how those ideas have played out. Do we really want our whole country to head to the path Betsy would take us?
Mrs. DeVos clearly demonstrated in her Senate hearing that she lacks even a basic understanding of such educational principals as “achievement versus growth” and is unfamiliar with even the basics of the IDEA. Her answers with regard to specifics regarding education were vague and superficial at best. This is completely understandable given her level of experience. Then there is the now bizarre viral quote that gun policy should be determined at the local level because schools might need guns to protect them from grizzlies. Seriously, who says that? All these things clearly demonstrate that the travesty of this appointment of such a monumentally unqualified individual.
This is a sad and shameful decision made by our United States Senators. My outrage and indignation is truly non-partisan in nature. I would be just as appalled if Democrats had pushed through such and obviously unqualified individual. I applaud the two Republican Senators (Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) who put country before partisan politics and voted against this confirmation. They put the interests of the children of our country over kowtowing to presidential power. They are to be commended for that stance. This is a sad day for public education in the United States and I guess we now know just how much it costs to buy a cabinet secretary position in our federal government. The attack upon public education now continues unabated and has a new leader who will push the privatization agenda as never before.