Richard Perez-Pena’s February 23, 2017, article for the New York Times entitled “Betsy DeVos is Publicly Polite, but a Political Fighter” exemplifies the strong reaction she evokes on both sides of the aisle. In fact, to recap Perez-Pena’s point regarding her Senate confirmation, the vote was so evenly divided that it took an historical tiebreaking vote by the vice president to determine the outcome. Secretary of Education DeVos has only just begun.
DeVos’ detractors portray her as one who lives in a vacuum. Her privileged background and private Christian education have only solidified her opponents’ view that she is ill-equipped to create policy that affects the future of public education. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, states that DeVos is “completely ideologically focused.”
Even her detractors, however, acknowledge DeVos’ political process. In fact, after a hard-won battle by the Great Lakes Education Project, which DeVos created, efforts by Detroit and state lawmakers to impose stricter standards on charter schools were thwarted. Weingarten warns of falling prey to Devos’ unassuming demeanor. She is cited in the article as stating that despite her personable manner, DeVos is a dangerous political player.
Perez-Pena notes that DeVos has a long history in Michigan’s Republican politics and has not been shy about using her wealth and resources to get what she wants. That can be a financial advantage if you’re a supporter, but also signifies economic disaster for her opponents.
That sentiment is echoed by former Michigan State Attorney General, Mike Cox, who is also a Republican. Perez-Pena quotes him as stating that, after working with her DeVos, found that “she instilled fear in a lot of people.” Cox further noted that DeVos is “very determined, steely, when she sets her mind on a goal.”
It is a matter of record that Detroit’s charter schools are under performing, and some say, drawing tax dollars away from the decaying public school system. It is a point that will need to be addressed by DeVos as she continues on her mission to reform education. Some of her comments during her confirmation hearing regarding her views on public education have only solidified her opponents’ perspective that DeVos is “hostile toward public education.”
Her supporters, however, insist that her agenda is clearly focused on making a positive impact on all students’ education. Greg McNeilly, a Republican who has first-hand experience in working with DeVos, insists that “she understood what too many Americans did not: that even public schools in the United States that are considered good do not perform as well as those in other developed countries, as measured by student test scores.”
McNeilly believes that DeVos “wants to have a conversation with the country about what we should expect from our schools, and about being agnostic about the form of schools.” She does seem to be attempting to build a bridge between herself and the leaders of the teachers’ unions.
DeVos called both Weingarten and Lily Esklesen Garcia, president of National Education Association. Garcia did not respond, but Weingarten and DeVos arranged a meeting. It could be a smart political move on both DeVos and Weingarten’s parts, or it could be a genuine attempt to improve current conditions. Maybe a little of both. Time will tell. Learn more: http://enablediversity.com/2017/08/11/dick-devos-reveals-the-staggering-amounts-of-money-he-donated-to-charity/