The difference between Betsy DeVos and Past Education Secretaries

Today, I was asked about President Trump’s nominee for U.S Secretary of Education, Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos.  I said that it’s very clear that she’s not qualified to run the Department of Education.  In response, I was asked was what qualifications someone should have to be Secretary of Education.

I thought it was a good question, but I wasn’t sure how to go about finding a job description for the U.S. Secretary of Education.  So, in lieu of that, I decided to contrast the qualifications of past education secretaries with Betsy DeVos’ resume.

Of course, we’ve had quite a few education secretaries over the years and I figured if I tried to list too many of them, it would only end up long and confusing.  I also didn’t want to only list the current Secretary of Education, because that would only show the resume of someone appointed by President Obama.  And I didn’t see the point of profiling someone who served 20 years ago.

So, I finally decided to profile two education secretaries alongside Betsy DeVos to see what the difference looks like, and I figured I’d chose our current Secretary of Education, who was obviously Obama’s nominee, and one nominated by George W. Bush.

I also didn’t want to be accused of cherry picking information from partisan sources, so to get the information on the past secretaries, I used the Biography sections on the Department of Education’s Website.  For Betsy DeVos’ resume, I used Wikipedia and her own site.  (Their names in blue type will link you to the source for the information.)

You are welcome to do your own research as well, in fact, I’d encourage anyone who’s interested to do so, because I don’t care how you slice it… Betsy DeVos isn’t close to being qualified to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education.

Not that she won’t be confirmed by the Senate, I’m told that as it stands it appears she will.  But, if we agree that public education in this country is important, then we are about to fill the top education spot in the country with someone who’s sole focus to-date related to education has been to donate huge amounts of money to those who push for school vouchers that would allow people to get paid for sending their kids to private and religious schools… or to school them at home.

JOHN B. KING, U.S. Secretary of Education, 2015 to Current

  • Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard.
  • Earned his Master’s from Columbia University Teachers College.
  • Earned his Juris Doctor (JD) from Yale Law School.
  • Earned his Doctor of Education in educational administrative practice from Columbia University Teachers College.

Appointed Commissioner of Education of the State of New York and President of the University of the State of New York (USNY) in 2011, he was responsible for:

  • More than 7,000 public and independent elementary and secondary schools.
  • 270 public, independent and proprietary colleges and universities.
  • 7,000 libraries, 900 museums and 25 public broadcasting facilities.
  • 3,000 historical repositories.
  • 436 proprietary schools.
  • 52 professions encompassing more than 850,000 licensees plus 240,000 certified educators. Provides services for children and adults with disabilities.

King taught social studies and history for three years in both a public and charter school, and received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government, and social studies.

Founder of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, developing its curriculum and rules, while serving as co-director for five years.  Roxbury Prep’s students attained the highest state exam scores of any urban middle school in Massachusetts, closed the racial achievement gap, and outperformed students from not only the Boston district schools but also the city’s affluent suburbs.

King then joined as a Managing Director for Uncommon Schools, a public charter school organization that operates some of the highest performing urban public schools in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

He served on the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission in 2011, and served as Acting Deputy Secretary of Education in 2015.

As New York’s Commissioner of Education, King worked for education reform, which resulted in New York becoming a national leader in implementing Common Core standards.  In 2013, New York became one of the first states in the country to administer exams that measure whether students are meeting Common Core standards.

Working with the New York State legislature, and the statewide teachers union, King worked to develop and implement a new teacher evaluation system, which for the first time incorporates student learning growth.

He helped to create the Strengthening Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (STLE) grants program that utilizes a comprehensive approach to recruitment, development, support, retention and equitable distribution of effective teachers and school leaders.

Lastly, he strengthened how charter schools are authorized by launching a more rigorous Request for Proposals process for new schools and increasing accountability for existing schools.

Rod Paige, U.S. Secretary of Education, 2001-2005

The son of two public school educators, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi.

  • He earned Master’s and his Doctor of Education degree from Indiana University.
  • Worked as a teacher at Texas Southern University from 1980 to 1984.
  • Dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University for 10 years.
  • Trustee and an officer of the Board of Education of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) from 1989 to 1994.
  • Named HISD’s Superintendent of Schools in 1994.

Served on review committees of the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education’s Task Force on High School Education.

Established the university’s Center for Excellence in Urban Education, a research facility that concentrates on instruction and management in urban school systems.

Launched a municipal-style, accredited police department at HISD with police officers certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education, with the goal of providing better school safety.  The HISD department remains the only school district police department in the country to earn accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Created the Peer Examination, Evaluation, and Redesign (PEER) program, which solicits recommendations from business and community professionals for strengthening school support services and programs.

Started a system of charter schools that have broad authority in decisions regarding staffing, textbooks, and materials.

Paige made HISD the first school district in Texas to institute performance contracts modeled on those in the private sector, whereby senior staff members’ continued employment with HISD is based on their performance. He also introduced teacher incentive pay, which rewards teachers for raising test scores.

Paige led HISD to enter into contracts with private schools to teach some HISD students rather than placing those students into overcrowded public schools. Known for the “Houston Miracle” where student test scores rose under his leadership.

Under Paige, the Department of Education earned “clean” audits from Ernst & Young for three consecutive years. Prior to 2001, the department had achieved only one clean audit in its history, and that audit was by the Department’s Office of Inspector General.


Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos, Nominated by President Trump for Secretary of Education

  • Attended Holland Christian High School, a private school in Holland, Michigan.
  • Earned her Bachelor’s Degree in business administration and political science from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • She is the daughter-in-law of billionaire Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway.

Since 1982, DeVos has participated in the Michigan Republican Party. She was a Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan between 1992 and 1997, and chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000.

During the Bush Administration she spent two years as the finance chairperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  Since 1989, DeVos has given Republican political candidates and committees more than $17 million.

DeVos is known as a “a fierce proponent of school vouchers” that would allow students to attend private and religious schools with public funding.  She has often referred to public education a “monopoly” and a “dead end.”

She heads the All Children Matter PAC which she and her husband founded in 2003 to promote school vouchers, and she is Chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs.

School choice, according to DeVos, leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” She says that public schools have “displaced the Church as the center of communities,” and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.

DeVos initially donated to Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina before eventually supporting Marco Rubio.  In March 2016, DeVos described Donald Trump as an “interloper” and said that he “does not represent the Republican Party.”

Public education in this country is what we’re relying on to make our future workforce as productive as possible, and the degree to which our system succeeds, the stronger our country will be.  But, we do have challenges that need to be addressed and we’re competing with others from all over the world.

Taking money out of public schools is not the answer to anything.  Doing so can only weaken our ability to educate our children.

If people want to send their kids to private or religious schools… or educate them at home they are certainly free to do so, but that’s not something that should be paid for out of tax dollars.  Why would our government pay for me to send my son or daughter to Hebrew school, for example?

I know some will say they don’t care about Betsy DeVos’ resume.  Some will say that the better qualified education secretaries haven’t done a good enough job, but that’s not an argument for putting someone wholly unqualified in such a position.

Let’s tell the uncomfortable truth here…

There’s only one reason that Betsy DeVos was nominated… because she has donated tens of millions of dollars to the Republican Party… period.  Her nomination is about as flagrant an example of buying influence I’ve ever seen.  And she wasn’t a Trump supporter, so why did he nominate her?

You know the answer to that, right?

Betsy DeVos is simply a gift to the GOP.  Trump might as well have had her gift wrapped. Republicans like her because she’ll be popular with their religious base who want government to pay for them to send their kids to religious schools or school their children at home.

I wonder if Betsy would be okay with Muslim parents receiving taxpayer funded vouchers so they can send their kids to a madrasa.  Should U.S. taxpayers be forced to pay for that education?  

Or, is she thinking that federal vouchers would only be made available for certain religions?  That way, not only would we be screwing around with issues related to the idea of separating church and state, but we’d be using federal dollars to discriminate based on religion as well.

That’s what this is all about.  I’m sorry if that offends you, but someone had to call it like it really is.

Mandelman out.

Want to watch the highlights from Betsy DeVos’ conformation hearing on January 18th, click play on the screen below.  After watching it, if you still don’t see the problem, then I don’t know what else to say except… thank the Lord my own daughter is graduating from college this year.

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