When Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was wading through her confirmation hearings, a massive national protest spirit rose up against her, prompted by her glaring incompetence.
In one of the most infamous moments from her confirmation hearings, she was unable to distinguish between growth and proficiency in the context of education policy when pressed by Sen. Al Franken.
Watch Sen. Franken question DeVos below.
Besides DeVos’ poor performance while being questioned by Sen. Franken, she also made the infamous comment that guns should be allowed in schools to protect students from grizzly bears.
The widely beloved Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also engaged in a widely noted interchange with DeVos during her confirmation hearings, with him pressing her over whether or not she would have ever been nominated for the job of Secretary of Education if she hadn’t established herself as a substantial Republican donor over recent years.
Watch that below.
DeVos’ original nomination sparked thousands of calls to pour into various Republican Senators’ offices, with two of those Republican Senators — Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, of Alaska, and Maine, respectively — succumbing to the public pressure and voting against her nomination. Even still, DeVos was confirmed, since two defecting GOP Senators weren’t enough to make there be a majority of Senators voting no. There was a tie, with 50 Senators opposing her nomination and 50 in support of it, and Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaker vote in support of DeVos.
Many people even took to the streets to demonstrate against DeVos.
Since coming into office, DeVos has faced such intense opposition wherever she’s gone around the country that she has begun to require millions of dollars worth of personal protection from the U.S. Marshals Service.
She’s even one of the few officials in D.C. to attract enough criticism that she got parodied on Saturday Night Live by Kate McKinnon.
Check out video of the SNL sketch including McKinnon’s impersonation of DeVos below. It’s one of the skits featuring Melissa McCarthy playing embattled White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
After all of that, DeVos might not even be sticking around for very long — at least, if perceptions of her, reported upon by POLITICO, prove to be accurate.
As independent education think tank director Thomas Toch summed it up:
‘I’ll tell you, in Washington education circles, the conversation is already about the post-DeVos landscape, because the assumption is she won’t stay long. And for my money, I don’t think it would be a bad thing if she left. I think she’s been probably one of the most ineffective people to ever hold the job.’
While answering questions at a Kansas City school recently, DeVos made some comments that betray how out of place she is in D.C.
After Kory Gallagher, the principal of the school DeVos was at, asked her “to explain what her job actually entails,” she said:
‘The Department of Education is there to carry out the laws that are passed by Congress. And I think, really key, is that we remember what our role is and not confuse it with the role of Congress — which is to make and pass laws.’
The issue here for DeVos is that she can’t accomplish what she wants. The nation’s public schools don’t even get a tenth of their funding from the federal government, meaning that any Secretary of Education is quite limited in their ability to enact change across the landscape of American education. She tried to get Congress to approve her budget proposal for her department earlier this year, which would have slashed programs in the interest of growing “school choice,” but failed.
When asked by POLITICO reporter Jesse Dittmar what she has found “most surprising” about her job, she answered by saying:
‘The bureaucracy is much more formidable and difficult than I had anticipated — and I expected it to be difficult. It’s even worse. And you know, in talking to a lot of the great career staff, it’s like everybody nods their heads when you talk about this … yet it seems like everyone is powerless to do anything about it.’
DeVos came into her position having never actually led any public school or any public school-related entity, having spent all her time as a wealthy school choice lobbyist. School choice entails stripping governmental support of public schools in the interest of “choice,” letting government money be used by students no matter what school they choose to attend.
As president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten put it:
‘Even the people who believe in charter schools and other private alternatives overwhelmingly believe that you don’t take from one, in a Robin Hood approach, to give to another. [With] former secretaries of education—even those who believed in charters and vouchers and the kind of rhetoric and ideology that DeVos subscribes to—there’s one huge difference: They actually believed in public schools.’
It’s not as though the massive nationwide movement against DeVos was displaced and her departure from D.C. would be a loss to the nation’s educational system.
Were DeVos to leave, she wouldn’t be the first high profile Trump Administration official to make an abrupt exit from D.C. Trump has lost everyone from his Secretary of Health and Human Services to his chief strategist, the former Breitbart head Steve Bannon.
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