Betsy DeVos Says She's 'Misunderstood,' Then Struggles To Explain Her Own Policies

Violet Powell
March 14, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos - who has been on the job more than a year - has been taking extensive criticism over an interview Sunday night on "60 Minutes" during which she appeared to stumble over answers. She has been a firm advocate of school choice as part of her education platform. It's why she recently tweeted a Shutterstock photo to make a false claim that, "Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era". But money doesn't belong to buildings or systems.

Nina Rees, CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, declared a year ago that the debate over charter schools was "over" and that charter schools were unequivocally better than their traditional counterparts. What about those kids?

DeVos' only previous experience in the education field before becoming the nation's top education official was as a school choice advocate in MI, pushing for changes in the state's laws to encourage charter and private school choice.

Thirteen months into her appointment, it seems little has changed in terms of DeVos's experience with the education system she helms.

Speaking on NBC's "TODAY" on Monday, DeVos said, however, that she does not believe that assault weapons should be carried by school personnel and that there may be cases in which in it is not appropriate for educators to be armed.

"(Michigan) is dead last on the nation's report card...and this has all happened in the last 20 years as (school) choice has ramped up and proliferated, especially in the city of Detroit". We're in Michigan. This is your home state.

DeVos said the United States has comparatively stagnated with test scores, pivoting again to school choice as the solution.

DeVos has had a hand in financially empowering the pro-charter-school lobby in MI, as reported on extensively by The New York Times, Time, and Politico.

Asked about Devos, White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the focus is on Trump's plan, "not one or two interviews". "Florida, for example, studies show that when there's a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better as well".

Stahl's question presupposed that the option to choose a different school is directly responsible for the decline of public schools overall.

As reported by The Hill, when Devos visited Harvard University, she faced a silent protest there. Then, DeVos admitted she didn't know if that happened in her home state of MI, where she has long advocated for such programs.

In the same way, when Devos was asked about arming teachers, she responded with it "should be an option" for the states and communities.

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DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this, the students are doing well and... In an exchange described by The Washington Post as "painful", Stahl asked DeVos a simple question: "Have the public schools in MI gotten better?". She will forever remain the answer in the Trivial Pursuit question, "Who was the first Presidential cabinet member that required a Vice-President's tie-breaking vote to be confirmed for office?"

DeVos took to Twitter on Monday to defend her comments.

Have the public schools in her home state of MI improved?

With DeVos struggling to offer sound evidence for how her decisions have improved student performance, critics deemed the interview yet more evidence the MI native is unqualified for her job.

DeVos failed to advance an argument.

The "60 Minutes" interview offered a glimpse into the confusion surrounding whether charter schools prompt improvements in public school performance.

DeVos tweeted Monday afternoon: "Here's what we shared with @60Minutes, which of course they didn't show you: MI, like much of the nation, isn't doing well enough to prepare students".

"I feel very fortunate to be able to live in [her city] and to be able to take advantage of this opportunity", she says.

"Maybe I should", DeVos said.

Some conservatives have complained that DeVos was the victim of media bias, selective editing and an unfair interviewer.

In her "60 Minutes" interview, DeVos touted her efforts to roll back federal government "overreach", specifically regulations that allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, that aim to protect students from racially discriminatory discipline, and that provide more protections to victims of sexual assault on college campuses.

Um, judging by this interview, DeVos is not misunderstood.

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