Photo credit: US Department of Education via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

A Conservative Defense of Betsy DeVos


Since her confirmation in February of this year, Betsy DeVos has had a hard time finding her footing as America’s newest Education Secretary — a situation made so obvious in her recent Politico profile that Salon magazine immediately hit the presses to posit her early departure with its initial headline, “DeVos Expected To Resign.”

In fact, from the point that Jeb Bush suggested her for the top post through her historic tie-breaking confirmation vote by Vice President Pence, DeVos has enjoyed a very narrow band of support, made evident by the lack of real public pushback against the constant carping on her every move by the press.

While Politico resonates the fear and loathing heaped upon DeVos by the education Left, it surprisingly ignores the similarly loud volume of conservative criticism, which descended upon her in a deluge the moment her name hit the list of possible nominees. Recognizing her primary supporters to be the Jeb Bush/Mike Pence Common Core dream team, Core opponents began a long, heartfelt campaign against her nomination.

Conservative commentator, Common Core opponent and parent activist Michelle Malkin said of DeVos shortly after her nomination:

You’ve got to judge people by their actions and one of the mistakes that all of these Common Core people made, whether they’re on the left, Bill Gates and some of the Democrats, obviously Obama and former Educations Secretary Arne Duncan under the Obama Administration, or whether you’re on the right, like Jeb Bush or Mike Huckabee, who was a big shill for Common Core, disappointingly, someone like Bill Bennett too, who, basically, admitted that he was paid to ply the Common Core line, the mistake that these people make is the condescending way in which they treat parents.

Summing up the feelings of so many anti-Common Core parent activists, she ended her comments by saying, “They think we’re stupid.”

Despite Twitter rallies, public letters and op-eds from both ends of the political spectrum, however, DeVos’ confirmation forged ahead, prompting additional concerns about the Common Core connections of education staffers being sworn into the DOE by the new administration.

Erin Tuttle, one half of the activist mom team that helped overturn Common Core in Indiana — Pence’s home state — summed up the concerns of grassroots activists about a DeVos confirmation by telling Breitbart:

A list of education staffers sworn in this past Friday indicates that the Department of Education (ED) will be aligned to DeVos’ agenda, not Trump’s. Even if DeVos is not confirmed, likeminded people will be controlling White House education policies.

Later in the piece Tuttle said, “These people are not the change agents Trump promised,” declaring, “Unless something changes, education policy under a Trump presidency isn’t going to be much different than Obama’s.”

Interestingly, as DeVos fast approaches her first full year in office, her record on the conservative front is building, while the press flails on nearly every decision she makes.

Though receiving death threats and having protestors prevent you from entering a public school during your first visit as Education Secretary is undoubtedly intimidating, and having nearly an entire class of graduating seniors turn their backs on your commencement address is definitely demoralizing, DeVos has soldiered on, carving out a few inroads for conservatives to applaud — even as she has endeavored to walk back one and complain to her interviewer about others.

According to The Washington Post, DeVos is committed to shrinking the Department of Education’s 4,059 full-time employees and cutting their budget — definite music to the ears of conservatives. Though her budget was not passed by Congress, she had proposed to cut a little over $9 billion from the Department’s nearly $70 billion budget. In addition, she had put 154 positions from the Department on the chopping block — 46 from the Office for Civil Rights alone.

The latter is unsurprising considering she chose to dump the Civil Rights guidance for campus sexual assault created under the Obama Administration, allowing universities to use a “clear and convincing evidence” standard instead of the “preponderance of evidence” standard thought to empower attackers while making it harder for victims to realize justice.

In the same vein, NPR reports that the DOE will be removing approximately 600 previous policy documents because of redundancy or datedness, while at the same time citing Politico’s coverage of DeVos’ lack of support for quashing the Obama-era gender identity bathroom rules for public schools — a troubling issue for many social conservatives.

Though Politico quotes DeVos as essentially saying she didn’t feel the timing was right to make the change in transgender bathroom guidance, The New York Times quotes a frequent colleague of the Secretary regarding her support for LGBT issues:

“She would say it’s a part of her faith,” said Mr. McNeilly, who has worked for Ms. DeVos in various capacities for two decades. “Her faith teaches her to be tolerant. And like most of America, she’s evolved.”

In the end, though DeVos can most probably be forgiven her frustration at her inability to quickly change the course of the mega-tanker that is the DOE, if she can do what her spokesman says she wants to do, conservatives will have little to complain about — barring any more Common Core missteps and her ability to navigate the educrat swamp and provide parents a voice in the education of their children:

“Secretary DeVos has made clear since day one that her goal is to return control of education back to states, localities and parents,” said Nathan Bailey, a department spokesman. “The secretary is building a strong team of experienced leaders who will help America rethink school and focus on improving student achievement.”

Photo credit: US Department of Education via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Jenni White

Jenni White is a homeschooling parent and activist who helped lead the Common Core repeal effort in her home state of Oklahoma. She is a featured speaker nationwide and has written for outlets such as School Reform News, The Federalist, Truth in American Education, and American Thinker.​

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