Confession, I did not watch the Betsy DeVos hearing. I spent the time scraping ice off of my driveway and playing Raffi songs on the guitar with my son. Political theatre just does not do it for me. I am of the opinion that anything substantial about DeVos was known prior to the hearing. That said, I do stay active on twitter and did track the various reactions from DeVos fans and skeptics. I think deep breaths are required here.
I do have concerns about DeVos. She does not have public education experience, which makes me wonder how she will go about managing the Department of Education. She is a non-traditional pick for sure. But my biggest concern about DeVos is the same concern I have with all of Trump’s nominees: There willingness to serve a Trump administration. Maybe this is not fair, but the reality of the Trump presidency is causing me considerable anxiety. But back to DeVos.
I worked for many years in the school choice movement, and not once did I come across advocates who did not legitimately care about students. Not once did I see advocates who put profit or power ahead of the interests of children. Yes, I saw a few school leaders who were crooks (the justice system usually confirmed my take). Yes, I saw and was involved in policy decisions that were well intentioned, but misguided. But DeVos, and other leaders of the school choice movement are not anti-accountability, are not religious zealots, and are not out to profit off the backs of low-income children. Such rhetoric is counterproductive. We can disagree about DeVos’s qualifications and abilities, but dismissing the legitimacy of the motives of our political opponents makes substantive debate impossible. It is toxic in a functioning democracy, and becoming all too common.
There are plenty of folks having a substantive debate over DeVos. To them I say kudos.