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Ask an Educator: How Did Betsy DeVos Do in Her First Year in Office?

By Alyson Klein — February 07, 2018 2 min read
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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos officially came on the job exactly one year ago Wednesday. And in case you somehow forgot, she had a pretty rocky confirmation process.

Voters urging their representatives to vote against her jammed the U.S. Capitol switchboard lines. She ended up making it over the finish line by the skin of her teeth, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie vote in the Senate to confirm her.

So one year later, what do educators think of DeVos performance? The national picture doesn’t look great. Seventy-two percent of the 1,122 teachers, school, and district leaders surveyed by the Education Week Research Center in October said they didn’t like DeVos.

Here’s a look at what some teachers, district leaders, and school board members had to say about the secretary in recent interviews:

Nate Bowling, who teaches Advanced Placement government and other social studies classes at Abraham Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., and a 2016 Washington State teacher of the year:

“She’s done nothing to disprove my belief that she’s the least qualified cabinet officer in recent American history. At no point in my 12-year educational career has the work at the [U.S. Department of Education] felt less relevant to me and my daily practice. Frankly, the department seems adrift to me ... Throughout the first part of my career there was a bipartisan consensus that closing the achievement gap was a priority. And that is not a priority of the current administration.”

Laurie Villani, kindergarten teacher in Prince William County, Va.:

She agrees with DeVos on “the whole idea that one size doesn’t fit all and it’s very hard to change the classroom so that all children are comfortable ... She’s been able to open the door to people talking about it and thinking about it and that’s the first step.”

Jeanne Collins, the superintendent of the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union district in Vermont:

“I don’t think she’s accomplished anything for public school education and students who attend public schools. ... I don’t hear a vision for public school education being discussed or shared. I can’t say I always agreed with the secretaries I ‘ve worked under, but I did get a sense they had a vision and they were working towards that vision. I’m not seeing any of that now, it appears to be more chaotic than a clear vision.”

Linda Lyon, a member of Arizona’s Oracle School District Governing board, a 350-student district with just one school:

“She is not protecting the public-school students and ensuring that they are provided what they are owed as citizens of America, the promise of what America has guaranteed our children. She’s focused, in my opinion, on the wrong things. She’s focused on privatizing our system of public education, a system that has really produced the strongest middle class in the whole world.”

Want more? We’ve got a recap of DeVos’ first year in office right here.

Vice President Mike Pence swears in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on Tuesday, as DeVos’ husband, Dick DeVos, watches. --Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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