Federal

Betsy DeVos Resigns a Day After Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol

By Andrew Ujifusa & Evie Blad — January 07, 2021 4 min read
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at the U.S. Department of Education building on July 8, 2020. DeVos resigned her position Thursday.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos submitted her resignation Thursday, just a day after a violent insurrection in Washington that attempted to stop Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Her departure from President Donald Trump’s administration followed a string of resignations from the upper ranks of the executive branch following the violence at the U.S. Capitol, including another Cabinet official, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

In a letter to Trump announcing her resignation, effective Jan. 8, DeVos told the president that he was culpable for the violence at the Capitol, telling him that “there is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation” and called his actions “the inflection point for me.”

“We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people,” DeVos told Trump in the letter. “Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business.”

DeVos also highlighted her work as education secretary, saying among other things that “we have sparked a national conversation about putting parents and students in charge of education.” But she stressed that “impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgment and model the behavior we hope they would emulate.”

Deputy Secretary of Education Mick Zais will replace DeVos and serve as acting secretary of education, a U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman said.

There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and that is the inflection point for me.

Late on Jan. 6, DeVos issued a statement denouncing the riot on Capitol Hill that occurred earlier that day, declaring that an “angry mob” must not be allowed to halt the democratic process.

“The eyes of America’s children and students—the rising generation who will inherit the republic we leave them—are watching what is unfolding in Washington today,” DeVos said in the statement. “We must set an example for them, and we must teach them the solemn obligations and duties that come with the title ‘American.’”

DeVos took over as the head of the Education Department in February 2017, and is one of Trump’s longest-serving and most controversial Cabinet members. Indeed, she is one of a handful of original cabinet members in a Trump administration known for high turnover in key roles.

DeVos has frequently criticized teachers’ unions, arguing that they preserve the status quo in struggling schools. In response to her resignation, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued a two-word statement Thursday night: “Good riddance.”

Resigning 13 days before the end of Trump’s term “does nothing to erase the harm” DeVos has done “to this country’s students, their families and educators,” National Education Association President Becky Pringle said in a statement.

Tensions with the President

DeVos largely avoided public conflict with the president, but the two have had some tension during her tenure.

In 2019, she sat in the hottest of hot seats when a Congressional committee sharply questioned her over a Trump administration proposal to cut $17.6 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics, part of an overall administration plan to lower budgets across agencies.

After she spent hours defending him, Trump later said he had “overridden” officials in his administration and stated that the Special Olympics would be funded. That about-face prompted Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., to ask in a statement, “Can someone pull Betsy from under the bus?”

See Also

Image of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visits a classroom at the Edward Hynes Charter School in New Orleans, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visits a classroom at the Edward Hynes Charter School in New Orleans in October 2018.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Not long before Trump formally accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, DeVos, a billionaire political donor, said she wasn’t prepared to back him.

“There have clearly been a lot of things that have been said that give me serious pause for thought. But on the other hand, when I consider the alternative, that is not attractive either,” she told the Detroit News.

She later joined the administration after Trump selected Vice President Mike Pence, a school choice advocate, as his running mate.

DeVos’ signature issue, school choice, became a major talking point for Trump on the 2020 campaign trail. And despite their previous differences and her divisive public profile, she appeared at some campaign events and was part of his aggressive push to reopen schools amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

DeVos stopped short of directly criticizing Trump following another major scandal. In 2017, Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides” of a conflict at a white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville, Va., where a counter-protester died when a demonstrator intentionally hit her with a car.

“The views of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other racist bigots are totally abhorrent to the American ideal,” DeVos wrote in a letter to Education Department employees that was silent on Trump’s comments. “We all have a role to play in rejecting views that pit one group of people against another. Such views are cowardly, hateful, and just plain wrong.”

During the violence on Capitol Hill this week, DeVos’ former chief of staff, Josh Venable, called on Trump’s Cabinet to prepare to invoke the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which could lead to the president’s removal from office.

A version of this article appeared in the January 13, 2021 edition of Education Week as Betsy DeVos Resigns A Day After Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds to Probe Whether Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates Violates Disability Rights Laws
The Education Department has already opened investigations in six other states that ban universal school mask requirements.
2 min read
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
A staff member holds the door open at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas in 2020. This year, Texas has prohibited school districts from requiring all students to wear masks.
Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP
Federal New Federal Team to Work on Puerto Rico School Improvement, Oversight
The Puerto Rico Education Sustainability Team will focus on creating better learning environments and improving financial management.
3 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Teresa Canino Rivera/GDA via AP
Federal Pandemic Tests Limits of Cardona's Collaborative Approach as Education Secretary
He's sought the image of a veteran educator among former peers, but COVID has forced him to take a tough stance toward some state leaders.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during their visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during a visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP