School Choice & Charters

School Choice Advocates Weigh In on Trump’s Education Secretary Pick

By Arianna Prothero — November 23, 2016 1 min read
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President-elect Donald Trump has nominated billionaire philanthropist and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

DeVos is the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, an advocacy and research organization that promotes school choice policies such as vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. She’s also on the board of directors for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the group founded by former Florida governor, Jeb Bush.

A proponent of many types of school choice—from vouchers, to virtual schools, to home schooling—DeVos and her family have also been among the most prominent supporters of choice policies in Michigan. She and her husband helped successfully push for the state to pass its charter school law in 1993.

I reached out to several school choice advocacy groups to get their take on Trump’s pick. Here’s some of what they had to say.

On private school choice and advocacy:

With Trump's $20 billion promise, there hasn't been a lot of detail. Now you have someone who has long experience with private school choice, so hopefully the details of his plan would be coming pretty quickly. She's obviously very much in favor of that." —Jonathan Butcher, education director at the Goldwater Institute. "I think this signals that Trump is not going to do business as usual when it comes to K-12 education. And this issue of parental options is going to be one of the most important things coming out of this administration. It's going to be an exciting time for K-12 education. There's going to be lots of conversations about how to give parents more options, how do we hold schools accountable." —Robert Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice (formerly called the Friedman Foundation).

On charter schools:

We applaud Mrs. DeVos' commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools, but hope, at the same time, she will be a voice that opposes policies that would hurt kids, both on the education front and concerning inter-related issues including proposals to kick 20 million families off of healthcare, deport millions of Dreamers, and accelerate stop-and-frisk practices that would lead to the imprisonment of larger numbers of low-income parents on low-level, non-violent offenses." —statement from Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform "The National Alliance congratulates Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education. Throughout her career Mrs. DeVos has worked to empower parents and give families strong educational options, so they can do what is best for their child." —statement from Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

On education philanthropy:

I think in a lot of respects, her experience as an advocate, as an active board member and board chair, and as a philanthropist positions her well—in that the work of philanthropy is solving problems. ... [T]hat's what good philanthropy is about, and Betsy is a good philanthropist." —Marc Sternberg, K-12 education program director at the Walton Family Foundation.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.