Betsy DeVos made history on Feb. 7 when the Senate confirmed her as head of the nation’s educational system. The vote was tied 50-to-50 until Vice President Mike Pence cast the historic tie-breaking vote, as this was the first time a vice president has done so for the appointment of a cabinet nominee.
The hearing process leading up to DeVos’ newfound authority has been met with negativity from both Democrats and Republicans, with two Republican senators voting against DeVos in the monumental vote. Before the vote, Democratic Sen. Al Franken hammered Republicans with questions about their support of DeVos.
“If we cannot set aside party loyalty long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president’s nominees, what are we even doing here?” Franken said in an interview with the New York Times on Feb. 7.
The divisive announcement has upset many, including Michael Wood, an associate professor in Harding’s college of education. Despite DeVos’ overwhelmingly negative reception, Wood said he will continue to hope for advancement instead of regression.
“Though I still believe a person with educational experiences should have been nominated for the secretary of education, I will pray for Ms. DeVos and the Department of Education,” Wood said. “I will also continue to pray for our state and national leaders. I wish nothing but the best for the decisions they will make.”
DeVos’ initial hearing was on Jan. 17 where, according to CNN, she reportedly failed to show any signs of qualification for the position as she stumbled over simple questions, declined to answer others and admitted that she had no experience with management of higher education. Since then, educators have blasted DeVos, including Wood, who believes DeVos’ hearing was enough to put off most American educators.
“I think that was enough for America, especially educators. I’ve read some news articles and open letters to her from teachers that basically say, ‘Don’t do this; go for somebody who actually knows about schools,'” Wood said. “These educators — myself included — who say no to her are not saying that there’s going to be just one person out there who can do what needs to be done; we just need somebody who actually knows what’s going on.”
Future educators are also nervous about DeVos’ newfound authority. Senior Rebecca Mahle, an English major with teaching licensure, said she believes in the American education system, and said that fixing it would be a “difficult and tricky situation.” While Mahle said she believes DeVos’ desire to change things is good, it’s not enough to overlook her lack of experience.
“As a student teacher, I already see the struggles that schools face, and this is only going to get worse as DeVos strips money from public schools and allocates it for her charter schools,” Mahle said. “DeVos’ lack of experience in public schools will be her downfall. I truly hope that she does not trigger the downfall of education as a whole.”