Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos has been the topic of heated discussion since her controversial hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Democratic senators questioned President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, and claimed that she is not qualified to lead the nation’s education system.
According to CNN’s Dan Merica, DeVos held to her belief that parents – not the government – should be able to choose where to send children to school, pledging to push voucher programs should she be confirmed for the position. However, those present were more concerned with her qualifications for the job.
“It surprises me that you don’t know this issue,” Democratic Sen. Al Franken said, regarding DeVos’ inability to define the difference between educational growth and proficiency, according to the Washington Post on Jan. 19. “Well, I’m not that surprised that you didn’t know the issue.”
DeVos reportedly stumbled on basic questions, asked for clarification on relatively simple questions, declined answering certain questions and admitted that she has no experience with college financial aid or management of higher education, according to CNN.
DeVos’ lack of knowledge and experience in the field of education has worried many across the nation, including Harding University Senior Rebecca Mahle, an English major with teaching licensure. Mahle expressed concern at DeVos’ unfamiliarity with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law stating that every person is entitled to education no matter what his or her disability is.
“If you know anything about education, you know about the IDEA, it’s covered in the most basic education classes here at Harding,” Mahle said. “She didn’t even know that it is a federal law, and she thinks that states should choose what kind of funding they give special education.”
Essentially, according to Mahle, this would allow certain states to vote in favor of funding special education, while others could choose not to educate disabled students.
“The fundamental purpose of education is to educate everyone,” Mahle said. “I feel that she’s not qualified for the position because she doesn’t even understand that.”
Education students are not the only ones concerned by DeVos’s hearing. Michael Wood, an associate professor in Harding’s College of Education, echoed the statements of many that DeVos is unqualified to lead the Department of Education.
“As I read about this situation on the news, I consider Senator DeVos a nice lady, and I’m sure she wants what’s best for America; I’m just not that impressed with anything she had to say in her hearing. She appears to not have a clue about education,” Wood said. “Your average American educator could have answered the questions that were asked of her, and it appears that she did not have any answers, surely not the correct ones.”
Even teachers outside the Harding community expressed worries toward DeVos’ inadequacy. Whitney Hamilton, a certified English teacher at Applewood Christian School in Sedalia, MO, had initial doubts about the nominee’s qualification based on her lack of background experience in public education. However, after the hearing, she confirmed that DeVos is not knowledgeable about many basic educational concepts, including proficiency, growth and the IDEA.
“I would be willing to bet that any teacher worth their salt learned about these things in college classes before they even stepped into student teaching and definitely saw them in action before they graduated with a teaching degree,” Hamilton said. “And Mrs. DeVos couldn’t be bothered to brush up on these things for a hearing about the highest role in public education?”
As of Jan. 31, a vote for final confirmation in the Senate of DeVos’s nomination had not yet been scheduled, according to USA Today.