Trump's education pick says reform can 'advance God's Kingdom'
Trump’s pick, Betsy DeVos, a national leader of the school choice movement, has pursued that work in large part by spending millions to promote the use of taxpayer dollars on private and religious schools.
Her comments came during a 2001 meeting of “The Gathering,” an annual conference of some of the country’s wealthiest Christians. DeVos and her husband, Dick, were interviewed a year after voters rejected a Michigan ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to allow public money to be spent on private and religious schools, which the DeVoses had backed.
In the interview, an audio recording, which was obtained by POLITICO, the couple is candid about how their Christian faith drives their efforts to reform American education.
School choice, they say, leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” The two also lament that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of communities, and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.
The audio from the private gathering, though 15 years old, offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of DeVos’ personal views — views that may guide her decision-making as the nation’s top education official. DeVos has repeatedly said she wants policies that give families choices about their children’s education — the choice of public schools included — but her critics fear that her goal is to shift public funding from already beleaguered traditional public schools to private and religious schools.
DeVos remains a harsh critic of the traditional education system, which she calls a “monopoly” and a “dead end.” But she said in the audio that she doesn’t want to destroy public education — only inject competition.
“Dick and Betsy are not radical fundamentalist, 'in the hills' kind of people,” said Rev. Robert A. Sirico, head of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, who described himself as a close friend. “They’re not the kind of people who want to force their beliefs down anybody’s throat.”
DeVos’ spokesman referred questions to the Trump transition team, which did not respond to a request for comment.
The DeVos family are billionaires, but in the interview, Betsy DeVos said that rather than just give money to boost Christian schools, she’s fighting to change the whole system because there “aren’t enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education.”
Betsy DeVos also described her efforts, using the biblical term “Shephelah,” an area where battles — including between David and Goliath — were fought in the Old Testament.
“Our desire is to be in that Shephelah, and to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory,” she said.
Those who know DeVos say her goals are not sinister — though they acknowledge the policies she’s likely to advance would benefit Christian schools. In fact, Trump’s $20 billion school choice program that would allow low-income students to select private or charter schools was devised with the help of the advocacy group DeVos headed until recently.
“What she wants to do is just make sure education is much more locally controlled,” said Sirico, who talked to DeVos about her “dreams generally” while celebrating Thanksgiving with her family. “That it’s sensitive to the localities, to the states, to the cities, to the families. That’s just going to naturally involve — at least in the great swath of flyover America — that’s going to involve religious .”Trump's education pick says reform can 'advance God's Kingdom' - POLITICO: