What can Betsy DeVos really do? Experts on left and right assess possibilities for expanding school choice and limiting the work of the Office for Civil Rights
A month into Betsy DeVos’ tenure as the new Secretary of Education, there is still a big question on the minds of many Americans: How much can she really change the nation’s schools?
Her nomination was controversial from the start, because DeVos and her husband have spent decades pushing to give families more of a say in where their children are educated. They have used their own wealth and a robust fundraising apparatus to push lawmakers to approve school choice proposals that even some proponents of choice question: namely, public charter schools run by for-profit companies, and the use of taxpayer funds to pay private school tuition through vouchers.
By appointing DeVos, President Donald Trump signaled that he was serious about his campaign promise to use $20 billion in federal funds to significantly expand school choice programs.
But that’s not all that worries DeVos’ critics. There is also widespread concern about the fate of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Her detractors particularly fear that she might roll back protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and that the federal government may walk away from its recent regulations meant to stem sexual assaults on college campuses.
So far, DeVos has largely remained silent on her plans for any major policy shifts, but we asked a group of experts across the ideological spectrum to discuss what changes might be in store for federal school choice policy and for the Office for Civil Rights.
Neal McCluskey, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, said that advocates on the left side of the political spectrum can thank themselves for any major school choice push that does come down the pike.
“Secretary DeVos is, in a sense, the left’s Frankenstein’s monster,” McCluskey wrote in an opinion piece for The Hechinger Report. “They pushed for more and more federal involvement — though certainly with help from some conservatives such as President George W. Bush — and now their creation may be poised to turn on them. They fear Washington might impose school choice everywhere.”