Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In Search of the Elusive Betsy DeVos | Vanity Fair

In Search of the Elusive Betsy DeVos | Vanity Fair:

The Education Secretary seems be ducking the press.

The Trump administration's suspicion of the press is typified by ditching some daily White House briefings, barring cameras from others and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson straying from the media as if he were still CEO of Exxon Mobil.

And then there's Betsy DeVos.

You remember her, right? She's the wealthy charter school advocate from Michigan whose Senate confirmation hearing was a painful embarrassment, given her seeming ignorance of the Education Department she was taking over.

Or maybe you don't. She's not in the news much. She's like a 5th grader avoiding eye contact with a science teacher whose test she flunked. Last night she did what was hailed by NBC as her first "network news interview" on Megyn Kelly's show, offering what appeared to be a brief and banal set of comments on charter schools.

Just ask, among others, Greg Toppo, USA Today's education writer and president of the Education Writers Association (my wife, a Pulitzer-winning ex-journalist, is on the board). He noted how the association started getting complaints about the department being unresponsive and frustrating.

It took nearly three months before DeVos brought on a full-time spokesman. 
Before then, "many reporters' queries, mine included, were simply going unanswered," says Toppo. Then there is DeVos' general lack of availability. She has yet to sit down with reporters at department headquarters and "I believe you can count her on-the-record interviews on one hand."

She's made herself available on several impromptu occasions during school visits hundreds of miles from Washington. She's not, to his knowledge, taken reporters questions at speaking events and, when Toppo and others approached her in a hotel corridor after one such gathering, her security team intruded and escorted her onto an elevator.

As for why reporters would like her to show a scintilla of spine, Toppo says they need to understand her agenda and the thinking behind it. Fine, we know she supports charters. There are many related and separate issues. Her Senate hearing was such a mess, one needs to test the initial, presumably inaccurate image of her as clueless.

And then there's this, as Toppo and Caroline Hendrie, the association's executive director, separately In Search of the Elusive Betsy DeVos | Vanity Fair:

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