When Donald Trump won the election in 2016, our first thought (once we were able to stop spewing expletives) was that the country was in some major trouble. Not just because Trump is such an offensive human being, but because the people he was going to bring onto the team to make the big choices about keeping America safe, fed, healthy, and educated didn’t seemed concerned with making sure that anyone who wasn’t white, heterosexual, Christian, and already rich got any of those things. It’s hard to pick just one Worst Team Trump Player, but right now, it feels like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos might be the worst bad apple in the whole rotten bunch.
Everything she’s done so far has done nothing to fix the actual problems with our education system and what students have to deal with every day. On Tuesday, DeVos unravelled all of the hard-won progress for transgender students that happened under the Obama administration. The Trump administration overall has been rolling back protections for transgender students under Title IX, but DeVos hadn’t been super specific about how her department would interpret it. On Monday, spokesperson Liz Hill told BuzzFeed News:
That’s outrageous, especially since two U.S. Circuit Courts have found that actually that’s not what the law says at all. In fact, the 7th Circuit wrote in Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District actually, forcing an individual to use a “bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender non‐conformance, which in turn violates Title IX.” That’s kind of a no brainer. That court decision is a precedent basically saying that if these complaints keep coming up and get sent all the way to the Supreme Court, they will likely win their case.
It would certainly be nice if Betsy DeVos understood what gender identity actually meant and could advocate for some of our most at-risk youth, the ones we should be doing everything we can to protect and keep safe. We know too much about what bullying, discrimination, and forcibly prescribing identity does to a child to not be outraged by this. But DeVos is stone cold — and it’s not the only abhorrent attribute she’s brought to her role.
Here are some other ways in which she is proving to be the absolute worst.
1She cut student loan aid this week.
On Monday, she released a budget proposal that would make paying back our student loans a whole lot harder. She wants to consolidate the income-based repayment plans so that the period of time to repayment is shorter but raises the bill to 12.5 percent of a person’a income. She also wants to stop paying interest for lower-income students and get rid of the program that forgives loans for public servants. This will, according to the Washington Post, raise the cost of college by $200 billion within the next ten years. This means that millions of people will have to make a choice between a higher education or not going into debilitating debt. And if they do decide to borrow, they can just live in almost poverty like the majority of millennials already do. Nice one, Betsy.
2She is so corrupt.
Oh, she also has financial ties to the companies that she wants to collect these predatory loans, because of course she does. The worst part is that she doesn’t even try to hide this fact.
3She promotes this school “choice” thing.
DeVos calls her policy “school choice,” but it’s really a system to further segregate schools and ensure that wealthy, able children get services and can go to private schools and those that need them the most don’t have access. She heads up our public education system and has called it a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” which is just outrageous. How can you be fundamentally opposed to the thing you’re supposed to manage? Research is mixed when it comes to voucher programs, but most education experts (and not DeVos, who just knows the private, Christian schools she attended growing up) content that they don’t serve everyone, which is what a federal education department is supposed to do.
4She is not on the side of teachers.
Two of the heads of the biggest teacher unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association — two, mind you — went to the headquarters to bring DeVos 80,000 “report cards” from teachers who wrote their assessment of her suggested budgets and policies as a protest, but also a real sit down meeting with the head of the public education system. But they locked the doors! Protests are a right in pretty much all forms, but this was the most civilized way to “storm” the building we can think of.
“They don’t even have the respect to actually take the petitions, and the comments, and what people have said in a respectful way and deliver it to the secretary,” Randi Weingarten, the head of the AFT told the Washington Post.
5She thinks God belongs in schools.
DeVos has said that she wants to “advance God’s kingdom” through our school districts. “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom,” she once said, according to Mother Jones. We don’t really know what that means either, but it sounds like it’s forcing one idea of religion onto what is supposed to be a place separate from the church.
Oh, also she comes from a family that thinks Creationism should be taught in schools, doesn’t mind abstinence-only sex ed, and believes in conversion therapy. She’s distanced herself from those positions since getting on board the Trump train, but we’re not buying that she’s had a change of heart considering her own statements about religion in schools.
6She’s not the most familiar with public education.
She has never attended a public school, or sent her children to one, so how can she have any real idea how amazing they can be and how to come up with innovative ways to make our system better?