Meet Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s Education Secretary-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
President-elect Donald Trump selected billionaire Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education because she donated millions to his campaign, but she has no experience in education and opposes public schools.
Rumors about Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, circulating on social media are a combination of truth and fiction.
These claims can be traced back to a meme titled “Meet Betsy DeVos” that began circulating after Trump tapped her to serve as Secretary of Education. The meme lists a number of reasons why DeVos is unqualified to hold the post and argues that she was rewarded for donating $9.5 million to Trump’s campaign.
We’ll start out by providing a little background. Betsy DeVos is the daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, the founder of Amway with an estimated net worth of about $5.1 billion. The DeVos family is known for supporting Republican causes.
Betsy and her husband “Dick” DeVos have focused their lobbying efforts on education, school choice and opposition to Common Core standards through their Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation.
Now we’ll take a look at some of the specific claims made in the ”Meet Betsy DeVos” meme making the rounds on social media.
Betsy DeVos Donated $9.5 Million to Trump’s Campaign-Fiction!
Betsy DeVos didn’t back Donald Trump during his campaign, and she even went on the record as saying that Trump “does not represent the Republican Party” before the election.
However, as the owners of the nation’s largest charter school lobbying organization, the DeVos family spent heavily to influence other races during the 2016 election cycle.
The Detroit Free Press reports that the DeVos Family contributed $1.45 million to Republican state lawmakers in Michigan alone over a seven-week period after they backed off a proposal to step up oversight on charter schools in the state.
Overall, it’s not clear how much the DeVos family spent in the 2016 election cycle, but claims that Betsy DeVos donated $9.5 million to Trump’s campaign can easily be proven false.
Betsy DeVos Doesn’t Have an Education Degree, Has No Classroom Experience-Truth!
Calvin College in Michigan issued a release saying that DeVos graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the college’s “economics group” in 1979 — so it’s true that she doesn’t have formal training in education.
And Inside Higher Ed reported the Devos would be “the first education secretary without a substantial background in higher education” to serve in the position.
But DeVos has been involved in educational policy for nearly 30 years. She serves as chair of the Alliance for School Choice, the American Federation for Children and the Great Lakes Education Project, all of which advocate for school choice.
Betsy DeVos Does Not Support Public Education-Disputed!
Betsy DeVos has signaled that she supports personal choice and freedom over traditional public education models from a policy standpoint — but the DeVos family has supported public schools in Michigan with donations.
A DeVos spokesperson pushing back on claims the DeVos does not support public education told the Detroit News that the DeVos family has quietly helped many underprivileged children in Michigan over the years. But it’s not clear that help has come through support for public education.
In an interview with Philanthropy Roundtable, DeVos talked about the failures of “traditional public schools” boosting support for her school choice initiatives across the country, and that seems to be where these claims come from:
This confluence of events is forcing people to take note, particularly because of the public’s awareness that traditional public schools are not succeeding. In fact, let’s be clear, in many cases, they are failing. That’s helped people become more open to what were once considered really radical reforms—reforms like vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts.
… I’m most focused on educational choice. But, thinking more broadly, what we are trying to do is tear down the mindset that assigns students to a school based solely on the zip code of their family’s home. We advocate instead for as much freedom as possible. One long-term trend that’s working in our favor is technology. It seems to me that, in the internet age, the tendency to equate “education” with “specific school buildings” is going to be greatly diminished. Within the right framework of legislation, that freedom will ultimately be healthy for the education of our kids.
Given all that, we’re calling this one “disputed.”
Betsy DeVos Believes School Teachers Are Overpaid-Unproven!
There doesn’t appear to be any record of Betsy DeVos arguing that public school teachers are overpaid, but a non-profit tied to DeVos reached that conclusion in a 2011 study.
The American Enterprises Institute and the Heritage Foundation study concludes that, “Public school teachers receive total compensation more than 50 percent greater than that of private sector employees — if you take into account benefits, job security, summer vacations and other factors.”
However, it’s not clear that DeVos personally holds that view.
In conclusion, claims made in the “Meet Betsy DeVos” meme are true, false, unproven and disputed.