We take a look at what Betsy DeVos’ appointment as education secretary could mean for Washington state.
Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, will have her confirmation hearing Tuesday after the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions delayed it for a week.
Sen. Patty Murray, the committee’s ranking member, already has raised concerns about DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist who has been a longtime advocate of charter schools and a voucher system.
DeVos’ role would have a significant effect on the federal education system. We take a look at what that means for Washington state:
Common Core: DeVos isn’t a supporter of Common Core. On her website, she writes, “I am not a supporter — period,” and that the standards “got turned into a federalized boondoggle.”
Washington uses Common Core standards in its statewide tests in math and English-language arts, called Smarter Balanced. With strong encouragement from the federal government, many states adopted Common Core standards, but some have since revised or replaced them.
Charter schools and charter oversight: DeVos is an ardent supporter of charter schools, which have had a rocky time in Washington since First Place Scholars opened in 2014. Her family was influential in getting a charter school law passed in Michigan in 1993. Since the law passed, hundreds of charter schools have opened in Michigan, and roughly 80 percent are now run by private companies, according to The New York Times.
The Devos family also contributed millions to Republican candidates and organizations when lawmakers tried placing charter schools under the same authority as public schools in Detroit, the Detroit Free Press reported. The oversight plan was voted down.
Murray said she will “absolutely be asking more about that in the hearing.”
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“I have serious concerns with Betsy DeVos’ record of fighting against accountability for charter schools and private schools receiving taxpayer funds,” Murray said in a statement. “We should know that taxpayer investments are working, and we should know that students are actually learning.”
Vouchers: Both DeVos and Trump have voiced their support for the voucher system, under which students are able to attend private or parochial schools with taxpayer money that would have gone to public schools. About 176,500 students in 14 states and Washington, D.C., received vouchers this year, according to EdChoice, an organization that advocates for school choice. Trump has proposed investing $20 billion toward school choice by “reprioritizing existing federal dollars,” though he hasn’t specified from where those funds would come.
Washington doesn’t have a voucher system, and past proposals have been met with opposition. DeVos couldn’t force Washington to adopt one, but if she used federal dollars for vouchers elsewhere, it might mean less for Washington.
Murray also expressed concern about vouchers.
“We have serious education funding challenges in Washington state, and cutting critical federal investments in public education would only make that worse,” she said.