What’s the Deal with Betsy DeVos?

Betsy DeVos is coming to town! She will be in Salt Lake City tomorrow, Tuesday, May 9 at 2:30 PM giving a speech at the ASU + GSV Summit.

If you do not know who Betsy DeVos is, here is a quick primer: Ms. DeVos is currently the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, having been confirmed to that position earlier this year. Her confirmation process was extremely contentious, with Democrats vehemently opposing her because of her large contributions to Republicans and support of alternatives to public education (more below!). After hearings in which she had troubles answering even minor policy questions, two Republicans voted against her confirmation, resulting in a tie that was broken by the Vice President.

But why should you care? Here are eight things we feel you should know about our new Secretary of Education:

  1. DeVos has nearly no qualifications for her current position. As The Atlantic notes, she has never attended a public school, nor sent any of her children to one. DeVos attended the private Holland Christian High School in Holland, Michigan; her alma mater is the Christian Reformed Church-affiliated Calvin College. Before being confirmed to the president Trump’s cabinet, she had never held public office.
  2. DeVos is known perhaps most notoriously for her confusing confirmation hearing, during which she betrayed a complete absence of knowledge about the workings of public schools. She apparently asked Senator Al Franken to explain the difference between “growth and proficiency” within the context of education, and seemingly refused to respond to Senator Tim Kaine’s questions about accountability in schools.
  3. DeVos suggested during her confirmation hearing that schools in rural towns might have guns “to protect from potential grizzlies.”
  4. DeVos recently revoked memos the Obama Administration issued that protected student borrowers by requiring loan servicers to inform and work with borrowers at risk of default.
  5. DeVos has been a leading figure in the charge for school privatization, with heavily religious motivations. DeVos has called for funneling federal funding into private Christian schools and described this process as “advancing God’s Kingdom.”
  6. DeVos has seen strong opposition from the Autistic Community. Advocates for autistic individuals are concerned by DeVos’ aim to divert money from public schools, which are the only educational institutions required by law to offer services for children with autism and associated conditions.
  7. DeVos opposes government oversight for local charter-schools and played a large role in a highly criticized privatization effort in Detroit that removed oversight requirements from state policy. 
  8. DeVos’s family donated roughly one million dollars to 20 senators who confirmed her nomination. In 1997, she wrote, “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence, now I simply concede the point. They are right.”

Do any of these upset you? Then join us tomorrow as we demonstrate and rally outside the Grand America Hotel in Downtown SLC where DeVos will be speaking! We’ll be meeting at 2:00 PM. We hope to see you there! More info on the protest here.


  1. Betsy DeVos Confirmation HearingC-SPAN (1/17/2017)
  2. Trump’s education pick says reform can ‘advance God’s Kingdom,'” Politico (12/02/2016)
  3. Attorneys general criticize DeVos for hurting student loan borrowers,” The Washington Post (4/24/2017)
  4. A Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift,” New York Times (6/28-2016)
  5. What Betsy DeVos Did (and Didn’t) Reveal About Her Education Priorities,” The Atlantic (1/17/2017)
  6. Pick for U.S. education secretary rankles autism community,” Spectrum (2/7/2017)

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