Betsy DeVos vowed to change American education. For the most part, she didn’t.
Dec 02, 2020 2 mins, 54 secs

WASHINGTON — Back in January 2017, Betsy DeVos, then President Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing that the threat of grizzly bears in Wyoming justified the national push to equip schools with guns.

In her view, public education money should follow students to whatever learning model their parents prefer – whether it’s a traditional public school, a charter school, a private school or a home school. .

“She has really tried to make the case that as education secretary her job is to work with schools of all stripes,” said Lindsey Burke, who directs the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank.

“She came into that position with one purpose in mind: to destroy public education,” said Becky Pringle, the president of the National Education Association, noting public schools enroll 90% of the country’s schoolchildren. .

Where DeVos did gain traction was in her efforts to reverse a suite of policies from President Barack Obama’s administration that she felt had given the federal government an outsize role in education.

Some of DeVos’s most concrete policy changes, experts suggest, concerned Title IX, the federal law protecting people from sex-based discrimination in education.

How DeVos' policy works at some colleges: Hearings are traumatic for both sides.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks to reporters at the Department of Education after hosting a listening session on the impact of the Department's Title IX sexual assault guidance on students and families and institutions. (Photo: Jasper Colt, USA TODAY Network).

Some have started furloughing or laying off employees, which means they may be lacking ready hands to overhaul sexual misconduct rules.

On the college level, she rolled back several federal rules meant to protect students who borrowed federal money to pay for their education.

One of those unfair rules, he said, was the Obama administration’s push to limit federal funding to colleges whose programs provided “gainful employment.” That rule was meant to protect students from wasting time and money on shoddy programs that don’t lead to jobs.

“I think there’s a growing belief that transparency of data and common metrics is far better in higher education than a whole set of rules and regulations,” Gunderson said

Under DeVos, the federal government even rolled back rules for accreditation, the dry and arcane process of approving which universities can receive federal funding. 

Biden, in his higher education plan, has promised to undo many of DeVos’ changes, stopping colleges from “profiteering off students.” He also plans to reinstate Obama-era rules that tie a college's receipt of federal money in part to graduates' salaries and debt levels

The system of colleges later closed in 2015 after the Department of Education restricted its access to federal money for allegedly lying about its job placement rates. 

For her part, DeVos issued a statement Tuesday defending her decisions to roll back Obama-era rules on Title IX and "reforming accreditation and other heretofore burdensome requirements and regulations." She also took an opportunity to criticize Biden's plan for cutting the cost of college and forgiving student debt. 

"What we do next in education policy — and in public policy writ large — will either break our already fragile economy, or it will unleash an age of achievement and prosperity the likes of which we’ve never seen."

DeVos deepened partisan divides within federal education policy

As recently as November, in an interview with Reason, DeVos questioned the necessity of the department she was tasked with managing


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