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Betsy DeVos became President Donald Trump's education secretary on February 7, 2017, following Vice President Mike Pence's vote to break a Senate deadlock—an inauspicious first for a Cabinet-level confirmation. Furious opposition to her nomination came from the nation's teachers unions: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called DeVos an "ideological" opponent of public education.
But DeVos' tenure has shown that she's an ideological opponent, not of public education, but of public education managed by federal bureaucrats. And she includes herself in that.
A former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, DeVos was known as an advocate for vouchers, charter schools, and more educational options for parents well before President Trump offered her the nation's top ed job. These issues became even more relevant in 2020, after the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close or go virtual, leaving millions of families in the lurch. With teachers unions all over the country fighting on behalf of their members to stop schools from reopening, many parents might be feeling ideologically opposed to the K–12 status quo as well.
While school choice is DeVos' signature issue, her tenure as secretary will probably be best remembered for implementing significant changes to Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination in education. During the Obama years, heavy-handed guidance in the form of a "Dear Colleague" letter from the federal Office for Civil Rights caused colleges to abandon norms of due process in sexual misconduct hearings. DeVos spent two years writing a new rule that would restore basic fairness to these procedures. It formally took effect on August 14.
Much like DeVos herself, the new rules are a lightning rod—and deeply unpopular with a host of policy makers and advocates who say the secretary is callously making college campuses less safe for women. Sen. Patty Murray (D–Wash.) has accused DeVos of "silencing survivors." The activist group Know Your IX predicted that sexual violence would increase as a result of the administration's actions.
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