Washington Post - President-elect Donald Trump has named Betsy DeVos, a conservative activist and billionaire philanthropist who has pushed forcefully for private school voucher programs nationwide, as his nominee for education secretary.
Trump’s pick underlines his promises on the campaign trail to put “school choice” — the expansion of taxpayer-funded charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools — at the center of his efforts on education.
Teachers unions and other proponents of public schools immediately decried DeVos’s nomination as a catastrophic attack on public education. Some conservative groups are also likely to be unhappy; they have argued that choosing DeVos signals that Trump is wavering on his vehement opposition to the Common Core State Standards.
DeVos, 58, has not said much about the Common Core, the set of math and reading guidelines adopted by most states. But she has ties to several pro-Common Core organizations, including as a member of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, started by former Florida governor and Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush.
Betsy DeVos serves as chairman of the American Federation of Children and its associated 527 action fund, a platform she has used to support candidates who endorse vouchers and charter schools — and to attack candidates who don’t.
While hers is hardly a household name, she has helped change the landscape of education across the country. Three decades ago, there were no state voucher programs. Now, according to the advocacy group EdChoice, about 400,000 children in 29 states are going to private schools with the help of public dollars, some via vouchers and others through derivative programs, such as tax-credit scholarships or education savings accounts.