ALEXANDRIA, VA—Earlier today, ASCD sent the following letter to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) expressing reservations about U.S. Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. The letter calls into question whether DeVos has the necessary expertise, commitment, and leadership skills to lead the U.S. Department of Education.
Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray,
On behalf of ASCD’s 125,000 educator members (superintendents, principals, teachers, and other educators), we would like to share serious concerns about the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education.
DeVos has no experience leading, overseeing, or governing a school, district, or state education system, or any other large organization. While this lack of expertise is not disqualifying in itself, her responses to questions at her Senate confirmation hearing about fundamental education functions such as the federal requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and accountability for public funds were unsettling to educators across the country. It is incumbent upon your committee and the full Senate to be confident that DeVos has the necessary understanding of federal education programs, policies, and procedures to lead the U.S. Department of Education before voting to confirm her.
This assurance is even more important given DeVos’s long-standing efforts and contributions to issues, initiatives, and organizations whose common purpose is to privatize public schools. This priority calls into question her commitment to a quality public education for all students, which has been and should continue to be a hallmark of every U.S. Secretary of Education. Indeed, it is not clear if DeVos fully supports the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its various components, which were approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of both your committee and the full Senate. ESSA provides much needed systemic stability after several years of uncertainty. The law’s requirements allow long-term planning while offering states and districts an appropriate amount of flexibility to establish their own definitions of student success and methods to achieve them. To ensure the success of the law and its goals, national leaders, including DeVos, must oversee its implementation with fidelity so that all state plans provide an equitable and well-rounded education focused on the whole child.
Historically, the role of the U.S. Department of Education has been to promote equity of and access to educational opportunities for all students, with a particular emphasis on disadvantaged, underserved, and special needs student populations. Our country’s educators, parents, and students deserve a Secretary of Education committed to those principles—one who will work each day to ensure that every student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Although we hope this will be the case with DeVos, there remain significant reservations about whether or not she has the expertise, commitment, and leadership skills necessary to achieve that goal. Given the strong opposition to her nomination, it is equally questionable as to whether or not she has the interest in and capacity to build strong relationships across all stakeholder groups so that students benefit from their collective leadership.
Thank you for your consideration and for your support of every student in our country.