Donald Trump has selected Michigan Republican Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education. While that may sound like a relief when you consider the others who were in the running, DeVos’ appointment should frighten anyone who cares about church/state separation.
DeVos has been a longtime supporter of school voucher programs, which use the pleasant-sounding phrase “school choice” to take money away from public schools and leave them in the dust. (Trump elaborated on his vision of dismantling our public education system while on the campaign trail.)
More pressing on this website is the question of whether parents who want to send their kids to a private religious school would be given taxpayer dollars to do so.
There’s reason to believe she’ll want to make that an option, laws be damned. DeVos grew up in a Religious Right-loving home and gave money to organizations working to push Christian beliefs through the government. As Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Rob Boston wrote in a 2010 profile of her:
Growing up in the strict Calvinist Christian Reformed Church, Betsy DeVos’ antipathy toward public education may run in her blood. She comes from a politically active, socially conservative family. Her parents are Elsa Prince Broekhuizen and the late Edgar Prince, a Michigan couple that has funded the Religious Right for years.
The Princes have provided huge sums to both Focus on the Family and its quasi-affiliate, the Family Research Council (FRC). Even today, the FRC maintains a fulfillment center in Grand Rapids, where the Princes and the DeVoses are based. (Betsy DeVos’ brother, Erik, is notorious in his own right: He founded the controversial international security company Blackwater.)
DeVos needs to make clear that federal funds will not go toward supporting religious indoctrination. Because we know how bad things have gotten on that front in states where voucher programs have been implemented.
Her husband Dick DeVos, a former candidate for governor of Michigan and heir to the Amway fortune, has also backed Intelligent Design, the widely debunked pseudo-scientific theory that says some Higher Power must have created us (or at least parts of us) because evolution can’t possibly explain it. In 2006, when running for office, Dick DeVos said he wanted to see ID taught alongside evolution in science classes:
“I would like to see the ideas of intelligent design — that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory — that that theory and others that would be considered credible would expose our students to more ideas, not less.
Exposing students to more good ideas is fine. But Intelligent Design is not a good idea, nor does it have any backing from credible scientists. Just as we would never waste time in math class teaching kids that 2 + 2 = 5, there’s no need to push Christian mythology into science class.
Would Betsy DeVos feel the same way? She should make clear that only real science, and not the fringe fake kind pushed only by Christians, ought to be taught in schools receiving federal funds.
It’s also telling that DeVos and her husband’s fortune comes from a business model that scams its own “employees.” (John Oliver did a terrific job last week explaining why you should avoid multi-level marketing schemes.)
If DeVos gets the chance to waste taxpayer money to fund more charter schools and create a nationwide voucher program, she’d be doing to our country’s children what her husband’s company has long done to customers and employees.
(Screenshot via YouTube)