Betsy DeVos once accused her fellow Republicans of racism in opposing school choice

DeVos blasted Republicans who she claimed oppose school choice out of fear of "kids from the inner cities"

By Matthew Rozsa
January 19, 2017 9:21PM (UTC)
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FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2016 file photo, Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos speaks in Grand Rapids, Mich. Edging closer to completing his Cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump announced his choice of Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke as Interior secretary Thursday, picking a man who should fit smoothly into an administration favoring more energy drilling and less regulation. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) (AP)

Betsy DeVos, the charter school and school choice advocate nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the education department, once accused many of her fellow Republicans of opposing school choice out of latent racism.

"Many Republicans in the suburbs likes the idea of education choice as a concept, right up until it means that poor kids from the inner cities might invade their schools," DeVos said in a 2015 speech unearthed by CNN at the South by Southwest education conference. She warned in advance the speech would be "politically incorrect" about her opponents. "That's when you'll hear the sentiment 'well, it's not really a great idea to have poor minority kids come to our good suburban schools' though they'll never actually say those words aloud."


DeVos went on to recall a Michigan Republican legislator who she claimed opposed public school choice because his suburban district bordered the city of Detroit, which has school children that are predominantly African American. She also claimed that Democrats largely oppose school choice due to their support for teachers unions, although she praised Democratic politicians like Cory Booker and Andrew Cuomo for breaking from the party line on this issue.

DeVos' confirmation hearing has been particularly contentious. On Tuesday she was called to account by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, for seeming to be unfamiliar with a federal law known as the Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA); hedging her response to a question by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, on guaranteeing affordable college education to low-income students; and deflecting a question from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, on whether she could be trusted to not take money away from public schools.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Betsy Devos Donald Trump Racial Minorities Racism Republican Party