Betsy DeVos goes on "60 Minutes," displays her ignorance

The secretary of education, when asked about education topics, struggles to come up with answers

Published March 12, 2018 8:44AM (EDT)

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks to the news during a press conference about her visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Getty/Joe Raedle)
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks to the news during a press conference about her visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Getty/Joe Raedle)

As one of the most despised people in President Donald Trump's administration, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos believes she's "more misunderstood than anything." But when pressed during a "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday about how she is convinced her school choice agenda and reduced federal involvement are the right policies, DeVos was only able to reply with rudimentary answers.

At one point, she even admitted she specifically has chosen not to visit schools that underperform academically. It was part of a larger pattern, one that showed the secretary of education needed some schooling in how schools work in this country.

"I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming," DeVos told CBS's Lesley Stahl.

DeVos has long pushed a school choice ideology, one that has been embraced by many across the conservative spectrum and especially by Christians. But DeVos couldn't manage to come up with a clear answer on why school choice programs have not improved schools inside her home state of Michigan.

"Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school — school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems," she said.

Stahl pressed her and asked what would happen to the kids "who are back at the school that's not working?"

"Well, in places where there have been — where there is — a lot of choice that's been introduced — Florida, for example, the — studies show that when there's a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better, as well," DeVos explained.

But then Stahl asked about Michigan.

"I don't know. Overall, I — I can't say overall that they have all gotten better," DeVos answered.

DeVos attempted to explain that there are certain "pockets" of the state where students are doing well, but Stahl went further and pointed out that the backbone of the argument for her school choice agenda, "that if you take funds away that the schools will get better," did not work in Michigan, a place in which DeVos "had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system."

DeVos also tried to argue that a reduction in federal funds can bolster public school results, but she once again failed to answer with much substance.

"We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level, and we have seen zero results," DeVos said.

Stahl pushed back, saying that wasn't true because "test scores have gone up over the last 25 years."

"Well actually, test scores vis-à-vis the rest of the world have not gone up," DeVos shot back. "And we have continued to be middle of the pack at best. That's just not acceptable."

Stahl pushed further and said things are better than they were but that DeVos hardly ever acknowledged the improvements.

DeVos argued she was fighting for parents to have choices, because "Families that don't have the power, that can't decide: 'I'm gonna move from this apartment in downtown whatever to the suburb where I think the school is gonna be better for my child.'"

By Charlie May

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Betsy Devos Department Of Education Education Secretary School Choice