The Betsy DeVos era in public education is over. And it couldn’t have come a minute too soon.
Last week, after an insurrection at the Capitol incited by the president himself, the administration’s staff and cabinet members started jumping ship—because, for some reason, after four years of working under a white nationalist and fascist, inciting a violent uprising was a bridge too far.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was among those who resigned. DeVos is perhaps best known for making the lives of sexual assault survivors a living hell. But her tenure was filled with all kinds of craven and bigoted decisions that made our nation’s education system a more hateful and dysfunctional place for students.
In a perfect world, DeVos would have resigned because she was a terrible education secretary, not because she likely didn’t want to be involved in a cabinet vote to remove the president from office under the 25th Amendment.
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But these days we take our wins where we can find them, and DeVos being out of a job is a win for certain. Sen. Elizabeth Warren called her “the worst secretary of education ever.”
Betsy DeVos has never done her job to help America’s students. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that she’d rather quit than do her job to help invoke the 25th Amendment.
Good riddance, Betsy. You were the worst Secretary of Education ever. https://t.co/im1IgGQVSp
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) January 8, 2021
Here are five reasons we’re glad to see her go.
She made schools safer for rapists
DeVos made a lot of bad decisions about sexual violence in schools and on college campuses. She rolled back Title IX protections for students on college campuses by increasing protections for abusers and rapists and loosening the obligations of college administrators when a student reports sexual violence. And just so no one felt left out, she also gutted protections for K-12 students and required schools to investigate only claims of extreme sexual harassment.
Devos herself called it an attempt to improve Title IX and better determine which cases are “real” or legitimate, and which are not. “Any perceived offense can become a full-blown Title IX investigation. But if everything is harassment, then nothing is,” she said. And she did all this after holding “listening sessions” with organizations that claim to advocate for wrongly accused students while really just smearing rape survivors as liars.
She made schools more dangerous for trans students
Under DeVos, the Department of Education immediately rescinded guidance protecting transgender students’ access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Then it sought to reframe the definition of “sex” under Title IX to discriminate against transgender students. And make no mistake, these orders came from the top.
She also made schools more dangerous for students with disabilities
Sexual violence is a disability issue. People with disabilities are three times more likely to experience sexual violence; they’re also significantly less likely to report. DeVos’ attacks on Title IX and survivors came down especially hard on students with disabilities. The added hurdles to reporting and the lack of protections were devastating for all students, but for those living with physical disabilities or mental health conditions, they only exacerbated the already volatile effects of sexual violence.
And she made schools more dangerous for Black students
DeVos made no secret of her racism during her tenure as the secretary of education. She lied to leaders of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and used them as a distraction to promote “school choice”—as Rewire News Group’s Imani Gandy wrote at the time, that’s a “buzzword used by folks who want to eliminate public education in favor of vouchers, charter schools, and virtual schools, all of which reduce resources available to already underfunded public schools”—and to support other policies that would adversely affect students of color under the guise of doing just the opposite.
Overall she made school less … educational
Beyond her overt bigotry and her penchant for protecting rapists and attacking survivors of sexual violence, DeVos was a nightmare for the quality of education of students nationwide. While she touted the importance of school choice and charter schools. DeVos took every chance she could to undermine the quality of public education. This pattern began long before she entered the Trump administration: The charter school policies she spent millions backing in Michigan were such a failure that students in Detroit even filed a lawsuit in 2016 claiming the city’s schools were “schools in name only, characterized by slum-like conditions and lacking the most basic educational opportunities that children elsewhere in Michigan and throughout the nation take for granted.”