One would think that after Betsy DeVos appeared unfamiliar with basic education policy during parts of her confirmation hearing – an incident she says was worse than a root canal – the Education secretary would study up. Yet in a rare interview on Sunday night, DeVos revealed that she still has a poor grasp on these subjects.
There were plenty of cringe-inducing moments during the 13-minute 60 Minutes segment, from DeVos opting not to say whether she thinks the number of false accusations of sexual assault is as high as the number of actual assaults, to her declaration that the federal government has “invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level, and we have seen zero results.”
But one exchange with Lesley Stahl on school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, was so bad that it’s hard to identify the worst part. Here’s a little pop quiz. Was it:
(a) DeVos’s attempt to explain how letting parents pull kids (along with taxpayer funds) out of bad public schools helps the other kids in the failing school.
Lesley Stahl: Why take away money from that school that’s not working, to bring them up to a level where they are– that school is working?
Betsy DeVos: Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school– school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.
Lesley Stahl: Okay. But what about the kids who are back at the school that’s not working? What about those kids?
Betsy DeVos: 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.
(b) DeVos pointing to her home state of Michigan, where she’s promoted the spread of underperforming charter schools, as a success story, then ultimately acknowledging that the state needs to do better.
Lesley Stahl: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.
Betsy DeVos: Michi– Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.
Lesley Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?
Betsy DeVos: I don’t know. Overall, I– I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.
Lesley Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.
Betsy DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this– the students are doing well and–
Lesley Stahl: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.
Betsy DeVos: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.
Lesley Stahl: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.
Betsy DeVos: Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.
(c) DeVos admitting that she hasn’t bothered to visit any failing schools.
Lesley Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?
Betsy DeVos: I have not– I have not– I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.
Lesley Stahl: Maybe you should.
Betsy DeVos: Maybe I should. Yes.
(d) All of the above.
ANSWER: (d) Oh God, this person is the Education secretary.