Some schoolyard rules still apply to political life: Bullies often win, and if you ask a group of people to stop making fun of you, most likely they’re going to continue to do so. Thus, when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expressed frustration regarding the use of her “name as clickbait,” naturally, it made for a promising piece of short, click-inspiring journalism.
Speaking on Monday at the Education Writers Association conference in Baltimore, DeVos told the crowd that “as much as many in the media use my name as clickbait or try to make it all about me, it’s not.” Speaking voluntarily in front of a room full of people, DeVos said, “I don’t enjoy the publicity that comes with my position. I don’t love being up onstage or on any kind of platform. I’m an introvert.”
DeVos is most likely referring to the March debacle over the Education Department’s proposed 2020 budget, which aimed to cut all federal funding for the extremely popular Special Olympics program. (She could also be referring to the January 2018 lawsuit in which she was sued for rolling back campus sexual-assault protections in January, or when Parkland survivors called her visit a publicity stunt in March 2018.) DeVos, who donated a quarter of her salary to the Special Olympics, had to defend the proposed cut to a Democratic House for the first time in her tenure as Education secretary, which led to a bout of public lambasting.
“I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget,” Representative Barbara Lee told DeVos during a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education hearing in March. “It’s appalling.” Subcommittee chair Rosa DeLauro asked, “How can you support this budget? I mean that genuinely.” Soon after the hearing, Trump canceled the potential cut, but not soon enough to save DeVos from waves of public criticism.
DeVos also shared her consternation over the critiques of her passion policy: charter schools. “Charter schools are public schools,” DeVos told the teachers’ conference in Baltimore. “There are many different mechanisms that empower families to choose the education that’s right for their children. And they are just that, mechanisms.”
But some critics claim that the publicly funded, privately managed charters are an unnecessary drain on public-school funding and an unintentional source of school segregation. In 2010, the Civil Rights Project at UCLA called charter schools “a civil rights failure,” and in 2016, the NAACP called for a moratorium on charters until “public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system.”