WUOMFM

Betsy DeVos hopes to “rewrite the education playbook,” says top charter school lobbyist

Jan 31, 2017

Betsy DeVos is facing stiff opposition from teacher's unions in her nomination fight to head up the US Departent of Education.  

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow announced that she would not support DeVos nearly three weeks in advance of the vote by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. (On Tuesday, the committee voted 12-11 along party lines on Tuesday to move DeVos’s nomination to the Senate floor.) And, in DeVos’ hometown of Holland, about a thousand people recently gathered to protest the nomination.

But DeVos also had some devoted supporters in her corner. 

Gary Naeyaert is executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, a lobbying arm for charter schools founded by the DeVos family.  He says DeVos is getting resistance because she's an outsider in the public education world. 

“What we’ve had is a status quo kind of approach to education policy,” Naeyaert said. “And I think this President and this secretary-designate, who come from outside the norm, are here to shake things up. That’s a scary proposition for the historic defenders of the status quo.”

There were a number of contentious moments during DeVos’s confirmation hearing. At one point, she was unwilling to say that schools receiving federal funding should be required to abide by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

And when asked by Senator Al Franken whether she supported testing for proficiency or for growth, a fundamental debate in education policy, she seemed to be unfamiliar with the issue.

In defending those answers, Naeyaert noted that DeVos later issued a correction regarding her position on the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, and that she has been engaged in discussion regarding proficiency and growth.

“What she wants to do is rewrite the education playbook for America, and get past this artificial distinction of age and grade, and what you should learn by this date, or this date, or this date,” Naeyaert said. “That’s where she wants to elevate the education discussion. She tried, perhaps inarticulately, to have that conversation with Senator Franken, and it didn’t come off, obviously.”

Listen to our full interview with Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, above.

(Subscribe to the Stateside podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or with this RSS link)