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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

What the Senate Should Ask Trump's Pick for Education Chief
By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. |  January 16, 2017   Education Views    

President-Elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary is scheduled to begin confirmation hearings on January 17.  While Democrats greatly fear what she might do to reduce their tyrannical control over public education, conservatives also are deeply concerned about where she stands on various issues.

But will the many Republican senators who have benefited from the tens of thousands dollars of DeVos money ask the critical questions of the person who will run a federal bureaucracy with 5,000 public employees and around $70 billion in annual public funding?

Here are a few of the many questions that various conservative organizations have offered up for Senators to ask Mrs. DeVos.

1. Do you support a federal voucher program?
The Indiana voucher law supported and funded by you and your organization, the American Federation for Children (AFC), requires voucher recipient schools – including private schools – to administer the public school Common Core-aligned tests which determine content that is taught. As a school choice supporter, do you support a federal voucher program requiring Common Core-aligned public school standards, curriculum, and tests for private and home schools as well for charter schools?

2. Will you greatly reduce the control of the U.S. Department of Education?
Mr. Trump campaigned upon reducing the federal footprint in education. Will you begin that process to greatly scale back or abolish the USDE and return Constitutional control over education to the states?  How do you plan to do that?

3. Will you restore and update FERPA?
Will you commit to carrying out Trump's campaign promise to reverse the Obama administration’s gutting of FERPA and updating that statute with increased student privacy protection from digital data mining?

4. Explain your position on “higher national standards.”
It is reported that, in your November 19th meeting with President-Elect Trump, you discussed “higher national standards.”  Given his campaign pledge to end Common Core and the unconstitutionality of the federal government inserting itself into education, how do you justify your stance?

5. Do you support Common Core in any way?
You have stated on your website that you do not, so please explain your education advocacy, either individually or through your organizations including the Great Lakes Education Project, where you
•    lobbied for implementation of Common Core in Michigan,
•    financially supported pro-Common Core candidates in Michigan,
•    financially supported pro-Common Core school board candidates in Alabama, and
•    actively worked to defeat a bill that would have ended Common Core in Michigan.

6. Will you commit to ending corporate data mining efforts?
The Philanthropy Roundtable, which you chaired, published a report that promotes corporate data mining of student information?  Will you continue to promote corporate data mining efforts or will you commit to ending it?

7. Do you support federal strings tied to federal Title I portability?
You and AFC have been strong supporters of federal Title I portability.  As Secretary of Education, would you require private schools under a Title I portability program to use Common Core tests and be subject to other federal regulations? Please explain whether this action is Constitutional and whether it carries out Mr. Trump's promise to reduce the federal footprint in education.

8. Do you support continuing the ban on the creation of a national student database that follows a person throughout his life?
The federal Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking is considering lifting the ban on the creation of a national student database linking student data from preschool through the workforce.  Will you commit to maintaining student privacy against federal intrusion by recommending that the ban be permanently left in place?

Liberals fear Betsy DeVos because she and her husband, Richard M. DeVos, Jr., have used educational philanthropy to promote their conservative Christian worldview to children.  During the 2001 annual conference of some of the nation’s wealthiest Christian philanthropists, “The Gathering,” Mr. DeVos indicated that churches need to get more involved in education, using school voucher programs and other means.  In an interview, the DeVoses said that school choice would lead to “greater kingdom gain.”  Churches, schools and families should become more tightly built around a “consistent worldview.”

Betsy DeVos attended Holland Christian school as a child and sent her own children to private Christian schools.  

There are positive reasons why Betsy DeVos is a good choice for the Trump administration.  Let’s hope she realizes that Common Core and federal vouchers are anathema to her deeper Christian goals and begins the process to stop Common Core and abolish federal control over education.

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