On Wednesday, Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos to head up the Department of Education for his administration. But although Trump’s selection of DeVos shows his position on things like school vouchers and charter schools (more on that in a bit), it leaves open one of the biggest questions regarding education police in the Trump administration: Will Betsy DeVos get rid of the Common Core?
At this early stage of DeVos’ national career, it’s too early to tell for sure.
Many see Trump’s selection of DeVos as a more traditional option for Republicans. She has served as the chair of the Michigan Republican party, and with her husband, has lobbied hard for voucher programs that would allow middle- and lower-income public school students to use public money to enroll in private schools. But when it comes to Common Core, which Trump vowed to end during his campaign, DeVos’ position is not totally clear — and that’s leaving some conservatives angry.
One of the biggest thorns in the side of Common Core opponents regarding DeVos is that she is on the board for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a group started by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to promote both school choice and the Common Core. Some have already decried the choice of Devos, including Susan Berry writing for Breitbart News, which was formerly headed by Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon. Her article described DeVos as “pro-Common Core” and also noted in the same article that her family donated to the Clinton Foundation.
Trump may be realizing that it’s much more likely that he’ll be able to effect more change with programs like school vouchers than with the Common Core, largely because the Common Core isn’t a federal program. In fact, it was developed by governors and state superintendents, and adopted on a state-by-state level. The Obama administration, with its “Race to the Top” program, used federal money to incentivize states to adopt Common Core-like standards, but for states that have already adopted it, it’s unclear if they’d abandon it.
DeVos’ heretofore lack of a significant public persona makes peering into the crystal ball even more difficult. Add into the mix the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind, and its restrictions on the federal government interfering with how states determine their education standards, and Trump and DeVos may have even less ability to affect Common Core than anyone thought.
Prior to the announcement of Devos, there had been a lot of speculation about Trump’s choice for secretary of education. Over the weekend, Trump met with controversial Washington, D.C. school’s chancellor Michelle Rhee, who famously took on the teacher unions. The meeting led many to speculate that Trump might be open to naming a Democrat to his cabinet, something he’d previously claimed he was unwilling to do. There are other Democrats considered to be in the running for cabinet positions, though, including Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a former Bernie Sanders supporter.