Outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told career staff at her department to “resist” changes under the Biden administration, according to an audio recording obtained by Politico.
DeVos, who is from the Grand Rapids area, urged employees during a virtual meeting Tuesday to “be the resistance” when the new administration takes over in January, Politico reported.
“Let me leave you with this plea: Resist,” DeVos said. “Be the resistance against forces that will derail you from doing what’s right for students. In everything you do, please put students first — always,” she then added.
DeVos’ use of “resist” in the staff meeting employs the term that liberals have long used in regard to President Donald Trump’s agenda.
A spokeswoman for DeVos did not immediately comment Wednesday on the Politico report. The report also said that the Trump Administration selected Phil Rosenfelt to serve as acting secretary of education in the coming weeks.
Rosenfelt is the agency’s deputy general counsel. He previously served as acting secretary for a short time before DeVos’ confirmation by the Senate in 2017.
Focus On Students First
Her goal “in everything we accomplished was to do what’s right for students,” DeVos said at Tuesday’s virtual meeting. She also said that “four years later, it’s still my focus and it’s still my hope for all of you.”
Politico reported that DeVos named among her major achievements the department’s overhaul of Title IX rules governing sexual assault and misconduct on campus — rules the agency finalized in May.
DeVos has warned that Biden’s new education secretary would find have difficulty reversing the policy changes she has made.
“We have been very methodical about our rulemaking and regulatory moves to do everything according to law, so that if there are changes, they have to be done by law as well,” DeVos also said at an education roundtable at Hillsdale College in October.
Biden’s agenda for education reform includes reversing some of the DeVos-era policies including the Title IX rules. However, those regulatory changes took time — nearly three years under DeVos.
Before her role at the Department of Education, DeVos spent decades as an advocate for charter schools. She also advocated school choice and voucher programs in Michigan and around the country.
The former chair of the Michigan Republican Party also has the credit for taking steps to encourage states to expand school choice programs. However, she has not achieved any broad federal legislation in this sphere during her tenure.
DeVos has not announced plans for after she leaves office in January. However, she had previously suggested she might not stay on for a second term were Trump to win re-election.
DeVos on COVID-19 Response
She has slammed how schools and governors including Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer are responding to COVID-19.
“We’ve seen the devastating results of kids either out of school and attempting remote learning for months on end, and some of them not even engaging at all,” DeVos told The Detroit News last week.
She expressed frustration that many children are being barred from the classroom.
“The science indicated months ago that kids being in school was the place for them, and yet the politics were played by the teachers unions to keep the brakes on, and it’s the kids who are the poorest and most vulnerable who are being hurt the most,” she said.
Biden has not announced his nominee to lead the Department of Education. A top contender, however, is reportedly Lily Eskelsen García, former president of the National Education Association.
Other possible nominees cited by the Associated Press include Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Sonja Santelises, the CEO of Baltimore City Schools; and U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, who was the National Teacher of the Year in 2016.
DeVos expressed concern that a union representative taking her place would mean that interest groups will become the focus and not students.
“It will be a tragedy for students, and that’s my greatest fear. My concern is they’ve been what’s standing in the way of kids learning today,” DeVos told the News.
“If they really were concerned about individual kids and their futures, they wouldn’t be fighting at every step of the way giving parents and families the kind of choices they need if their assigned school isn’t working for them,” she also said.
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Source: Detroit News