BY KARINA BLODNIEKS
Around twelve P.M. on Tuesday, February 7, the news broke that Betsy DeVos would serve as the next Secretary of Education.
Extending the admittedly controversial election, DeVos’ confirmation has been met with heavy pushback.
“I feel that [confirming] an individual with a closed mind in regards to education shows our regression and a lack of faith in our public school system,” senior Star Fassler said.
In a policy guide by the Public Broadcasting Service, journalist Joshua Barajas is quick to point to DeVos’ seeming lack of qualification for the job. Having never served in a public school, critics are fast to claim she’s only been hired due to her large campaign contributions to President Trump.
But the largest controversy has by far been her stance on charter schools, which many educators, parents and students fear will privatize the public education system. If federal funding goes to charter schools (which generally have lower accountability standards), many professionals feel it will divert funds from American public schools.
“I think she’s going to be very bad for our public schools,” senior Alec Shears said. “She supports for-profit private schools, so I don’t think she cares about students’ educations, just money. I think school and money should be separate.”
For educators, this fear is very real.
“The confirmation of DeVos solidifies the idea that presently in our country any government seat is available to the highest bidder regardless of the detriment it may cause to its citizens,” English teacher Natalie Flaten said.
The dissent was so strong, in fact, that DeVos has become the first cabinet nominee in American history to require a Vice Presidential tie-breaker. Settling at a 50-50 final count (with senators mostly voting along party lines), Pence made his first act as President of the Senate to confirm his nominee for Secretary of Education.
But one viable question comes to the forefront for many terrified teachers: how much power does the Secretary of Education hold over Cooper City’s public schools?
Many knowledgeable parties are pointing out that, while the Secretary of Education does have power in advising the President and pushing legislation, DeVos’ stance is largely decentralized. The administration hopes to give power back to the states, so there is potential that DeVos’ impact will be minimal.
“Each state’s Department of Education really affects funding for schools,” AP Government teacher Maria Rodriguez said. “So I think [the power] is more ideological.”
Despite the controversy, many people have rallied in favor of the new cabinet member. Supporters say her outsider position may have a greater impact on the education system.
“America is [behind] in reading and math,” junior Andreas Hinsch said. “And we’ve had all these experienced people running education, so maybe they’re doing something wrong.”
In many ways, this support echoes the “outsider” paradigm found so often in Trump’s campaign.
“The Trump administration is radically reforming America,” Hinsch said.
But amidst the support, there is no question that many students and teachers are concerned.
Senior Taylor Rutherford, who supported Trump during the election, says that his choice of DeVos was a mistake.
“I’m pretty unsure of her simply because she doesn’t support public schools,” Rutherford said. “Instead of supporting public schools – which accommodate all students regardless of income, religion or disability – she supports creating for-profit charter schools.”
Rutherford went on to say that the potential for inequality upsets her.
“Just the idea that not every student will have the opportunity – the same opportunity that I have to flourish at school – makes me very upset,” she said.
Senior and Trump supporter Gaby Sanchez faces a similar dilemma, noting that many of Trump’s cabinet picks failed to deliver.
“In light of DeVos’ recent confirmation, my disappointment has only deepened further,” Sanchez said. “Taking funding from the already underfunded public education system to benefit a small minority goes against, in my opinion, American values.”
Regardless of the demographic, students across the school seem to feel that the Senate made the wrong choice.
“As someone who has had no experience in the public education system, I think she will be disconnected with the current state of education,” sophomore Isaac Chiu said.
Sophomore Aiden Adams agrees, citing DeVos’ privatization as the major cause of his concern.
“There is no doubt public schools have their issues, but eroding our public education system, the backbone of our nation’s future, is taking a big risk,” he said.
As for now, Cooper City High School remains suspended in a state of dismay.
In response to the confirmation, Flaten asked the question that seemed to be sticking to her mind.
“How can there be such a blatant disregard for education, its teachers, and its children?”