After weeks of high tension between Republicans and Democrats, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the new Education Secretary earlier this month.
DeVos’ controversial appointment has produced divided opinion among Texas Wesleyan University’s School of Education faculty and students. While some are skeptical about her qualifications and how well she will perform, others believe her influence will be limited.
Dr. Joe Dryden, associate professor of education, wrote in an email that DeVos, who is a major proponent of vouchers, will not have as much of an impact on graduating education students as “the fear mongering would suggest, for several reasons.”
Dryden wrote that DeVos’ influence will be a “relatively small blip on the radar. Large organizational bureaucracies have protective buffers and the alligators in the swamp will not go quietly; they will resist at all cost.”
Dr. Twyla Miranda, director of the Ed.D. program, wrote in an email that while DeVos may bring some good new ideas to the table, she will be watching her work and agenda closely.
“She has much to learn about education laws and public schools,” Miranda wrote. “I think most people were against her appointment due to her interest and lack of qualifications. Her appointment seemed to be a prize for her wealthy donations rather than a choice for a dedicated, knowledgeable educator.”
Texas State Teachers Association President Ariel Deen, an EC-6 education student, declined to comment on the issue, but TSTA Vice President Ashley Reynolds believes that anyone in a high position in education, including school administrators, should have had public teaching experience, and is concerned with DeVos’ lack thereof.
“I believe that her stance could potentially affect teachers, especially first-year teachers in the education field,” Reynolds wrote in an email. “I am worried that the field could become very competitive, and so much of a hassle that we could lose good teachers for our students.”
Senior education major Nicole Gillihan, who is currently completing her clinical teaching hours at Southwest Christian School, agreed with Reynolds’ concerns. DeVos, she said, has no education background.
“None. Period,” Gillihan said. “That’s a problem, and a pretty basic, well-understood concern.”
Gillihan expects to work in the public school system once she graduates this spring. However, while she has not spent much time contemplating how DeVos’ confirmation might impact her, she said that public school teachers are “very unhappy with this.”
School of Education Dean Dr. Carlos Martinez is taking a more neutral approach to DeVos’ confirmation.
“We have gone through a lot in education in Texas, especially as it related to funding,” Martinez said. “Our students may be entering a more difficult market, but if that happens, it will take a number of years to unfold. The only thing I know for sure is that there are cycles, and in my 25 years here I have seen very many of them, and there are ups and downs.
“Some years are really difficult, and others not so much, but as long as education is tied to politics, we are going to be in the middle of it all. It would be great to be in chemistry, but that is what we do for a living. We just help our students get to where they need to be.”