WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — For a few months, West Michigan native Betsy DeVos has been tasked with reshaping America’s education system. As President Donald Trump marked 100 days in office, his secretary of education gave Nexstar’s Washington D.C. Bureau new details about what parents and teachers can expect.
DeVos has an uphill battle in front of her, especially because her nomination was controversial from the start. Democrats railed against her, saying she wasn’t qualified for the job and that she had bought the position after her family spent years donating heavily to the Republican party. Even some Republicans voted no, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie to confirm her nomination.
“It’s been like drinking through a firehose in many respects,” she said of jumping into the huge role after having never worked in government.
But she said she’s thirsty for more.
“We have done a lot in the first few weeks to focus on returning power to the states,” she said.
She said she wants individual states to set testing and school standards rather than the federal government.
“They’re the ones closest to the issues. They’re best equipped to address the needs of the students,” she said.
But her department is also facing major cutbacks. The president’s budget cuts education spending by $9 billion. DeVos said that’s OK with her.
“It is the whole point to shift more to the states,” she said. “It’s also the focus of the department to ensure we are investing in things that are helpful for kids.”
The secretary also wants to parents to have choices for where their kids go to school. Her goals include investing more in private and charter schools.
“What we’ve continued to talk about is empowering parents to make the right decision for their child,” DeVos said.
Some opponents worry that ’empowerment’ means abandoning public schools. DeVos disagrees, but stressed every school across the country deserves a second look.
“Even the best of schools don’t necessarily meet the needs of every single child in that school,” she said.
DeVos will be the commencement speaker at the historically black Bethune-Cookman University in Florida next week.