President-elect Donald Trump has selected school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as his new U.S. Education Secretary, but not everyone is happy about it.
Trump’s transition team made the announcement Wednesday.
DeVos chairs a national advocacy group, American Federation for Children, which promotes charter school education. She also has a Florida tie, having served on the board of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.
While some praised the nomination, others weren't quite as convinced. The country’s largest teachers’ union was highly critical of Trump’s selection.
"By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said.
Anti-Common Core groups also expressed their dismay over the appointment due to DeVos’ close affiliation with Bush’s education foundation, which has promoted the controversial Common Core State Standards.
DeVos' tie to Bush's foundation, which promotes Common Core, irked anti-CCSS groups.
“The special interests reigned over the interests of parents,” said Florida Stop Common Core Coalition executive director Dr. Karen Effrem.
Effrem told Sunshine State News her group and other anti-Common Core groups weren’t pleased over the nomination, but explained it was partly expected.
“It’s an incredible disappointment, but it’s not a surprise, given that Mike Pence was leading the transition team,” she said.
Groups opposed to Common Core are disheartened by the selection since Trump harshly criticized the standards while on the campaign trail and had been nervous about the shortlist of top picks for the job.
“It's not looking good for us,” said Florida Parents Against Common Core founder Laura Zorc.
Zorc said she would remain optimistic on DeVos, however.
"I do believe she is not for the standards," she said. "She is a strong independent thinker and she does not walk to the drum of the Common Core elites."
Florida first implemented Common Core in 2010 along with much of the country. It was not until 2013, however, that the state decided to rebrand the standards after harsh criticisms from parents, teachers and members of the public. The standards were modified slightly then rebranded under a new name, the Florida Standards, which were fully implemented in Florida’s schools in the 2014-2015 school year.
Bush, who faced off against Trump in the Republican primary, had warm words of praise for DeVos.
“Betsy DeVos is an outstanding pick for Secretary of Education,” he said. “She has a long and distinguished history championing the right of all parents to choose schools that best ensure their children’s success. Her allegiance is to families, particularly those struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder, not to an outdated public education model that has failed them from one generation to the next.”
Bush said DeVos would help usher in a new era of education in the country.
“I cannot think of a more effective and passionate change agent to press for a new education vision, one in which students, rather than adults and bureaucracies, become the priority in our nation’s classrooms,” he said.
Bush isn’t DeVos’ only Florida connection. American Federation for Children has been a strong advocate of Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program, which offers low-income and minority students “vouchers” to attend private schools.
The vice chair of American Federation for Children, John Kirtley, worked closely with Bush on the Tax Credit Scholarship program. Kirtley also founded and serves as chair for Step Up For Students, the group which gives out thousands of the scholarships annually.
"For more than 20 years, Betsy has fought relentlessly for the right of every child — especially disadvantaged children — to receive a quality education of their parents’ choice,” Kirtley said in a statement.
But Common Core activists didn't remain convinced DeVos would take their position into consideration, which has left them feeling disappointed. On Wednesday, DeVos tweeted she did not support the standards, but anti-Common Core groups aren't buying it.
"She’s pro-Common core despite what she says on her website," Effrem told SSN. “It is a betrayal of the promise that Donald Trump made to get rid of Common Core, make education local and listen to the forgotten men and women of the United States, particularly parents.”