Former Education Sec. Betsy DeVos Now Says Department of Education 'Should Not Exist'

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Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies during the Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the FY2021 budget for the Department of Education in Dirksen Building on Thursday, March 5, 2020.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos testifies during the Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the FY2021 budget for the Department of Education in Dirksen Building on Thursday, March 5, 2020.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Betsy DeVos

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos now says the department she once headed "should not exist," making the comment during an event in Tampa, Fla., over the weekend.

"I personally think the Department of Education should not exist," 64-year-old DeVos, who served in the administration of former President Donald Trump, said Saturday during an event held by the conservative group Moms for Liberty, the Florida Phoenix reports.

The outlet further reports that DeVos, who was one of the wealthiest members of Trump's cabinet, told the audience at the event that education decisions should be left to state and local school boards.

DeVos' position at the helm of the Education Department was controversial even before her appointment was confirmed by the Senate (which came only after Vice President Mike Pence broke the 50-50 split vote among senators split on her confirmation). Several gaffes from her contentious confirmation hearings went viral, including one in which she cited potential grizzly bear attacks as a reason for allowing guns in schools.

During her time in the Trump administration, DeVos continued to face criticism, including for her approach to reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Betsy DeVos & Trump Under Fire by Democrats for Approach to Reopening Schools During Coronavirus

Her appearance at the Tampa event comes as school board politics prove to be a continually hot topic, particularly in Florida, where renewed efforts to ban books have been energized by a conservative base and come amid a larger cultural debate about what is appropriate for the classroom.

A recent Florida Department of Education review led to the banning of more than 40% of the state's math books due to so-called "prohibited topics." Gov. Ron DeSantis has accused the books of "indoctrination."

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Speaking at the same event as DeVos during a separate appearance, DeSantis spoke about the significance of school board elections.

RELATED: Florida's First Openly Gay State Senator Speaks Out on 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

"We have drawn a very clear line in the sand that says our school system is for educating kids, not indoctrinating them," DeSantis said, WFSU reports. "We have drawn a clear line in the sand that says parents have a fundamental role in the education of their kids."

DeSantis has used similar rhetoric to endorse a controversial piece legislation that opponents have denounced as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, which he signed into law in March.

RELATED: White House Describes Scene in Florida as 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Takes Effect: 'More Fearful and Less Free'

The Parental Rights in Education law bans Florida teachers from talking to students in kindergarten through third grade about "about sexual orientation or gender identity." While sexual orientation and gender identity are not currently taught in kindergarten through third grades in Florida, DeSantis has argued that it is needed so that people cannot "inject transgenderism into kindergarten," or have "a woke gender ideology imposed in their curriculums."