While her brother, the war monger Erik Prince, is coming under the scrutiny of Robert Mueller, Betsy DeVos is struggling with a much lower-stakes interrogation. On Sunday, the Secretary of Education appeared on 60 Minutes, which did not go, objectively speaking, well.
DeVos, a billionaire with no teaching or administrative experience, tried to use the interview to push her idea that public schools do better when they're stripped of resources. Interviewer Leslie Stahl pressed DeVos, asking her to back up her claim that when "a lot of choice has been introduced," all schools improve.
DeVos: The studies show that when there's a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools, the results actually get better as well.
Stahl: Has that happened in Michigan? We're in Michigan, your home state.
DeVos: Yes! Well, there's lots of great options and choices for students here in—
Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?
DeVos: I can't say overall that they have all gotten better.
That's the start of a hard pivot, where suddenly DeVos claims that we can't make any broad statements about schools at all because they're made up of individuals, right after claiming that all public schools do better when they're stripped of funds and students choose to leave them. She follows this up with the startling admission that she has not "intentionally visited" schools that are under-performing, which doesn't do much to support DeVos' argument that she actually gives a damn about schools in general.
It's easy to give DeVos grief for not being better prepared, but that's not entirely fair. Unfortunately for DeVos, we already know what happens when you aggressively defund public schools and try to replace them with barely-regulated, for-profit charter schools, because she fought so hard for that to happen in Michigan. And no amount of preparation could change the fact that her arguments in favor of school choice are complete nonsense. Nikole Hannah-Jones, the MacArthur-winning investigative reporter covering modern day school segregation, points out exactly why the interview was such a struggle for her:
DeVos has been one of Donald Trump's most controversial cabinet appointments, and her refusal to consider evidence that doesn't give her carte blanche to do whatever she wants will no doubt serve her well as she moves to head a federal commission on gun violence in schools.
Just as Trump hasn't suddenly changed into a new and better person as a president, DeVos is exactly who she was before becoming Education Secretary: someone more interested in debt collectors than students. She's spent the last couple decades making it clear she's more invested in dismantling public schools and selling them for parts than in seeing poor or minority students get an education. At least when she was blissfully free of national attention, she could get away with it just by smiling and saying "choice" over and over.