Trump’s Education Secretary Has Art World Ties But ‘No Meaningful Experience’ in Schools

Betsy DeVos is heavily criticized by teachers unions.

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos at Trump International Golf Club, November 19, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Photo by Drew Angerer, courtesy Getty Images.

Donald Trump announced yesterday, November 23, his pick for education secretary—Betsy DeVos, a member of “Western Michigan Royalty,” according to the New York Times, whose family has pumped millions into arts initiatives. But DeVos is also a heavily-criticized advocate for school choice, charter schools, and voucher programs.

The DeVoses founded the Michigan ArtPrize, the “most-attended public art event on the planet.” The international art competition awards $500,000 in prizes to artists and more than $270,000 in grants to, among others, venues, curators, public projects, and, interestingly, voter registration ($8,000) and education days ($44,000).

In 2004, President Bush appointed Mrs. DeVos to the board of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, a post she served until 2010, during which time she and her husband, Dick DeVos, founded the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, to which they have since donated upwards of $20 million.

Betsy, who advocates for helping low-income children, was born into a family of billionaire industrialists, as was her husband, another heir to an entrepreneurial fortune.

She has been accused of diverting money away from public schools and into private and religious schools, and teachers’ unions have nothing but scathing opinions on her appointment: “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America,” said President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, in a statement.

“DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.”

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, echoed Weingarten’s criticism of DeVos’s distance from the classroom.

“We believe that the chance for the success of a child should not depend on winning a charter lottery, being accepted by a private school, or living in the right ZIP code. We have, and will continue, to fight for all students to have a great public school in their community and the opportunity to succeed no matter their backgrounds or circumstances,” she stated. “Betsy DeVos has consistently worked against these values, and her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students.”

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.