Education Secretary: Rhee Bows Out, DeVos May Be It
Updated on November 23rd, Donald Trump officially nominated Betsy DeVos as his choice for Education Secretary. We have published new coverage and analysis on this topic, including the top 6 things to know about this cabinet pick. You can read the full story and find links to other related content right here.
Making predictions about presidential nominees in 2016 is particularly risky, but we do have some information. The names being discussed in relation to Donald Trump’s choice for education secretary all seem to share his dedication to expanding school choice, although they differ in their approaches.
One of the most well-known candidates is Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools. While she supports charter schools, she has been more pragmatic and conservative when it comes to other options. On the other hand, Larry Arnn, president of conservative Hillsdale College, strongly believes in the importance of choice in education and sees it as a way to limit government intervention and promote free-market principles.
However, it’s important to remember that education secretaries always operate under the authority of the presidents they serve, and this is not likely to change in Donald Trump’s administration. Even Rhee, who was once a prominent figure in education, is relatively unknown to most Americans. Other candidates, such as Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos and U.S. Congressman Luke Messer from Indiana, are even less known outside of political circles and their home states.
Over the past 15 months, has provided coverage and commentary on several potential candidates for the position, including DeVos and Rhee, who have now been named as the two finalists according to BuzzFeed. We have gathered information from our archives to provide profiles on these candidates.
Betsy DeVos is a well-known figure in the Republican Party and education reform circles in Michigan. She has been involved in funding and leading various initiatives aimed at expanding school choice, such as the American Federation for Children and the Great Lakes Education Project. DeVos is married to Richard DeVos, a billionaire businessman, and philanthropist who co-founded the Amway corporation.
Michelle Rhee started her career as a teacher in Baltimore and later founded the New Teacher Project, an organization focused on improving the recruitment and training of educators. She gained nationwide attention when she became the schools chief in Washington, D.C., implementing reforms that led to improvements in test scores and the dismissal of low-performing teachers. Rhee’s confrontational style and controversial policies have made her a polarizing figure in education.
Gerard Robinson, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is another potential candidate. He previously served as the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, advocating for charter schools. Robinson has also held positions as secretary of education in Virginia and education commissioner in Florida.
These short profiles shed some light on the perspectives of each candidate and offer some hints about the direction federal education policy may take in the future.
Jeanne Allen, the founder of the Washington-based Center for Education Reform, has dedicated over two decades to working on education issues. Prior to this, she was actively involved in education matters with the Heritage Foundation. In a recent op-ed, Allen referred to herself as a "pro-choice warrior" and expressed her support for Donald Trump’s call for increased school choice. During the Republican National Convention, she advocated for greater civility in the campaign.
Luke Messer, a second-term Republican congressman from Indiana, holds libertarian-leaning views and frequently promotes parental choice in education. He shared his perspective on this matter at New Hampshire Summit in August 2015 and also spoke on a panel at the Republican National Convention. One of his key arguments is for Title I portability, which suggests that federal dollars should be accessible to low-income families, allowing them to choose their preferred schools. Messer clarified that this does not imply the creation of a federal department of school choice.
The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation generously funds , and Campbell Brown, the site’s Editor-in-Chief, serves on the board of directors for the American Federation for Children. It’s important to note that Betsy DeVos formerly chaired this organization. However, Brown was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article. The American Federation for Children was also a sponsor of 2015 New Hampshire education summit.
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