While much attention on U.S. education policy has centered around Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, she said on Monday that the media should focus on children and their families, not on her, Michigan newspaper Detroit Free Press reports.
"As much as many in the media use my name as clickbait or try to make it all about me, it’s not," she said. "Education is not about Betsy DeVos nor any other individual."
DeVos described herself as a “common-sense conservative with a healthy distrust of centralized government” at the annual Education Writers Association conference and used her appearance to advocate for her Education Freedom SCholarships.
"Instead, I trust the American people to live their own lives and to decide their own destinies. That’s a freedom philosophy,” she said.
DeVos, a wealthy former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party whose previous education experience is limited to making contributions to private Christian schools, claims that investing in private schools rather than public ones will force the latter to innovate and improve.
Her Education Freedom Scholarship proposal would allocate private scholarships to students who cannot pay for the cost of private education.
"Let’s stop and rethink the definition of public education," DeVos said. "Today, it’s often defined as one type of school, funded by taxpayers, controlled by government. But if every student is part of 'the public,' then every way and every place a student learns is ultimately of benefit to 'the public.' That should be the new definition of public education."
"More choices and more freedom in education will ultimately mean better schools overall, even a neighborhood traditional public schools," she said. "Having the ability to direct where resources go on the child or family level helps families become wise consumers."
But her “pro-freedom” speeches are marred by DeVos and her family’s past of donating to “conversion therapy” groups that abuse LGBT students.
Prior to DeVos’s nomination, LGBT activist group Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said, "The DeVos family has a long, well-documented history of funding organizations dedicated to undermining and restricting the rights of LGBTQ people.”
DeVos was also a strong advocate for the Detroit charter school system, which Tulane University economics professor Douglas Harris wrote was "what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country.”
Her advocacy for “school choice” without a doubt leave millions of low-income students, in addition to LGBT students barred from Christian private schools, in an already underfunded public school system with even fewer resources. In this regard, highlighting DeVos’s personal views that inform her actions is less about “clickbait” than the impact she has on millions of children.