Speed Reads

Another Brick in the Wall

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos struggles with 'school choice' question on 60 Minutes

In an interview on 60 Minutes broadcast Sunday night, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said arming "capable" teachers "should be an option for states and communities to consider," insisted there is a "sense of urgency" in the school shootings task force she will chair, seemed to equate false rape and sexual assault accusations at colleges with actual rapes and sexual assaults, and said she's "not so sure exactly" why she is — as interviewer Lesley Stahl put it — President Trump's "most hated Cabinet secretary," the only one protected by a squad of U.S. Marshals. "I think there are a lot of really powerful forces allied against change," DeVos said.

But DeVos' big passion is "school choice," and she struggled to answer Stahl's questions about how shifting taxpayer dollars to private, parochial, and charter schools is working out in practice. When Stahl challenged DeVos' claim that "we have seen zero results" from federal investment in public schools, she said "test scores vis-à-vis the rest of the world have not gone up," even though they've gone up for 25 years in the U.S. DeVos pointed to a positive study of school choice in Florida, and Stahl asked about Michigan, DeVos' home state.

DeVos said "there are certainly lots of pockets where ... the students are doing well" in Michigan, and Stahl pushed back: "No, but your argument that if you take funds away, that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan, where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here. ... The public schools here are doing worse than they did." She asked if DeVos has "seen the really bad schools" to "figure out what they're doing," and DeVos said, "I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming." "Maybe you should," Stahl said. DeVos agreed.