Billionaire Betsy DeVos spent her first year in charge of the Trump Education Department making it easier for predatory for-profit colleges to defraud students, undermining her department's central civil rights provisions, and repeatedly demonstrating her disdain for public education.
"DeVos's attacks on public schools and underserved students show us a clueless, out-of-touch Secretary of Education."
—Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)
According to a new report (pdf) released on Thursday Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), these achievements taken as a whole make DeVos "the worst Secretary of Education this country has ever seen—by a large margin."
In a statement released alongside the report—which is part of her "DeVos Watch" initiative—Warren slammed DeVos for "taking an axe to public education" and "bending over backwards to allow students to be cheated."
Co-authored by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the new analysis takes an in-depth look at DeVos' numerous conflicts of interests—"many of which likely remain undisclosed," the lawmakers note—and how they shaped her policy decisions during her first year in charge of the Department of Education.
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"Secretary DeVos's ethics agreement revealed that her investments have included—and may continue to include through her undisclosed family trusts—assets in higher education-related entities, including companies that collect student loan debt, refinance student loans, provide online learning platforms or education reference materials, and run for-profit education institutions," the report notes.
While Warren and Clark acknowledge that DeVos has divested from many of these organizations, she "continues to hold three different family trusts and has yet to disclose the assets in two trusts that remain in her portfolio—a fact that leaves "wide open" the possibility that she has used her position "to enrich herself and her family," the lawmakers argue.
The report also details the numerous actions DeVos has taken to tilt the Education Department's rules in favor of "shady" for-profit colleges and other privatized education initiatives—which she used her wealth and influence to bolster prior to joining the Trump White House.
Just several of DeVos' policy moves Warren and Clark highlight are:
- "Delaying or denying" loan relief for students defrauded by for-profit colleges;
- Allowing failed accrediting organizations like the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools to continue operating with little oversight;
- Letting for-profit colleges with a history of defrauding students to skirt oversight;
- Proposing massive cuts to federal education funding while dumping money into charter programs; and
- Rolling back protections for victims of sexual assault, LGBTQ students, and students of color.
"Secretary DeVos gets an 'F' for failing to protect our promise to America's students," Clark concluded in a statement on Thursday. "DeVos's attacks on public schools and underserved students show us a clueless, out-of-touch Secretary of Education who is more interested in profits for privatization advocates and predatory lenders than making sure all of our kids have a fair shot at a great public education."