Immediately after her confirmation in 2017 as U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos rubbed African Americans the wrong way. Her policies hurt even worse.
During one of her first interviews (none with African-American media), DeVos linked historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with the issue of school choice.
She called them “real pioneers when it comes to school choice” and “living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.”
However, Black Twitter lashed back, noting that HBCUs had primarily been established because African-American students had no alternative option for higher education.
DeVos raised the ire of many when she rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance that sought to stem the school-to-prison pipeline by getting schools to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions, especially for students of color who receive disciplinary actions at disproportionately higher rates.
Rep. Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts, chided DeVos.
“Black children are just plain old more disruptive in the classroom,” Clark lashed out at DeVos during a meeting. “How did you come to that conclusion?”
Nonetheless, growing criticism would not sway DeVos whose job qualifications have long been refuted by many educators. But with Biden poised to take control, there’s growing optimism about the changes which will inevitably come.
“With a new secretary of education, we can reinstate the focus on equitable student outcomes for Black and brown students and return to comprehensive federal investments that provide more resources for public schools instead of programs that funnel funds away from public schools,” said Everton Blair Jr., a member of Gwinnett County Board of Education in Georgia and an affiliate of LEE (Leadership for Educational Equity).
Darrell Andrews, known by his peers as “Coach D” and the author of the book, “Believing the HYPE: Seven Keys to Motivating Students of Color,” counts among those looking forward to a new education secretary.
For two decades, Andrews has consulted and worked with thousands of schools and school districts, helping them develop systems for inspiring academic excellence for students of color.
“Under the DeVos tenure, school seems to have eliminated anything relating to students of color academic advancement for this was not the focus of this administration,” Andrews wrote in an email.
“It seems like she had districts bogged down with many stressors such as starting school in the U.S. again during COVID-19 because of her boss’s wishes,” he continued. “Schools seem to have been bogged down with insignificant goals and objectives, that hurt Black student advancement under her leadership.”
“A new secretary, under a president that supports racial equity, will have the ability to get things back on course, to release funds that help to close the achievement gap and make academic advancement of Black and brown students a priority once again.”
“The new secretary will not be limited by an administration that does not support this focus – for racial equity is one of the four areas of focus under the Biden-Harris administration,” Andrews concluded.