The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The irony in Ivanka Trump’s and Betsy DeVos’s push for STEM education

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump speak during a March 28 visit to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

This belongs in the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category.

On Tuesday, presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. According to the Education Department, they were there to “highlight the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education” and to discuss “empowering young women to pursue STEM-related careers.” They also introduced a viewing of “Hidden Figures,” a film about a team of African American women who had a vital, unseen role at NASA when it was first launching men into space.

The event came just a short time after President Trump, Ivanka’s father, advanced his first federal budget, which included some revealing proposals for NASA, the country’s space agency. The Trump budget seeks to wipe out NASA’s education office, which oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, operates camps and enrichment programs, and provides internships and scholarships for young scientists.

NASA budget would cut Earth science and education

Joining Ivanka Trump and DeVos at the museum were NASA astronaut Kay Hire; J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the John and Adrienne Mars director at Air and Space; Barbara Gruber, an aerospace educator at the museum; and Rae Stewart, a student educator at the museum.

In her introduction to the film, Ivanka Trump said that her father’s administration “has expanded NASA’s space exploration mission” though did not, unsurprisingly, mention that he actually proposed decreasing NASA funding and eliminating the education office.

The Trump-DeVos event drew some sharp criticism from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said in a statement: 

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ivanka Trump are feigning an interest in STEM careers with a photo op at the National Air and Space Museum while eliminating all funding for NASA’s education programs. This takes chutzpah to a new level. If this administration was genuinely interested in promoting STEM programs, it would walk the walk, not just talk the talk. The next generation of astronauts, scientists, engineers and mathematicians need support, not budget cuts eliminating the very programs being promoted.”

There was also no mention of the 13.5 percent in cuts Trump has proposed to the Education Department, which include the reduction or elimination of grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.

Read more:

Trump seeks to slash Education Department but make big push for school choice

The convenient pattern of Education Secretary DeVos’s school visits