Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took to social media Monday to defend herself after she was hit with a tsunami of criticism for her performance during an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”
DeVos published a few tweets saying “60 Minutes” had failed to include information about schools in Michigan, the secretary’s home state, that she had provided. CBS did not immediately respond to a query about her tweets.
On Sunday night, DeVos was interviewed by veteran correspondent Lesley Stahl, who repeatedly challenged the education secretary on her views. DeVos said, for example, she had not “intentionally” visited an underperforming school and Stahl suggested that perhaps the secretary should. (DeVos responded, “Maybe I should.”) DeVos said billions upon billions of federal dollars had gone to waste in the public education system, another point Stahl said was not true.
Critics took to social media to lambaste DeVos — a Michigan billionaire who never attended or sent her children to a public school — for stumbling over some of her answers about basic education issues.
DeVos was back on television Monday, on a few different channels, talking about a new role President Trump has given her: leading a commission on school safety. The White House said it was setting up the Federal Commission on School Safety and would begin helping states to provide “rigorous firearms training” to some teachers to help prevent or stop campus shootings.
After her morning television interviews, DeVos repaired to Twitter to take issue with one part of the CBS interview. It involved the performance of public schools in Michigan, DeVos’s home state and the place where DeVos had spent decades and millions of dollars to encourage the spread of charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately run. She had less success in pushing vouchers — which use public money for private and religious school tuition — in the state.
Part of the conversation went like this:
DEVOS: “Well, in places where there have been, where there is, a lot of choice that’s been introduced, Florida, for example, the studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better, as well.”
STAHL: “Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.”
DEVOS: “Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.”
STAHL: “Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?”
DEVOS: “I don’t know. Overall, I, I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.”
STAHL: “The whole state is not doing well.”
DEVOS: “Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this, the students are doing well and . . .”
STAHL: “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.”
DEVOS: “I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.”
STAHL: “The public schools here are doing worse than they did.”
DEVOS: “Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.”
STAHL: “Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?”
DEVOS: “I have not, I have not, I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.”
STAHL: “Maybe you should.”
DEVOS: “Maybe I should. Yes.”
On Monday afternoon, DeVos tweeted the following, saying that “60 Minutes” had left out some information she had provided:
But DeVos did have time in the interview to note that Michigan schools were not preparing students as well as she thinks they should. Nobody mentioned the charts she cited in her tweet, comparing Michigan standardized test scores to national averages. But it is unclear why DeVos thought they should have been used by Stahl. The “60 Minutes” correspondent noted that Michigan schools were not doing well.
DeVos also tweeted this:
Again, it’s unclear why DeVos thought this should have been highlighted. It’s worth noting that during DeVos’s confirmation hearing before the Senate education committee in January 2017, she said, “I believe there is a lot that has gone right in Detroit and Michigan with regard to charter schools.” Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) noted that charter performance in Detroit was nothing to brag about.
“Detroit Public Schools averaged 9 percent — 9 percent of kids are proficient,” Bennett said. “Charter schools were a little better, 14 percent of the kids were proficient. I will stipulate that charter schools are doing better, but that is a horrible outcome for everybody involved.”