In a bizarre 60 Minutes interview, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ignores data and reveals her doubts about sexual assault victims on college campuses
Secretary of Education Besty DeVos sounded like a student who hadn’t studied for a test during her wide-ranging interview with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes last night. The awkward, at-times rambling interview covered issues from gun violence to school choice and her proposed Title IX reforms regarding campus sexual assaults.
DeVos struggled to answer basic questions about school performance and was unable to to provide accurate information or data to defend some of the controversial programs she has championed — including a plan that she claims will improve public schools by cutting their funding.
These are the five most nonsensical or baseless quotes from DeVos’ uncomfortable 60 Minutes sit down:
“We have invested billions and billions of dollars from the federal level and we have seen zero results”
Even before becoming Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has been one of America’s most influential proponents of so-called “school choice.” DeVos believes the key to improving public school districts is competition with private and charter schools, and so she supports redirecting taxpayer dollars away from districts for each child whose parents choose to pull them from the public system. The result, as Lesley Stahl pointed out to DeVos, is that struggling public schools can fall even further behind as their funding is gutted by departing students.
DeVos, however, did not seem concerned by that prospect. She told Stahl that there have been no positive results from federal investments in public school, but her claim is simply incorrect.
In fact, test scores have increased over the last decade. The real issue is that other countries are outpacing the United States at their rate of improvement.
“Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school — school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.”
On its surface, this could almost come off as insightful. Yes, our primary concern should be investing in students — but the way to invest in students is by investing in better school buildings, institutions, and systems. DeVos is trying to divorce students’ success from their environments to justify the funding gap public schools will face as a result of her school choice program.
However, studies have shown that improving school facilities and infrastructure has a positive impact on students. Likewise, weak school infrastructure can lead to weak academic performance.
“I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made of individual students attending them.”
The Education Secretary introduced this circular logic as she tried to dodge and weave her way around Lesley Stahl’s questions challenging DeVos’ notion that public schools might improve as they lose funding to charter schools and other institutions. As Stahl pointed out, DeVos implemented a similar strategy with disastrous results in Michigan prior to joining President Donald Trump’s cabinet.
Michigan’s public schools struggled before DeVos, but they are an even bigger mess now, with test scores falling and students in charter schools failing to meet the basic standards for reading proficiency. However, DeVos thinks those numbers are not necessarily reflective of her strategy. Although the schools themselves are doing worse, there may be “pockets” of students doing better, she said.
“I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.”
This pretty much speaks for itself. DeVos claims “school choice” and stripping funds from public schools will help students, data from Michigan (where she has already implemented the program) shows schools are actually getting worse, and she has not visited any of these schools to see the problem in action.
Devos is such a believer in charter schools that she has refused to look back to see the damage left behind in the wake of her own success.
“I don’t know.”
Frankly, there was a lot Besty DeVos seemed to not know, but this particular admission of ignorance pertained to the rates of campus sexual assaults and student complaints filed under Title IX.
Title IX is a federal law protecting students and school employees from gender-based discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault. DeVos recently changed guidelines from the Department of Education to increase the burden of proof needed in a Title IX investigation.
That led Stahl to challenge DeVos on whether she believed the number of actual assaults on college campuses was equal to the number of false accusations. DeVos said she was unsure. In other words, Betsy DeVos thinks its possible that half of all college sexual assault victims are lying. In reality, studies have generally shown false accusations only represent about five percent of all reported sexual assaults — far, far less than half.
At a time when students should be able to feel safe coming forward, the Secretary of Education is sending the message that they may not be believed.