It’s been a Conservative/Tea Party talking point for a while now: get rid of the U.S. Department of Education and.(cuing Pink Floyd here) leave them states alone! While the elimination of the federal bureau charged with establishing policy, collecting data, and enforcing civil rights education laws is still a wish rather than a reality among ardent statists, we’re already seeing signs of the first skid down the slippery slope. Today both the New York Times and Politico report that poor Cabinet member Betsy DeVos is viewed within the interior design of the Trump Administration as not much more than a toddler seat off to the side of the grownups’ table.
Now, I’ve been hard on our new Secretary of Education, largely because of her ignorance of federal protection laws for students with disabilities (a personal issue for my family) and her allegiance to local control, even in matters of civil rights. But after I read the Times article on the “fight” that “erupted inside the Trump administration, pitting Attorney General Jeff Sessions” against DeVos regarding transgender student rights, I confess that I’m feeling a little bit sorry for her.
From the Times:
Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the internal discussions. The order would reverse the directives put in place last year by the Obama administration to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.
Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent because he could not go forward without her consent. The order must come from the Justice and Education Departments.
Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.
In other words, DeVos stood up for transgender students, those who identify with the gender that doesn’t match the anatomy they were born with. And she stood up for them against a man who was denied a judgeship because he’s a racist (the Washington Post reported that “Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana”), finds same-sex marriage “very troubling” and “unacceptable,” and is considered by some to be “one of the most vehemently nativist, anti-immigrant legislators in American history.”
Caitlin Emma at Politico expands on the same story with some important context. A Republican “familiar with the Trump administrations conversations,”
stressed that it’s normal for agencies to disagree, but said DeVos has a weakened role. In addition to losing this fight with Sessions, the source said, DeVos appears to have been cut out of the conversation on whether the administration should get rid of or maintain the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was started by Obama and provides protections for young, undocumented immigrants.
“People are beginning to dismiss her and just go to other agencies or the White House where they believe — real or perceived — the real influence is,” the Republican said.
In other words, the Department of Education may exist on paper but that’s merely an inconvenience in Trump world. Is this because DeVos flunked her confirmation hearing and was so poorly regarded by Democrats (and unions — see Derrell Bradford on this) that VP Mike Pence had to cast the tiebreaking vote? Is it because she really doesn’t know anything about education policy? Is it because she’s a woman in a man cave? Is it because Trump regards cabinet appointments — indeed, all appointments except Supreme Court ones — as mandated distractions from his oligarchy with Steve Bannon?
You got me. But right now DeVos seems like the least of our problems and, perhaps, due a bit of respect for having the moxie to a make a stand, albeit a timid one, against Jeff Sessions.
In your dreams, Laura. If DeVos can be pushed around by Trump and Sessions, she is effectively non-existent as Ed Secretary.
Put another way, if she “had the moxie” to make a real stand—like, say, Sally Yates—she would have quit or been fired.
Now we know that Betsy bought her title, but little else. Like every other denizen of TrumpWorld, she should have read the fine print before signing on.
I get what you're saying, Kallikak. Sally Yates is a hero. DeVos isn't. But I wanted to give her a tiny piece of credit for at least trying and, seemingly, caring about transgender students.
Sally Yates empowered like-minded citizens to express themselves in public regarding Trump's immigration ban.
What, exactly, is the impact of Betsy DeVos' “objection” to the insensitivity/bigotry of Jeff Sessions masquerading as concern for states' rights?
BTW, I'm old enough to remember when folks like Lester Maddox—owner of Atlanta's Pickrick* Restaurant—claimed some combination of property and states' rights allowed him to avoid serving Black customers.
It's not too hard to see where AG Sessions' thinking will lead.
*that's Pick as in pick handle—which Maddox used against those attempting to integrate his restaurant
Don't believe everything you read in the papers:
DeVos is no friend to public schools. Her mission is clear…destroy public education as we know it, in the name of vouchers and charters.
Some people may agree with this. Problem is it doesn't work.