UMass Students, Faculty Weigh In On Education Secretary Betsy DeVos By John Coakley | February 22nd, 2017

After being confirmed by Congress on Feb. 7, Betsy DeVos has officially been sworn in as the U.S. Secretary of Education. One of Trump’s most controversial cabinet selections, members of the education community have been quick to voice their opinions on DeVos.

Inside the UMass Amherst College of Education, support for DeVos is scarce. Dr. Jeff Eiseman of the Department of Educational Policy, Research, and Administration is concerned about DeVos’s policy ideas.

Furcolo Hall, the College of Education at UMass. The faculty, administration, and students inside will all be subject to the policies implemented by DeVos.

“I think she’s terribly inappropriate,” Eiseman said. “Her values are inconsistent with the mission of the Department [of Education].”

Eiseman says that his worries are tempered somewhat by the process of passing policies through Congress that will check DeVos’s power.

“It is not clear to me that there are enough [Republicans who agree with DeVos] in the Senate to change things that much,” Eiseman said.

Inside Furcolo Hall, portraits of three of the department’s most seminal deans are displayed. From left to right: Dwight William Allen, Foster Furcolo, and Albert William Purvis.

Still, he fears she could undermine public education in America.

Eiseman explained that DeVos’s voucher program and support of charter schools could leave public schools devoid of quality students and a sufficient budget.

“The main ways that [public education] is being undermined are both the kinds of students that public schools have to deal with...and the budget which they have to do it with,” Eiseman said.

Dr. Jeff Eiseman, professor of education at UMass Amherst, reads an email on Feb. 21. Eiseman is concerned about how DeVos will influence public education.

Many UMass students also hold an unfavorable opinion of DeVos. Sullivan Tierney, a junior Operations and Information Management major, fears DeVos’s radical beliefs regarding the role of religion in education.

“I don’t really know why that should even be a focus,” Tierney said. “Especially with all the problems with public schools right now in America.”

Junior Operations and Information Management major Sullivan Tierney working on an assignment for a finance course. Tierney is hoping the policies enacted by DeVos do not hinder his education during his last few semesters at UMass.

Tierney feels that DeVos may be unable to inspire positive change in public education.

“We honestly need someone inspiring who is going to revamp everything.”

As a student, Tierney will be directly affected by DeVos’s policies. But he is more worried about future generations of students.

From finance to literature to social sciences, Betsy DeVos’s policies will shape the future of all fields of academia in America.

“I think I’ll be fine, but I think when her policies get started, those are the kids who are going to have real problems.”

Tierney is also concerned about how her policies could impact UMass.

“UMass could be affected, because we receive a lot of government programs,” Tierney said. “Research doesn’t seem like a priority.”

Despite his reservations, Tierney is optimistic, and says he’ll be rooting for DeVos.

“I’m open if she wants to do good, and has some good ideas,” Tierney said. “I hope she can do something.”

While the verdict is still out on DeVos, students and educators alike will be pulling for DeVos to make positive changes to the American public education system.

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John Coakley
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