All The Questions Betsy DeVos Didn't Answer In Her 60 Minutes Interview

It's not difficult to find out exactly where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos comes from and what she believes. She and her family — one of the wealthiest families in Michigan — have donated millions of dollars to organizations that seek to expand religious education and push for taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools, hurting public schools in the process.
But when she talks to the press, DeVos prefers corporate-style PR-speak that doesn't actually mean anything. That's precisely why listening to her interviews is so frustrating.
On the heels of a newly unveiled White House proposal to "harden" schools by helping states to arm teachers — something she says individual states and communities should consider — DeVos spoke with 60 Minutes about guns, "school choice," and underperforming schools.
Advertisement
In the interview with Lesley Stahl, DeVos not only showed limited knowledge of everything from gun policy to sexual assault, but also had a worrisome tic: responding to questions with non-answers. Ahead, some of the most dead-end exchanges between the two.
1 of 5

They want a variety of things. They want solutions.

DeVos: "I give a lot of credit to the [Parkland, FL] students there for really raising their voices, and I think that they are not going to let this moment go by."

Stahl: "They want gun control."

DeVos: "They want a variety of things. They want solutions."

Stahl didn't let DeVos off easy here. The students organizing the March for Our Lives are clear in what they're calling for: "The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues." But, as Republicans have continuously done, DeVos is steering the conversation toward anything but sensible gun restrictions.
2 of 5

Schools are made up of individual students attending them.

Stahl: "[Y]our argument that if you take funds away that the [public] 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."

Since DeVos isn't willing to talk about structural problems in schools, we will: Michigan schools rank abysmally low when it comes to test scores, and the growth of charter schools has seemed to weaken public schools. A 2016 New York Times investigation found that Detroit's huge, chaotic charter-school system has left students with "lots of choice, with no good choice." Also: "Schools are made up of individual students attending them?" Really?
Advertisement
3 of 5

We need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn in a safe and nurturing environment.

DeVos is currently considering getting rid of Obama-era guidelines on "how to identify, avoid, and remedy discriminatory discipline," i.e. punishing students of color more harshly than white students. Stahl asked her about it.

DeVos: "We are studying that rule. We need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn in a safe and nurturing environment. And all students means all students."

That "safe and nurturing environment" line is insulting when you consider that the administration is looking to make school less "safe and nurturing" for students of color. Stahl pushed back and said, "Yeah, but let's say there's a disruption in the classroom and a bunch of white kids are disruptive and they get punished, you know, go see the principal, but the Black kids are, you know, they call in the cops. I mean, that's the issue: who and how the kids who disrupt are being punished."

DeVos responded that discipline is based on individual cases.
4 of 5

[We] are committed to making sure students have opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments.

Stahl followed up her question about discriminatory punishments in schools: "Do you see this disproportion in discipline for the same infraction as institutional racism?"

DeVos: "We're studying it carefully. And are committed to making sure students have opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments."
5 of 5

One sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many.

DeVos has come under fire for rolling back Title IX guidelines on handling sexual assault on college campuses to require stronger evidence from the accuser.

Stahl: "Are you in any way, do you think, suggesting that the number of false accusations are as high as the number of actual rapes or assaults?"

DeVos: "Well, one sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many."

Stahl: "Yeah, but are they the same?"

DeVos: "I don't know. I don't know. But I'm committed to a process that's fair for everyone involved."

Given the very low number of false sexual assault accusations, it's unconscionable to loosen these regulations — and then not even answer a simple, factually based question. Being the Secretary of Education, DeVos needs to come up with a clearer answer on this, and pretty much everything else.
Advertisement

More from US News

Watch

R29 Original Series