School still life with copyspace on chalkboardWritten by Don Byrd

President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a leading advocate for school voucher initiatives across the country. Vouchers send taxpayer funds to support private education including religious education, raising concerns about DeVos’ appointment among religious liberty watchdogs. 

The Detroit News reports on her and her husband’s role in promoting school vouchers in their home state of Michigan and nationwide:

DeVos is chair of the American Federation for Children, a Washington, D.C.-based single-issue organization devoted to expanding school of choice options across the country.

In Michigan, DeVos sits on the board of the Great Lakes Education Project, which has operated as her influential family’s school choice advocacy arm in Lansing. For the past 14 years, the group has been actively advocating its education reform agenda in both the Capitol and state House and Senate elections, particularly Republican primaries.

In 2000, Betsy and Dick DeVos funded an unsuccessful statewide ballot initiative to amend the state Constitution to allow tax dollars to be used for private school tuition through education vouchers. They have since advocated for school vouchers in other states.

Critiquing DeVos’ selection, Americans United’s Maggie Garrett notes that not only do school vouchers undermine religious freedom guarantees, they are also “terrible education policy.”

Voucher programs have proven ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, and deprive students of rights provided to public school students.  They also divert desperately needed resources away from public schools, which serve all children, to fund the education of a few, select voucher students. 

For more on school vouchers, see the BJC’s Jennifer Hawks’ article, “School Vouchers Threaten Religious Autonomy.”