Betsy DeVos has been on the front lines of a major education turnaround.
She has led the charge for public school teachers, pushed to improve school safety and expanded access to public education, even as the Trump administration has cut billions from federal funding.
But as secretary of education, DeVos has taken an unusual stance on school choice, which has attracted more interest than anything else from her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
DeVos wants to expand choice by making it easier for states to offer vouchers and by requiring public school students to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
The education secretary, who has a history of pushing for school choice and privatization, has faced criticism for a range of decisions, from her opposition to vouchers to her decision to end federal support for public schools.
At a town hall meeting with reporters in February, DeVos took a different tack.
“We need to move away from vouchers,” she said.
“It’s time for a national voucher program that allows states to provide students a path to higher education.”
Her comments have drawn a firestorm of criticism from both the left and right.
Her first public appearance after taking office was on Jan. 7, when she was asked about her views on school vouchers.
Asked by the Washington Post whether she favored vouchers, DeVos said, “I believe we need to go a different direction.”
She added, “You know, we’ve got to go through the voucher program and figure out how do we have a system that’s equitable and just.
And I think we have to look at it from a broader set of considerations.”
It’s not clear whether DeVos is just advocating for the voucher option, or if she has a policy of her own that favors the choice of parents over public schools, according to Betsy DeVos spokesman Nick Anderson.
If DeVos is willing to take a different position on vouchers, she could face some serious backlash in the Republican Party.
President Donald Trump’s education secretary is a Trump loyalist, and he has vowed to reverse Obama-era policies and push for more charter schools.
He has been criticized by conservatives who say that his proposals are not enough to address the problem of declining school choice.
Betsy DeVos has said she supports vouchers for public charter schools, but critics say she is pushing for a statewide voucher program, which would allow public schools to choose their own charters.
She has also said that the Education Department should “make vouchers available in every state.”
“The DeVos Administration has no intention of increasing the federal funding that’s already being used to help support public schools,” Anderson said.
A spokesperson for the Education Secretary’s office told Business Insider that DeVos has “not advocated for the creation of state-run charters.”
The spokesperson added that “there is no indication that she will propose a voucher program.”
However, the Education Commissioner for the District of Columbia said that he is open to the idea of a voucher, adding that “I would certainly be open to it.”
At least two states, Georgia and Pennsylvania, have taken a strong stance on voucher expansion.
On Jan. 6, Georgia became the fourth state to pass a voucher expansion law, which was signed by Governor Nathan Deal, a Trump supporter who had pushed for voucher expansion in the past.
Pennsylvania, which is also home to more than a million students, has also made progress in expanding the voucher market.
In 2016, the Pennsylvania Legislature approved $250 million for the state’s voucher program.
In the months following, the state passed a voucher law that was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf in December, 2018.
Since that time, Pennsylvania has spent $15 million on vouchers and has more than 1,400 schools with more than 4,000 students, according for the Pennsylvania Education Department.
But many of those schools do not have a choice to use vouchers.
Pennsylvania is one of the states that has the largest voucher program in the country, with more schools receiving vouchers than any other state.
States across the country have been facing a severe shortage of teachers, especially at public schools that offer many different types of instruction, including pre-K, charter schools and after-school programs.
Critics say the DeVos administration’s stance on vouchers has resulted in a loss of control over education funding, and that states are taking a risk in making the changes to their own systems that would have more impact on public schools than in other states.
While the DeVos Administration does not have any plans to expand the voucher system, the Department of Education is reviewing the expansion of the program and the role of private and public schools in schools.