Jul 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Betsy DeVos calls for abolishing the Department of Education

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attends an event with students, teachers and administrators about how to safely reopen schools during the pandemic on July 7, 2020. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said at a conservative education summit Saturday that she believes the Department of Education should be abolished, according to the Florida Phoenix.

Driving the news: DeVos' rejection of the department she once led was well-received at the Moms for Liberty summit, which provided training on how to develop conservative majorities on local school boards, the Phoenix reported.

  • "I personally think the Department of Education should not exist," DeVos told the crowd in Tampa, Florida, per the Phoenix.

The big picture: The summit is part of the so-called parental rights movement, which arose in response to efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in schools, particularly mask and vaccination mandates.

  • Florida has been ground zero for many of the efforts to increase parental involvement in, and reduce teachers' autonomy over, classroom decisions.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also issued an executive order in August 2021 banning mask mandates in schools.
  • The state's so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, which went into effect on July 1, bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade. It also allows parents to sue schools and teachers who discuss these topics.
  • The state's Board of Education banned schools from teaching critical race theory — a legal theory about how racial discrimination influenced America's foundations — last June. Critical race theory is not taught in public schools. The ban led to the rejection of dozens of math textbooks that "contained prohibited topics."

Background: DeVos is not the only Republican to suggest abolishing the Department of Education.

  • Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced a bill in 2021 to abolish the department, claiming that "Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., should not be in charge of our children’s intellectual and moral development."
  • The bill's co-signers included many of the House's most conservative members, such as Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
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