How will voucher-advocate Betsy DeVos affect U.S. education?

Posted at 8:43 AM, Nov 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-28 08:43:46-05

Grand Rapids philanthropist Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s choice for education secretary, has been a longtime advocate for school vouchers. And Trump himself has vowed to use federal funds to encourage states to make school choice available to all poor students, including through vouchers that allow families to take public funding to private schools.

So what potential impact would DeVos have on public education as Trump's secretary of education?

Michigan State University has a number of education and political experts who can speak to the issue.


Joshua Cowen is associate professor of education and a nationally recognized expert on school choice and vouchers. He can be reached at and (859) 351-8898.

Cowen’s comments on DeVos:

"My take: if she wants to follow the evidence for what works she should focus on charters, not vouchers, and push for more oversight of charters generally. But I do not believe she will."


Rebecca Jacobsen is associate professor of education and co-director of MSU’s Education Policy Center. She can be reached at and (917) 601-6026.

Jacobsen’s comments on vouchers:

“Pursuing vouchers has significant consequences for our public education system and Michigan is a good model of how lack of oversight and some central planning can leave many children without solid educational opportunities. Some kids are simply more costly than the $12,000 Trump is quoting, and who will take them? Will this further concentrate the most needy children in the already struggling public schools in cities? What will this mean for rural education where vouchers are meaningless due to density of schools? We have learned a lot about what makes choice work and increasingly a centralized planning system is required and vouchers will provide nothing for this. We have plenty of evidence to demonstrate that this does not improve the quality of education overall and certainly harms the quality of education for those populations most vulnerable.”


Sarah Reckhow is an assistant professor of political science and an expert in federal education policy and philanthropy. Previously, Reckhow was a high school teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools. She can be reached at and (517) 488-2488.

Reckhow can speak to education policy implications under Trump/DeVos and DeVos' background as a philanthropist.


Robert Floden is dean of MSU’s highly ranked College of Education and an expert in K-12 education standards. He can be reached at and (517) 355-3486.

Says Floden: “Betsy DeVos is well known for her support of charters and vouchers.  One critical issue there is the importance of assuring quality education in whatever type of school children are attending.”