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Update: Critics Hammer Betsy DeVos After '60 Minutes' and Monday News Show Visits

March 12, 2018, 1:22 PM

Updates: The federal education secretary is being criticized for her performance Sunday on "60 Minutes" and on Monday morning network news shows.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during Sunday's segment. (CBS News photo)

Betsy DeVos "stumbled her way through a pointed '60 Minutes' interview," CNN says of the billionaire Cabinet member from Grand Rapids, adding:

White House officials were alarmed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ struggle to answer basic questions about the nation’s schools and failure to defend the administration’s newly proposed school safety measures during a tour of television interviews Sunday and Monday, according to two sources familiar with their reaction.

In a Washington Post analysis, Valerie Strauss writes that the presidential appointee "stumbled in answering questions that journalist Lesley Stahl asked during a pointed interview. . . . DeVos had trouble answering questions and seemed to contradict herself."

Critics on social media pound Sunday night's responses:

Original article, Monday morning:

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says she's all about choice when it comes to schools. She has proposed massive cuts in public education funding, and wants to shift billions to private, parochial and charter schools.

Betsy DeVos: "Michigan schools need to do better."

On "60 Minutes" Sunday, Leslie Stahl presses DeVos about her home state of Michigan and its poor test scores in public schools and the idea of taking money away from them. An excerpt:

Lesley Stahl: Why take away money from that school that's not working, to bring them up to a level where they are . . . that school is working?

Betsy DeVos: Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school . . . school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.

Stahl: Okay. But what about the kids who are back at the school that's not working? What about those kids?

DeVos: Well, in places where there have been-- where there is-- a lot of choice that's been introduced-- Florida, for example, the-- studies show that when there's a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually-- the results get better, as well.

DeVos: Michi . . . Yes, well, there's lots of great options and choices for students here.

Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DeVos: I don't know. Overall, I . . . I can't say overall that they have all gotten better.

Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.

DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this . . . the students are doing well and . . .

Stahl: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the 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.

Stahl: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.

DeVos: Michigan schools need to do better, there is no doubt about it.

Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they're doing?

DeVos: I have not, I have not . . . I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

Stahl: Maybe you should.

DeVos: Maybe I should, yes. 

See the exchange or read a full transcript from CBS. An "annotated" portion from The Washington Post is in the short video below. 

Data shows slippage

The National Assessment of Educational Progress has data reflecting a decline in Michigan students' performance over the past decade. The state ranked 41st in fourth-grade reading in 2015, down from 38th in 2013 and 28th in 2003.

More recently, a report last week by the Education Trust-Midwest comparing Michigan's performance with other states using an exam based on Common Core State Standards:

  • For 11 states in the region with annual test data from 2014-16, Michigan shows the biggest drop in third-grade English language arts skills. Michigan third-graders went from 50% proficiency to 44.1% over that time.
  • Michigan is the only state with a decline in third-grade math.

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