Betsy DeVos, a national leader in the school choice movement, may be bringing the religious culture wars to public education. Trump has tapped DeVos, who once talked about her work as an effort to “advance God’s Kingdom” and compared that to a biblical battleground, to head the Education Department.
POLITICO obtained an interview with DeVos and her husband from 2001 that comes from “The Gathering,” which is described as “an annual conference of some of the country’s wealthiest Christians.”
School choice, they say, leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” The two also lament that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of communities, and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.
While the interview is 15 years old, it sheds light on how DeVos sees the battle over school choice—a battle she’s continued to fight against public schools, which she describes as a “monopoly” and “dead end,” according to POLITICO. In the audio though, she says she doesn’t want to dismantle public education.
Betsy DeVos also described her efforts, using the biblical term “Shephelah,” an area where battles — including between David and Goliath — were fought in the Old Testament.
“Our desire is to be in that Shephelah, and to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory,” she said.
Those who know DeVos say her goals are not sinister — though they acknowledge the policies she’s likely to advance would benefit Christian schools. In fact, Trump’s $20 billion school choice program that would allow low-income students to select private or charter schools was devised with the help of the advocacy group DeVos headed until recently.
In the interview, she’s incredibly transparent about wanting to use public education dollars to expand the influence of her religion. “It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture — to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things — in this case, the system of education in the country,” she said.
DeVos’ views are dangerous for public education, especially with legislatures across the country cutting education funding. Just as troubling though is her disregard of the separation of church and state. It seems as though she wants to use public dollars to fund her so-called “religious battle.” If she wants to continue waging war on public education, she’s doing plenty of damage without the government’s money and should leave taxpayer dollars out of it.