In her first print and radio interviews since taking the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, brand-new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos opened up about the difficulties of her rocky confirmation process to conservative opinion journalists in Michigan.
DeVos gave her first print interview to a Michigan-based opinion page editor whose paper endorsed her as secretary, and her first radio interview to Paul W. Smith, a conservative talk show host, also from the Wolverine State. Smith started his chat with DeVos by telling her, “you know that we’re supportive of you.”
DeVos’ divisive confirmation process—culminating in a tie vote that Vice President Mike Pence had to break—was a theme of both conversations.
DeVos told Ingrid Jacques, the deputy editorial page editor of the Detroit News, that she could have answered some questions in her confirmation hearing “better or more articulately.” But she added, “in my defense, the questioners had no interest in really hearing a full response, I don’t think. I did not want to be combative. I wanted to continue to be respectful and to try to reflect the kind of demeanor that I think we should have surrounding these conversations.” And she said the opposition to her candidacy has “made me more resolute.”
And Smith the Michigan-based radio host, kicked off his interview by telling DeVos he was thrilled to finally be able to introduce her as the education secretary. He asked DeVos why she thought her confirmation process had been so fraught.
“The work that I’ve done is a threat to those who are protectors and defenders of the status quo and of a system that has continued to fail way too many of our young people,” she told him.
Smith and DeVos also had a brief exchange about a question at her hearing from Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., on proficiency versus growth—Smith noted, correctly, that states were expected to get students to proficiency under the No Child Left Behind Act. And he described growth in a way that most educators would probably argue doesn’t capture the concept, saying that a student who thinks two plus two equals six at the beginning of the year thinking that two plus two equals five at the end of the year would constitute “growth.”