President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, faced a tough lineup of Senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday evening. The heated, partisan questioning primarily focused on DeVos’ beliefs on school choice/privatization, accountability, and civil rights and her financial contributions to education reform groups. Unfortunately, education technology was not a topic addressed directly by DeVos or by any of the Committee’s members.
SIIA sent a letter to the Senate HELP Committee leadership in advance of this nomination hearing hoping to hear comments on key ed tech topics, including connectivity and infrastructure, digital instructional materials, and STEM education.
Passing mention of online learning options in school choice was the closest DeVos came to addressing education technology. In her opening remarks, Ms. DeVos noted that, as part of moving beyond a “one-size-fits-all model of learning,” virtual school options should be included alongside magnet, charter, home, and religious school options. In addition, in response to questioning from Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) on how she will engage with rural and frontier states, DeVos noted that distance learning and online choices could help to serve the needs of rural communities.
For higher education, DeVos gave support for embracing “new pathways of learning,” specifically highlighting alternative educational pathways that don’t necessarily lead to four-year degrees or brick and mortar institutions. Additional comments on higher education focused largely around career and technical education and anytime, anywhere delivery models in addition to student financial aid.
DeVos did not offer any specifics on her vision for reviewing and reforming regulations enacted in the final months of the Obama Administration, sidestepping questions regarding ESSA accountability and gainful employment amongst others.