United States: Transforming Education – The Devos Factor

Now that debates have faded over the definition of student performance and whether guns in schools are necessary to protect against grizzly bears, everyone is settling into the reality that Betsy DeVos now leads our nation's educational institutions. She will help shape education in the country for the next generation, and to say that change during this time is inevitable states the obvious. Depending on your perspective, the anticipated changes signal either a retrenchment to inequity or evolution to a fuller opportunity for all students. At a minimum, you can expect a significant shift in a number of educational priorities. 

Portfolios Of Choice

Expanding school choice appears to be the number one priority for DeVos. In nearly every public statement since her nomination to Secretary of Education, DeVos has advocated for increasing the number of charter, private, virtual, and similar types of schools, saying they will bring value by creating more opportunities for children. She does not see similar growth for traditional public schools. 

In these views, DeVos has the backing of the White House; President Trump's State of the Union address emphasized school choice as an educational priority, calling on school vouchers as the ticket out for currently underserved African-American and Latino student populations. While DeVos may have good intentions by seeking new solutions for those attending schools with track records of institutionalized failure, some have questioned whether she is best suited to spearhead the type of transformative change she is proposing. 

DeVos has demonstrated she is not afraid to court controversy before even starting down what will inevitably be a difficult road to successful implementation of her goals. On February 27, 2017, DeVos released a statement after meeting with presidents from several historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), celebrating HBCU as "real pioneers when it comes to school choice." She explained, "they are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality." 

Some people embraced the spirit of this sentiment, while others chose to focus on the context surrounding the origins of HBCU – a time when colleges and universities in this country barred admission of black students. Rather than duck and run from the high-profile controversy, DeVos continued engaging in the conversation, explaining at a public event the next day, "HBCU history was born not out of mere choice, but out of necessity." 

Regardless of how you feel about DeVos' views on this and similar matters, her opinions cannot be ignored given her role on Trump's executive team. Should the new administration actually create a national school choice voucher program as she has suggested, opportunities will unfold for independent, charter, private, virtual, and religious schools. Now is the time for these schools to determine how well they are positioned for the anticipated significant increase in enrollment. 

How Private Schools Should Prepare

We recommend convening a core team to review your school's strategic plan and identify whether your school desires to position itself for the possibility of expansion. If so, the core team should begin to develop options for how to support enrollment increases. Make sure to include board members, lead administrators, facility and IT managers, and legal counsel in these conversations.

Schools taking steps to position themselves now will undoubtedly be able to benefit most readily from a national school choice voucher program. It is key, however, to make sure the strategy your school develops is generalized and flexible enough to adapt to developments from a national and state level, and does not result in premature expense and costs.  

It is also important to work with your legal counsel to understand the impact that accepting a voucher from the national government will have on your school. Private schools accepting vouchers that come from money defined as federal financial assistance by Congress are subject to obligations under various federal laws, including Title IX, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and similar laws that may change how the private school operates.

The Fate Of Public Education

As DeVos moves toward implementing greater school choice, there is one segment of the educational sector likely to encounter negative consequences: public schools. DeVos appears not to view a decline in public school enrollment as relevant to the school choice conversation. In states where enrollment numbers dictate revenue to public schools, the consequence of school vouchers is potentially catastrophic. Indeed, public school systems are now running with significantly less revenue due to enrollment decline occasioned by the charter school movement.

For the most part, public school systems have not fully positioned themselves as competitors in education since the onset of charter schools. Many times the inability to "re-create" the public school system is due to regulatory requirements, such as free appropriate public education (FAPE) requirements for special education students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Other hurdles spring from systemic inflexibilities created through labor contract obligations. On that latter point, much work is recommended. 

Key to sustaining each public school system during the DeVos era will be the ability of boards of education, superintendents, CEOs, treasurers, CFOs, union leaders, and lead teachers to truly collaborate. What public schools need is the type of transformation anticipated under DeVos – a completely new option. Public schools must quickly re-invent themselves today to remain alive and competitive tomorrow. 

Similar to the advice provided above for private schools, we recommend public schools convene a core team comprised of board members, administrative and union leaders, and legal counsel to identify ways to realign relationships and working perspectives to better support school learning environments. The goal should be to attain the true "community of learning" parents and their children want, where students grow and succeed. The fate of our public school system is now squarely in the hands of leaders at the local level.

Final Thought

The current political environment requires our schools to actively lead in innovative ways to better support students, cultivate and foster diversity in the educational setting, and ensure continued excellence in education. Hard decisions may be needed in the next four years. 

It is important to prepare now by reviewing your school's mission, strategic plan, and operations in order to align your decisions and actions in a way that will enable the school of the future to emerge to meet your present vision.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Fisher Phillips LLP
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Fisher Phillips LLP
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions