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MI Expert Urges Continued Education Advocacy Following DeVos Confirmation

One Michigan political observer points out that Betsy DeVos won't be the only one shaping education policy. (CSPAN/Wikimedia Commons)
One Michigan political observer points out that Betsy DeVos won't be the only one shaping education policy. (CSPAN/Wikimedia Commons)
February 8, 2017

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The contentious battle over the nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary is now over, but one expert says the massive groundswell of interest in public education shouldn't end here.

Sarah Reckhow is an assistant professor specializing in education policy at Michigan State University. She says though emotions have been running high, it's important to remember that much of what happens in public education is state-level policy, particularly under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal mandate that replaced No Child Left Behind.

"Much of what that did was to pass more power back to the states, and really, I expect that's where most of the action will be," she said. "The power that we saw exercised for the last eight years, it simply won't be that way. The political context has changed, the funding context has changed."

She adds the Education Department under President Barack Obama was very visible and active due to significant additional funding that came from the stimulus package, while the current administration will have to work within a much more restrained budget.

Because of the DeVos family's long history in the state, many Michiganders were among the most outspoken about her nomination. Reckhow says they now need to keep a very close eye on what's happening in Lansing.

"States were the ones that adopted teacher evaluation reforms, states adopted Common Core; states adopt charter-school regulations," she explained. "A lot of the vouchers are state-level policy."

She says she hopes those who engaged in the debate and may be feeling disheartened by Devos' nomination will continue to advocate just as passionately for children in their own schools, communities, and at the state level.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI