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Controversial New Education Secretary's Impact May Be Limited


The U.S. Senate on Tuesday approved Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.  DeVos’s nomination was controversial, and it took a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence to confirm her in the post.  But despite that, one education expert says her appointment may not have all that much effect – at least at first.

Laurie Elish-Piper, Dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University, says DeVos may have strong views, but she’s circumscribed in her actions by current law -- especially the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015.  

DeVos could divert some funding from one program to another, Elish-Piper says, but there are limits to what the Education Secretary can do on her own.

“If they want to start new programs --for example, to support school choice -- they would have to get approval from Congress in order to be able to get that funding to initiate such programs, she says.

Elish-Piper says that, while DeVos could have more influence long-term, most school policy remains under state and, especially, local control.

Most of the public discussion around DeVos has centered on secondary education, but Elish-Piper says DeVos also will have influence on policies important to colleges and universities.

“Certainly, federal student loans fall under the U.S. Department of Education. Federal work-study. Title IX," Elish-Piper says. "All of those types of programs directly impact higher education and certainly could be felt at NIU.”

Elish-Piper strongly encourages people with concerns about the future of education policy and how it might affect them to talk to their local school boards, administrators or teachers.

Guy Stephens produces news stories for the station, and coordinates our online events calendar, PSAs and Arts Calendar announcements. In each of these ways, Guy helps keep our listening community informed about what's going on, whether on a national or local level. Guy's degrees are in music, and he spent a number of years as a classical host on WNIU. In fact, after nearly 20 years with Northern Public Radio, the best description of his job may be "other duties as required."