Capitol Riot

Citing Trump's Rhetoric, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Resigns

"That behavior was unconscionable for our country."

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned on Thursday, becoming the second Cabinet secretary to exit the administration in opposition to President Donald Trump's irresponsible encouragement of the rioters who surrounded the U.S. Capitol building on Tuesday, which resulted in violence and several deaths.

"That behavior was unconscionable for our country," said DeVos in her resignation letter, according to The Wall Street Journal. "There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me."

DeVos' resignation follows that of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who said the deadly storming of the Capitol building—which forced Congress to halt its certification of President-elect Joe Biden's win—was "entirely avoidable." Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.).

For her part, DeVos lamented that the riots had overshadowed the administration's accomplishments. Indeed, education policy has been one of the brighter spots of Trump's tenure. Under DeVos' leadership, the Education Department initiated arduous but much-needed reform of Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits sexual misconduct in schools. Title IX had become a weapon for college administrators to deprive accused students of due process and infringe on free speech rights; DeVos' new Title IX rules, which underwent a full notice-and-comment period as required by law, restored basic fairness to these procedures.

The education secretary is also a vocal supporter of school choice, and has expressed concern that the pandemic is exacerbating the achievement gap between students who have many education options and students who are trapped in the public school system, which has increasingly relied on wholly inadequate remote learning during COVID-19.

"If there's anything that this pandemic has shown us, it's what I've been talking about for decades," DeVos told me when I interviewed her for Reason's November issue. "Kids have got to have more choices, and the whole K–12 system has got to be changed to allow for and facilitate those kinds of choices on the part of parents."

DeVos was entirely correct to call out Trump's horrendous behavior. With any hope, the president is sufficiently chastened and will not cause further trouble during the short time he has left in office.

"Impressionable children are watching all this," said DeVos in her resignation letter. "And they are learning from us."