On Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned, citing the rioters breaking into the Capitol as the “inflection point” for her decision. She blamed President Donald Trump’s rhetoric for the riot, but she spent the bulk of her resignation letter defending her accomplishments on school choice, federal student aid, and urging schools to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration’s many accomplishments on behalf of the American people. Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business,” DeVos lamented. “That behavior was unconscionable for our country.”
“There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” the secretary added. “Impressionable children are watching all of this, and they are learning from us. I believe we each have a moral obligation to exercise good judgement [sic] and model the behavior we hope they would emulate. They must know from us that America is greater than what transpired yesterday.”
DeVos submitted her resignation letter on Thursday and she will leave her post on Friday.
The secretary expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to serve and her pride in the administration’s accomplishments.
“For more than thirty years, I have fought on behalf of America’s students to expand the options they have to pursue a world-class education. As you know, too many of them are denied an equal opportunity to a high-quality education simply because of where they grow up or how much money their family makes,” she wrote. “You rightly have called this one of the most significant civil rights issues of our time.”
Under her leadership, DeVos said the Department of Education “sparked a national conversation about putting students and parents in charge of education, leading to expanded school choice and education freedom in many states.” She celebrated the department’s work in restoring “the proper federal role by returning power to states, communities, educators, and parents.” She celebrated the return of due process in matters of sexual assault allegations and the department’s defense of the First Amendment rights of students and teachers. She also noted improvements to Federal Student Aid and funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“Finally, Mr. President, I know with certainty that history will show we were correct in our repeated urging of and support for schools reopening this year and getting all of America’s students back to learning,” DeVos added. “This remains the greatest challenge our nation’s students face, particularly students of color and students with disabilities. Millions are being denied meaningful access to education right now, in no small part because of the union bosses who control so much of the traditional system.”
DeVos does indeed have a great deal to celebrate, but the storming of the Capitol and Trump’s comments coddling the rioters were beyond the pale. Trump not only contested the election results — which was within his rights — but also claimed he won by a “landslide,” suggested Republican officials had personally betrayed him when they counted votes, and even pressured Mike Pence to usurp the Electoral College by throwing out votes certified in contested states. While there were irregularities and issues with the 2020 election, Trump whipped up his supporters into a dangerous frenzy using exaggerated claims and accusations.
The president has since accepted the results of the Electoral College, pledged to ensure a peaceful transition of power, and promised the rioters that they will “pay” for this egregious assault on the people’s house. That does not erase his previous actions, however.
In the wake of the Capitol riots, other administration staffers resigned. Former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — now a special envoy to Northern Ireland — resigned, as did first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), also resigned. Chao announced that former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s pick for Transportation, would replace her.
These resignations seem like rats fleeing a sinking ship, but it is important for Americans to remember the positive achievements of the Trump administration. DeVos deserves a great deal of credit for fighting for school choice despite the massive opposition and demonization she faced.
NEW: Education Sec. DeVos resigns following Wednesday's siege of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob: "There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me." pic.twitter.com/MbNDM0HBiO
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 8, 2021
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.