60 Minutes has a much-anticipated interview with Stormy Daniels coming up next week, but last night Lesley Stahl produced some captivating television by asking Betsy DeVos basic questions about education in America that DeVos struggled mightily to answer.
The Secretary of Education sat down with 60 Minutes after a disastrous visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, last week. The interview aired on the same night that the Trump administration released its plans for dealing with school safety and gun violence in the wake of that shooting. Over the course of an awkward set of conversations, Stahl repeatedly stumped DeVos by asking her about topics ranging from her basic philosophy on education (emphasis mine):
Lesley Stahl: Why take away money from that school that’s not working, to bring them up to a level where they are— that school is working?
Betsy DeVos: Well, we should be funding and investing in students, not in school— school buildings, not in institutions, not in systems.
Lesley Stahl: Okay. But what about the kids who are back at the school that’s not working? What about those kids?
Betsy DeVos: Well, in places where there have been— where there is— a lot of choice that’s been introduced— Florida, for example, the— studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually— the results get better, as well.
To schools in her home state of Michigan:
Lesley Stahl: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?
Betsy DeVos: I don’t know. Overall, I— I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.
Lesley Stahl: The whole state is not doing well.
Betsy DeVos: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this— the students are doing well and—
Lesley Stahl: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.
Betsy DeVos: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.
Lesley Stahl: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.
To whether she has been in schools that are not doing well (spoiler alert: nope):
Lesley Stahl: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?
Betsy DeVos: I have not— I have not— I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.
Lesley Stahl: Maybe you should.
Betsy DeVos: Maybe I should. Yes.
Later, Stahl asked DeVos about how institutional racism manifests itself in how harshly teachers deal with black students versus white students, which is especially pertinent since 60 Minutes reported that DeVos is considering scrapping Obama-era guidelines which encourage schools to prevent that from happening:
Betsy DeVos: We are studying that rule. We need to ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn in a safe and nurturing environment. And all students means all students.
Lesley Stahl: Yeah but let’s say there’s a disruption in the classroom and a bunch of whites kids are disruptive and they get punished, you know, go see the principal, but the black kids are, you know, they call in the cops. I mean, that’s the issue: who and how the kids who disrupt are being punished.
Betsy DeVos: Arguably, all of these issues or all of this issue comes down to individual kids. And—
Lesley Stahl: Well, no. That— it’s not.
Besty DeVos: —it does come down to individual kids. And—often comes down to— I am committed to making sure that students have the opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to their learning.
Stahl ended the interview on the subject of DeVos’ crusade to help college students accused of rape. She asked DeVos if she thought the number of false accusations were as high as the number of sexual assaults.
“Well, one sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many,” DeVos replied.
“Yeah, but are they the same?” Stahl shot back.
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” DeVos responded. “But I’m committed to a process that’s fair for everyone involved.”
Watch the full, humiliating interview here.