Betsy DeVos: I'd be 'fine' if we could ditch the Education Department


Opponents tried to block the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and would gladly see her booted from that Cabinet position.

Turns out, DeVos would be good with leaving as well.

"It would be fine with me to have myself worked out of a job," DeVos told Axios in an interview published Friday. "But I'm not sure that – I'm not sure that there will be a champion movement in Congress to do that."

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Betsy DeVos through the years
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Betsy DeVos through the years

Continuing a day of one-on-one meetings with candidates for positions in his cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump met with Betsy DeVos, two polar opposites thought to be in contention for the education portfolio.

(Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence stand with Betsy DeVos before their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence emerge with Betsy DeVos after their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Continuing a day of one-on-one meetings with candidates for positions in his cabinet, President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met with Betsy DeVos, two polar opposites thought to be in contention for the education portfolio.

(Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Grant Hill #33 of the Los Angeles Clippers shakes hands with Owner Dick DeVos, Chairman of Amway and his wife Betsy DeVos during the game against the Orlando Magic during the game on February 6, 2013 at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

US President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush wave after they were introduced by the Chair of the Michigan Republican Party Betsy DeVos 30 October 2004 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bush is on his final three days of campaigning prior for the election November 02.

(STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)

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To be clear, DeVos was responding to a question about what the role of the federal government in education should be, and she wouldn't be the first member of the executive branch to float doing away with the Department of Education altogether.

President Ronald Reagan, for example, called for abolishing the department, which was first established under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. And a call to do so has not been uncommon among GOP presidential hopefuls.

In fact, President Donald Trump – who nominated DeVos to her position – said in his 2015 book "Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America" that "if we don't eliminate [the department] completely, we certainly need to cut its power and reach."

Though DeVos basically stated she'd be OK with jettisoning the department, she also said that the federal government, at least in the past, has had a legitimate role to play in education.

"When we had segregated schools and when we had a time when, you know, girls weren't allowed to have the same kind of sports teams – I mean, there have been important inflection points for the federal government to get involved," she said in the Axios interview, after stating that "in some of the areas around protecting students and ensuring safe environments for them, there is a role to play."

She added, though, that she "can't think of any" remaining education issues like segregation or female sports teams now in which the federal government would need to intervene.

Notably, segregation in schools – both by race and class – has been on the rise.

DeVos also said in a separate interview published Thursday by the conservative news site Townhall that the federal government has a responsibility to intervene in cases of discrimination and when it comes to protecting students with disabilities.

"I do think there are some federal roles around ensuring children with special needs and then the anti-discrimination issues at the level they were originally intended," she said. "But I also think there is an opportunity to streamline and simplify a lot of the engagement and involvement the department has had around some of these issues, issues that have continued to mushroom and grow well beyond the core focus of those two important functions and protections."

DeVos, who gave two brief speeches this week – one about magnet schools and another about community colleges – has yet to outline priorities for the Education Department under her watch.

But it's clear she's determined not to grow the federal role in education, perhaps even in the area of school choice – which she has championed in the past.

"This will be about empowering the states, not another federal program," she told Townhall. "We don't need another federal program."

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