At a time when President Trump is planning slash the education budget by $9 billion and threatening the American public education system as we know it, the Department of Education is spending about $1 million a month to provide security for Secretary Betsy DeVos, making her the only Cabinet member to receive this costly level of protection.
In the past, the Education Secretary was protected by a team of employees working for the department, including a number of former Secret Service agents.
That changed shortly after February 10, when DeVos was blocked from entering the Jefferson Middle School Academy in southwest Washington, D.C. by a handful of unarmed protesters, not far from her government office. DeVos turned and fled as the protesters chanted, “Go back! Shame! Shame!”
— ABC 7 News – WJLA (@ABC7News) February 10, 2017
Three days later, the Education Department contracted with federal Marshals to provide security for DeVos, making her one of the few Cabinet members to ever require that level of protection and the first to get outside guards in at least eight years.
The contract for DeVos covers the next four years unless it is canceled. The cost for the first eight months has been $7.8 million, or an average of about $1 million a month. It is unclear if that will rise over the coming months and years. A person at the agency said told The Washington Post it may turn out to be less.
The Department of Education, which determined there is a threat to DeVos, is reimbursing the Marshalls for their work, while the in-house Security Team has yet to be reassigned or dismissed. The spokesperson would not say if it was round the clock security or not.
The Marshals Service has hired about two dozen guards for her security detail. That includes 20 positions at from $95,000 to $123,000 each annually and two at an annual salary of $112,000 to $146,000.
DeVos is a multi-millionaire who was barely confirmed after a bruising political battle over her lack of an educational career background, support for charter schools and her plan to lower funding for public education.
The high cost of guarding DeVos, in the long run, may not be the greatest cost to the American society of her tenure as Education Secretary. The real cost could be the negative impact she is having on public education, which since the beginning of the Republic has been a right for all children, regardless of how much money their parents had or could spend on education.
DeVos is a big advocate of charter schools, which require a tuition payment. It is a move toward elitism in education which is the wrong way to go when the American education system is already in such a crisis that many academic programs, sports, arts and after-school efforts have been curtailed.
For a rich woman who has never taught, been a principal or school administrator, that may not mean much, but it is her views that could be the real cost for the American society.