Despite reputation, Betsy DeVos hires are surprisingly diverse

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Betsy DeVos’ appointment as education secretary was largely derided by people on both sides of the aisle, but some of her hires are surprisingly diverse.

There’s Candice E. Jackson, who was appointed to the department’s Office for Civil Rights. Jackson is probably best known for attacking Hillary Clinton during the campaign and for elevating the women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault while deriding he women who accused Donald Trump. She has signaled that the administration would be stepping back from issued like the treatment of LBGT students and the investigations of sexual assault allegations on school campuses.

And yet, Jackson is a sexual assault survivor herself and has been married to her wife for over a decade.

Jason Botel, Ms. DeVos’s deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, is best known for the waves he made in declaring support for the charter school program, and yet he is a registered Democrat, a huge supporter of Barack Obama’s, and an advocate for low-income and minority children in Baltimore.

Botel started the Baltimore foundation of the Knowledge Is Power Program, a national charter school effort known as KIPP, which has become one of the best-performing schools in Baltimore and is, according to Andres Alonso, a former superintendent of the Baltimore City school district, “a proof point for what was possible with poor black students.”

Jose Viana, an assistant deputy education secretary and the director of the Office of English Language Acquisition, worked previously for North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction, where he helped children of migrant workers, including undocumented immigrants, to overcome academic barriers such as frequent moves and lack of access to health care.

At a time when the Trump administration has not been friendly to immigrants, Viana is himself an immigrant. His former coworker, Sonja Williams, said that he would often describe himself as “created in Cuba and born in the United States.”

Ethan Hutt, a professor of education and policy at the University of Maryland, said these appointments “show the complexity of the intersection of identity politics and the fault lines of education reform.”

“If nothing else, Betsy DeVos is an enigma, and her under appointments represent that to some extent. It shows what she wants at the table. But the question is how much influence they will ultimately have.”