The Chronic Unexcused Absenteeism of Betsy DeVos

As a teacher, if I worked the kind of schedule that Betsy DeVos worked, then I would be “nonrenewed” which is effectively fired.

Before anyone says, “Well, teachers have tenure!” please be reminded that tenure really means having due-process rights and blatant absenteeism is hard to defend if it is not for medical leave or another hardship. Besides, here in North Carolina, due-process rights were taken away from new teachers a few years ago long before Betsy DeVos started her current “tenure” as secretary of education.

And if anyone says, “Well, teachers have summers off!” please be prepared to explore a much deeper issue in which appearances are wildly different from realities.

It seems plausible that leaders set an example through work ethic and willingness to accept responsibility which is why I do not consider Betsy DeVos a leader. In fact, it seems that she does not even desire to be the leader of the nation’s public school system.

Consider a recent report by the non-partisan watchdog group American Oversight. They released a report on DeVos’s attendance record over the first six months of her term.

Six months is four months shorter than a school year as defined by federal standards.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, American Oversight was able to conclude that DeVos only showed up for work 2 out of three days (

An analysis by American Oversight found that during that period – which stretches from February 8th to July 19th – DeVos only completed a full day of work 67% of the time. 

DeVos schedule

That’s not a good track record.

Broken down specifically, the report says:


  • 113 federally mandated work days (February 8 – July 19, 2017)
  • 77 full days of work (68%)
  • 21 partial days taken off (19%)
  • 15 full days taken off (13%)
  • 5 hours of work on average partial day off
  • 11 long weekends in less than six months

If a teacher was to take a partial-day off, then a substitute teacher would have to be called in for the other half-day. That would be 21 sub jobs there.

If a teacher was to take a whole day off, then a substitute teacher would have to be called in for the entire day. That would be another 15 sub jobs there.

That hurts the school system’s budget because subs have to be paid and it hurts morale because if the teacher is not there for reasons not really excused, then students and other teachers get affected by that. Besides the continuity in the class would be totally compromised therefore hurting student achievement.

And any school will tell you that “voluntary” long weekends are especially hard to navigate.

Leaders do not do this. People who do not really want to lead do this.

Imagine if a student only came to school two of three days and most of the days missed were “unexcused.” That student would not pass.

Makes you want to see Betsy DeVos’s report card at the end of the school year.

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