An Education Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the remarks, nor whether DeVos plans to stay in office until Jan. 20.
Department officials announced during the all-hands staff meeting that they have lined up career officials to take over in an interim capacity in roles that will be vacated by an exodus of political appointees in the coming weeks.
The Trump administration plans to tap Phil Rosenfelt for the role of acting secretary of Education, according to a list obtained by POLITICO.
Rosenfelt is the department’s deputy general counsel and a longtime career employee. He played the same role during the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration in 2017, serving as acting secretary of Education from late January of 2017 when Secretary John B. King Jr. left office until early February of that year, when DeVos was sworn in.
Rosenfelt in 2019 was at the center of a controversy over the Trump administration’s efforts to replace the acting inspector general at the Education Department.
Trump appointed Rosenfelt to replace Sandra Bruce, the No. 2 official in the inspector general’s office, who had been serving as the acting inspector general. But the White House backtracked on the decision several days later amid backlash from Democrats, who opened inquiries into the matter.
Top Democrats accused the Trump administration of attempting to influence Bruce’s investigation of DeVos’ decision to reinstate a controversial accreditor of for-profit colleges. Education Department officials deny those charges.
DeVos told Education Department employees on Tuesday that her goal “in everything we accomplished was to do what’s right for students,” adding that “four years later it’s still my focus and it’s still my hope for all of you.” She touted her overhaul of Title IX rules governing sexual assault and misconduct in schools and colleges as one of her major accomplishments.
The secretary’s remarks come after nearly four years of frequently sparring with the career employees of her department. She tangled with the agency’s union over reorganizations and workplace policies, such as teleworking rules, and blamed bureaucrats at the agency for making it difficult to get things done.
“This building has caused more problems than it solved,” DeVos said of the Education Department during an interview with Reason magazine this fall.
Political appointees at the Education Department also sought to investigate and punish career employees who they suspected of leaking information to the press. Across the government, Trump administration officials frequently derided the “Deep State” and accused career employees of trying to continually subvert the president’s agenda.
DeVos’ use of the word “resistance,” in reading from what appeared to be prepared remarks, mimics liberal opposition to President Donald Trump.