Now that the Senate has confirmed Betsy DeVos as the next secretary of education the question is, what now? Where does Devos take the U.S. Department of Education from here?
Whatever that involves, there can be no doubt she will have to be resolute in her leadership. The teachers’ unions and the education establishment knew how big those stakes were, and mounted an all-out smear campaign to prevent her from being confirmed. Thanks to Vice President Pence they failed.
What makes Mrs. DeVos so threatening to the teachers’ unions and their political allies is what she had stood for over 20 years. She has worked tirelessly to promote programs, policies, and laws that gave parents the power to choose which schools their children attended – whether public, charter, voucher, or private.
Some of those charter schools operate in low-income, minority neighborhoods in the inner-cities, and produce graduates who can match the educational performances of students in affluent suburbs. Others replaced that of an entire municipalities educational system, like the success story of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
While most of us see that as a great thing, teachers unions see any alternative as a threat their power and perhaps even existence.
If parents are allowed a viable choice as to where to send their children, many are not likely to choose a failing public school. Betsy Devos has long reminded Detroit and the rest of America that education is not about teachers and their unions but students.
There are tens of thousands of children on charter school waiting lists, in New York alone. Those waiting lists are a clear threat to teachers’ unions, whose leaders think schools exist to provide guaranteed jobs for their members.
One of the biggest complaints about her is that, unlike Secretaries of Education before her, she does not come out of the government’s education establishment. Considering what a miserable job that establishment has done, especially in inner-city schools, her independence is a plus.
“Betsy DeVos overcame an unprecedented personal assault from the most powerful and entrenched special interest in America. Teachers unions orchestrated a historic disinformation campaign in an attempt to resist accountability and prevent reform, but in the end, their case for maintaining the status quo was rejected,” said Ed Patru, spokesperson for Friends of Betsy DeVos.
Sources close to the Cabinet member say her confirmation marks a significant shift in federal education policy. They say she will elevate the interests and needs of children above those of the teachers’ unions and politicians. Education policy will now be decided locally, not by default from Washington.
Teachers’ unions have fought for years to prevent charter schools from being created. Up till now, the growth of charter schools, with their huge waiting lists has hit a wall. Devos is liable to push to remove arbitrary numerical caps on the number of such schools.
Devos has been accused of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools. The truth is that choice allows choice of who steers the money – educational bureaucrats or parents?
Following President Trump’s promise to cut the fat, Devos’s vision is sure to save federal funds. Charter schools usually get less money per student but produce better results.
American education was at a crossroads before the confirmation of Betsy Devos. If the teachers’ unions and their allies had defeated her nomination, and the Republicans substituted someone else more acceptable to the education establishment, a historic opportunity would have been lost.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which vetted the nominee hopes for cooperation in the Senate.
“For the last eight years,” he said, “I worked well with President Obama’s Education, Health and Energy Secretaries, and the President himself, even though we had fundamental disagreements on the federal role in education, Obamacare and energy policy. I would expect Democratic Senators to work just as hard to find common ground with Mrs. DeVos,”
Former education secretary for President Reagan, Bill Bennett, points out that DeVos must now push extra hard in order to make her agenda a reality. And she must be ready for a fight.
“This whole process has demonstrated the true power of the teachers’ unions and how entrenched they are in the Democratic Party,” said Bennett. “Now that she’s [confirmed], they won’t roll over or back down. DeVos will have to be ready to fight them head on to make real progress in American education.”
~ Conservative Zone