Mitt Romney: Betsy DeVos Would Challenge the ‘Education Establishment’

President-elect Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos shake hands at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. ()
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is applauding the nomination of Betsy DeVos to run the federal education department.

In an op-ed at the Washington Post, Romney asserts that DeVos would challenge “the education establishment,” which has a “financial stake” in the current system.

The former Massachusetts governor also observes that “a lot of money is at stake” in the debate over DeVos, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled for January 11.

“Essentially, it’s a debate between those in the education establishment who support the status quo because they have a financial stake in the system and those who seek to challenge the status quo because it’s not serving kids well,” he writes.

Romney portrays DeVos as “someone who isn’t financially biased shaping education,” and as “someone who will challenge the conventional wisdom and status quo.”

Parent and education activists who have been battling against the “establishment” of both political parties, however, are reacting to Breitbart News about Romney’s views of DeVos.

“Mr. Romney seems confused about what constitutes the education establishment in this country,” states Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based American Principles Project.

”Mrs. DeVos and the organizations she has either founded, funded, or helped lead are an integral part of the establishment that many thousands of parents have been fighting for years now,” Robbins adds. “Those parents are the real anti-establishment heroes, but they’ve been consistently ignored. We hope Mrs. DeVos will start to listen to them.”

Ohio parent activist Heidi Huber tells Breitbart News that Romney’s endorsement of DeVos as an “anti-establishment” maverick of sorts is “laughable,” given that he has been an “anti-Trumper.”

“If the establishment’s history of self-awareness deficit wasn’t so widely known, one might think Romney was trying to sabotage the confirmation,” Huber asserts. “One can only hope that Romney’s endorsement of DeVos will be as inversely effective as his public denouncement of Trump.”

A leader of grassroots parents, teachers, and citizens against federal control of education, Huber’s observation is that Romney is “unaware of the contradiction of his case,” and cites his boasting of the education successes in his home state of Massachusetts. In his op-ed, the former governor wrote:

Massachusetts has consistently ranked No. 1 among all 50 states on the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress exams. I believe that there are many reasons for this success. Among them are a statewide curriculum developed by our own educators; a state exam in math, science and English required to graduate from high school; extensive school choice among standard public schools, charter schools, public exam schools, private schools, Catholic schools and cyber schools; superb teachers; and involved parents. Massachusetts has also benefited from creative political leadership on both sides of the aisle and from remarkable flexibility by our education unions.

However, as Huber notes, Romney cites the successes in the Bay State prior to Gov. Deval Patrick (D)’s decision to force the social justice education reform known as Common Core upon Massachusetts students.

Jamie Gass, education director at the Boston-based Pioneer Institute, described at Breitbart News the results once Common Core became the state’s standards:

Today Massachusetts’ SAT scores are down 20 points from their 2006 highs. Third-grade reading scores are the best predictor of future academic success. Last year, after several years of stagnation, the percentage of Massachusetts third-graders who scored proficient or advanced on MCAS reading tests fell to its lowest level since 2009. At 57 percent, the portion of third-graders reading at or above the proficient level is 10 points lower than it was in 2002.

Results from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as the nation’s report card, tell a similarly disturbing story. Massachusetts’ five-point decline in fourth-grade reading was the largest in the country. Weaker national standards are unlikely to staunch the bleeding.

“Rather than reaching the natural conclusion that a leader familiar with the Massachusetts overhaul would be the ideal nominee,” Huber continues, “Romney’s conclusion is: ‘The answers for improving our nation’s schools will come from people who have no financial stake in the outcome and study the most successful education systems here and around the world.’”

Huber responds:

Wrong, Mitt. As Massachusetts’ success proves, the answers lie within our local communities and states, not with a billionaire known for buying political influence. If Betsy DeVos was the right nominee, she would be recommending that the states look to the pre-Common Core Massachusetts’ design as their blueprint and then she’d get to work on dismantling the corrupt FedEd complex known as the U.S. Dept. of Education. That’s when the interests of our children will finally prevail.

As Robbins and Huber suggest, Romney’s review of the “debate” over DeVos makes no mention of the grassroots base of the Republican Party that has been battling against the Common Core standards and what the reform represents – greater federal control of education.

Oklahoma parent activist Jenni White says DeVos is clearly a member of the “Republican Establishment.”

“In fact, that may be my biggest concern with DeVos – her track record of ‘buying’ legislation and growing government in the name of education,” White tells Breitbart News. “How will this past (and her current associations with Common Core supporters like Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and others) translate to a job in the public sector at an agency that doesn’t even have a Constitutional mandate to exist yet sucks massive amounts of dollars out of our pockets to justify its existence?”