President-elect Donald Trump changed the direction of the nation’s education conversation with a single name – Betsy DeVos. By nominating a champion of school choice and local control for Secretary of Education, Trump sent the teachers’ unions into panic.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tweeted, “Trump has chosen the most ideological, anti-public ed nominee since the creation of the Dept of Education.”
With that kind of backlash, it’s obvious that DeVos is a threat to the unions, and indeed, she is. She is a bona fide education reformer. She’s a private citizen who has made her career in education challenging the status quo and protectors of the status quo. She fits Trump’s agenda as an outsider intent on taking on the establishment and “draining the swamp.”
Lest we forget, this election was not about tweaking the direction of the country or subtle shifts in the nation’s political landscape. Rather, it was a wholesale rejection of the Washington establishment and a call for dramatic change. According to the exit polls, when asked which candidate quality mattered the most in determining their vote for president, 39 percent of voters said “can bring change” – by far the highest category of voter concerns. Among these voters yearning for change, Trump won by a margin of 82 percent to 14 percent. DeVos embodies that type of change.
For the past 28 years, DeVos has been one of the most outspoken conservative voices for expanded school choice. She helped Michigan pass its first charter school legislation in the early 1990s. She believes parents should have a much larger voice in how and where their children are educated. DeVos has fought against the teachers’ unions in dozens of state capitals for charter schools and private school vouchers, and she has stood with parents who decide to home school their children. Her philosophy on education is simple: public dollars should serve the public. By allowing K-12 dollars to follow children to the best school available to them, whether it is a traditional public school, private school or virtual school, all schools in our K-12 system will be held accountable and forced to improve their performance.
President-elect Trump has promised to cut Washington bureaucracy and send more federal education dollars back to governors so they can expand school choice in their states. There is no one better in America to help our new President make his case that more school choice will lead to better outcomes for our school children than Betsy DeVos. She has helped thousands of school children find access to better schools. Her impact has been felt in the lives of at-risk children who have been able to escape underperforming and dangerous public schools because of access to private and charter schools of choice.
Another way DeVos will bring change to Washington is by greatly reducing the federal government’s role in K-12 education. DeVos is a strong supporter of state and local control. She understands that the heavy hand of Washington has imposed layers of costly red tape on our schools, wasting tax dollars on bureaucracy instead of driving improvement in student learning. In picking Betsy DeVos to champion his education agenda, President Trump has shown that he is committed to reducing the power of the federal government over local education policy and decision making.
Conservatives should also have no doubts about DeVos’ opposition to federalized Common Core. She has stated unequivocally that she is opposed to Washington imposing the Common Core or any other set of standards on the states. President-elect Trump ran and won on a promise to end Barack Obama’s intrusion into our kids’ classrooms.
There is a reason that the teacher’s unions have launched a vicious series of misleading attacks on DeVos since her nomination was announced in November. They have smeared her for being a devout Christian and for wanting to give children the right to attend private schools that teach religion. They have attacked her for using her personal resources to fight for conservative education reform. They have even falsely attacked her as a racist. The union leaders know full-well that she is a tough, courageous and principled conservative reformer who will take them on every day to fight for the interests of parents and students. That’s why they are resorting to every ugly tactic in their playbook.
Betsy DeVos is highly regarded in the conservative education reform movement. And for good reason. The Republican majority in the Senate should confirm her so she can go about the business of getting Washington, D.C. out of our children’s classrooms and getting learning back in.
Mr. Bennett served as Secretary of Education from 1985-1988 under Ronald Reagan.