Government & Politics

DeVos Brings a Fresh Approach to Education

She also threatens the Left's stranglehold on "educating" our children.

Michael Swartz · Feb. 10, 2017

The path to her new job was nowhere near easy, and perhaps it was because Betsy DeVos came from such a non-traditional background to become the secretary of education under Donald Trump. Not only did she not attend public schools as a child, she and her husband sent their children to a private Christian school, knowing that “we had the resources to send our kids to whatever school was best for them,” as she told Philanthropy Magazine in 2013. Once there, they helped other families who were less fortunate, and their commitment to this cause led to the American Federation for Children, which is a 501(c)(4) organization that promotes school choice.

With that said, it’s no wonder that the educational establishment reacted to DeVos’s nomination like Dracula to a crucifix. And they nearly succeeded in derailing her confirmation; their effort failed only because the Senate’s 50-50 tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence. It’s fortunate that Jeff Sessions was still a senator and not yet attorney general, or DeVos wouldn’t have been able to overcome the two Republican defectors (Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) who joined all 48 Democrats in opposition to her.

Yet there’s a major philosophical question at work here: Why is this such a big deal to the Left when the American educational system is failing on so many counts? Aside from the fact that Democrats have for decades been beholden to the campaign cash of the teachers' unions, the DeVos idea of enhancing school choice also threatens the Left’s stranglehold on educating (read: indoctrinating) America’s children. Certainly there are parents who sacrifice financially to send their children to parochial schools or do the job themselves, but the vast majority of kids attend public schools — and that’s the way the teachers' unions like it. Their job security, which is already in jeopardy thanks to declining inner-city school enrollment, is further threatened if DeVos upsets the apple cart by making school choice the law of the land. Recently retired conservative columnist Thomas Sowell penned a piece to make the case for her, saying that failure to confirm her would mean “a historic opportunity would be lost, and may never come again in this generation.”

Reports, though, say that DeVos is off to a good start. “For starters,” she told an expectant group of 200 employees at the department’s Washington headquarters, “Please know that I’m a ‘door open’ person who listens more than she speaks.” She went on to promise that the department would find new ways to positively transform education.

The Left, of course, remains unconvinced, and ironically is now threatening to use school choice and teach their children at home. This isn’t something new to the affluent left-wingers who live within urban areas (like Washington, DC) and can choose to send their kids to elite private schools rather than the decrepit public schools there, but the rank-and-file progressives must truly buy the hype about DeVos to speak about such things openly like this.

But there is an escape clause for the progressives, should they choose to take it. On Wednesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced what may be the most spectacularly succinct bill in a generation: It simply reads, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.” Whether intentional or not, this would be known as calling the Left’s bluff regarding DeVos.

Somehow we suspect they’ll learn to live with a reformer in charge at the Department of Education rather than lose Jimmy Carter’s cabinet creation entirely.

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