March 4, 2020

Education Secretary Threatens Union Power

Betsy DeVos faces nearly as much leftist “resistance” as Donald Trump himself.

Since nearly the moment she was announced as President Donald Trump’s selection for education secretary, Betsy DeVos has been under relentless fire from Democrats and their allies in the education establishment. The most ruthless attacks come from national teachers unions like the NEA (National Education Association) and the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and their state affiliates.

The NEA launched the “Fire DeVos Pledge,” declaring her to be the least qualified secretary of education in history. The claims include: “Her education freedom scholarships are ‘degrading’ to public schools, ‘threaten students’ civil rights,‘ 'widen educational inequity,’ are a personal attack on teachers, and are ‘dangerous.’”

Nor are the attacks limited to rhetoric. Thanks to threats from the teachers unions and their thugs, American taxpayers now spend $6 million per year for a security detail to protect DeVos. And she personally covers their travel expenses.

What atrocities have occurred at the direction of Secretary DeVos that warrant such hostility?

She is an enormous advocate for educational freedom, supporting mechanisms like vouchers and ESAs (Educational Savings Accounts) that put power over children’s education back in the hands of parents instead of bureaucrats. This allows poor children in failing schools the same opportunity for a quality education that children of the affluent and politically connected receive.

The ugly truth is that America’s education system is mediocre at best, an anachronism of the industrial age, ill-equipped to develop the minds of our children in the information age. Our children are placed in educational assembly lines, in batches by age, taught the same things in the same way, regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of each child, and regardless of their interests.

Our children suffer as a result, and teacher-union bosses couldn’t care less.

Al Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers, when asked about the impact four teacher walkouts in less than a year would have on the children, famously retorted that he would “start representing kids when they started paying union dues.” Nothing has changed.

DeVos seeks to expand educational freedom and drastically reduce the size, scope, and reach of Washington politicians and bureaucrats, as well as teachers unions, which have an incestuous, symbiotic relationship. Unions provide (almost exclusively Democrat) politicians an army of campaign workers and millions in member dues in the form of campaign contributions, and the politicians block measures that allow parents the ability to move their children out of failing schools.

The politicians and union leaders thrive, but the children suffer.

Yet as noted by Rebecca Friedrichs, founder of “For Kids & Country,” a 28-year public-school teacher, and the plaintiff in a 2016 Supreme Court case that dealt an enormous blow to unions, “Freedom for families means fewer educators paying union dues — a threat to union power.”

All over the country, when “right to work” laws are passed, union membership plummets. While government-sector union membership stands at 37%, private-sector union membership barely registers at just 6%.

Unable to compel workers, union participation falls precipitously. Fewer union members means less in union dues, which means less money to pay off the politicians who give power and taxpayer money to union leaders.

Choice is the death knell for unions, which is why union leaders have long engaged in threats, intimidation, and even violence to protect their power. Those that threaten their power are subjected to character assassination and harassment by union mobs and their willing accomplices.

The federal Department of Education was established in 1979, with a budget of $12 billion. That grew to $70 billion in FY2017, Barack Obama’s last year, for a department employing more than 4,000 bureaucrats who do nothing but micromanage the decision-making of countless thousands of schools around the country.

Yet after four decades and hundreds of billions of dollars, the academic achievement of American children is stagnant in math and reading, and worse in science. As Secretary DeVos correctly notes, government can’t fix public schools.

The American people would never tolerate federal bureaucrats and their union cronies dictating where we select our groceries, especially if the stores we were forced to shop at offered no selection, stale bread, moldy fruit, and rotting meat.

Yet that is exactly what government forces us to do with our children, our most cherished possessions: feed them the educational equivalent of stale bread and rotting meat.

President Trump and Secretary DeVos are fighting the unions to obtain quality education and choice for our children. Every American should join them in that fight.

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