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January 26 2017

National School Choice Week Rally: Paul Ryan Praises Betsy DeVos

Charlotte Hays

It is interesting that a report from the Department of Education showing that billions of taxpayer dollars spent on public education under two presidents produced no results comes out during National School Choice Week (January 22-28).

Fox News reports on the damning document:

The Obama administration pumped more than $7 billion into an education program, first authorized under President George W. Bush, that had no impact on student achievement – according to a report released by the Department of Education in the final days of the 44th president’s term.

The Department of Education’s findings were contained in its “School Improvement Grants: Implementation and Effectiveness” report. The study could energize the debate over national education policy just as the Senate considers President Trump’s controversial pick to lead the department, Betsy DeVos, an outspoken school choice advocate who has questioned the way federal education dollars are spent. 

“The timing of this report is so important and so interesting – this could have a positive influence on her confirmation,” American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Andy Smarick told Fox News.

The School Improvement Grants (SIG) program, first introduced in 2001 under the Bush administration, was created to fund reforms in the country’s lowest-performing schools with the goal of improving student achievement in test scores and graduation rates. The program directed money to schools with low academic achievement and graduation rates below 60 percent for high schools, among other factors. SIG was canceled under recently passed legislation, though similar funding can still be sought by school districts. 

SIG was first funded in 2007, receiving $616 million under Bush.

Money, the progressive answer to every problem, doesn't seem to be the solution for our failing public schools.

School choice, which puts parents in charge of their children's education, is likely to be a better solution. The last eight years have been challenging for advocates of school choice, with the Obama administration famously beholden to the education union. President Trump supports school choice.

Given this, it might have been been expected that there were some especially uplifting moments during National School Choice Week, which ends Saturday.

One of those moments came when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan spoke of Betsy DeVos, nominated to serve as secretary of the education department and a long-time advocate of school choice, who faces vocal opposition from the entrenched teacher unions.

Ryan's remarks were made at a school choice rally that drew 21,000 to Capitol Hill. The Washington Post reported:

"We finally have a president and a vice president who believe in school choice,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), speaking Tuesday on Capitol Hill at a National School Choice Week rally. “We are about to have a secretary of education who not only believes in school choice but has been fighting for school choice.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) spoke about his own rise out of poverty and the role of education in changing lives. “We stand on the verge of the successful nomination of a woman who for the last 28 years has been dedicated to school choice,” he said. “This is a good day, and there will be more and more opportunities for kids trapped in failing schools to find their way to success.”

A young man from a Catholic high school explained why voucher programs help kids whose parents want the best for them but cannot afford private education:

Malik Washington, a senior at Archbishop Carroll High School in the District, said that the voucher program had been a gift for him and his sister, who were raised by a single mother working a minimum-wage job.

“For our families to have the same opportunities that wealthier families have when it comes to school is beautiful,” Washington said.

School choice is about upward mobility. Teacher unions are by and large about preserving the power of teachers, some of whom are excellent and some of whom would be replaced but for the powerful education union.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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