February 2 2017
The confirmation of school choice advocate Betsy DeVos, who was nominated to serve as secretary of the Department of Education, is in jeopardy. The jeopardizers are two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, who both made speeches saying they would not vote for her confirmation.
The editors of National Review urge them to "think again." They note that the "central and urgent problem" in American education is the incursion into local schools of the federal government. This has happened through Democratic and Republican administrations. Everything in DeVos' career indicates that she would begin to remedy this:
In the last few years, there has been modest rollback at the state level, as states and municipalities, aiming to break the longstanding, union-backed public-school monopoly, have created new opportunities for school choice. Much of that progress is thanks to Betsy DeVos. In 1993, she and her husband (who, among ther philanthropic roles, is on the board of the National Review Institute) helped put in place Michigan’s charter-school law. In 2010, DeVos took that work nationwide with her American Federation for Children, arguably the most effective education-reform organization in the country.
Its extraordinary success in local and state-level legislative races has led to significant reform-oriented legislation in states across the U.S. The success of these efforts has underscored just how ineffective the public-school monopoly has become, and the teachers’ unions are now scrambling to maintain their stranglehold on the system.
To what depths they’re willing to descend has been clear in their treatment of DeVos. National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia has said that DeVos is “dangerously unqualified” and that she is designing to “harm our students,” while the president of the Michigan Education Association said that DeVos is beholden to a “disastrous ideology.”
The dangerous ideology is school choice--which gives low-income parents opportunities to make choices for their kids that rich people who can afford private schools enjoy. School choice is anathema to the big education unions. The New York Times and other news outlets, according to the National Review editors, have misrepresented data to bolster the campaign against DeVos.
The editorial argues that Murkowski and Collins, reportedly uncomfortable with the idea of losing contributions from the National Education Association, have been "browbeaten" into opposing DeVos. The defeat of DeVos would be an enormous victory for the education unions, which are not completely guiltless in the matter of our failing public schools.