What the Betsy DeVos Confirmation Battle is Really About

What the Betsy DeVos Confirmation Battle is Really About

Some good friends have posted heartfelt and earnest laments about President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education.

On the other hand, school choice supporters, along with informed advocates for millions of low income and mostly minority children, are ecstatic about her.

To paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan and others, people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.   Fairly assessing Betsy DeVos’ nomination requires understanding:

(1) The stranglehold control teachers’ unions hold over Democrats due to campaign contributions, so Democrats echo and magnify virulent teacher union opposition to school choice.  (Choice threatens the public school monopoly over education, and therefore union member jobs.) (2) The draconian impact of one-size-fits-all federal education policy on the possibility of school choice for millions of low-income mostly minority children, and (3) The impact of impending lawless social engineering in federal transgender and other policies.

Underlying all of it is the issue of how much of America does DC get to control?

DeVos is the best thing that could happen to millions of low income, inner city Americans. Actually, her ideas would help to lift up ALL public school students.

Here is the straight story:

Betsy DeVos is an ardent advocate for school choice.

She supports giving power to low income parents to choose the schools their children attend, rather than offering them no choice except attending zip code-mandated schools, many of which in inner city America truly deserve the “deplorable” moniker.

Study after study shows that school choice improves student outcomes, even including the outcomes of students who don’t move out of their zip code mandated school. Competition drives quality and improvement in public schools, like it does in so many aspects of life. The Post Office is better than it was, because UPS, Fed Ex etc., offer competition.

Democrats consistently oppose school choice. It is important to understand why.

Did you ever wonder why, shortly after President Barack Obama was elected, he abolished the highly successful DC School Voucher program, which offered opportunity, hope and school choice to thousands of mostly black, poor children in DC?  He did this while sending his kids to the one of the most elite private schools in the country. Obama relented on the DC Voucher program several years later, after outcry from school choice advocates.

Why would the first black President who is also a Democrat, oppose school choice that was helping thousands of mostly black low-income children?    Teacher union support of Democrats, and union opposition to school choice, is the beginning and end of the story.

Teachers unions made over $19 million dollars in political contributions in 2012, virtually ALL of it to Democrats and liberal causes.  It’s the same every year.

Teachers’ unions exist to support and protect teachers’ jobs, not school choice for students. Democrats protect their teacher union donors.

This is not an attack on teachers. There are over 3 million public school teachers in America, the vast majority of whom deserve our deepest gratitude.  And lots of them choose private school for their kids.  Nationally, 11% of Americans send their kids to private schools. BUT, in big urban areas, the percent of public school teachers who choose private school for their own children is much higher (Cincinnati 41%, Chicago 39%, Baltimore 35%).

Democrats consistently advocate for friendly sounding but draconian one-size-fits-all federal education policy, despite its deadly impact on the possibility of school choice.   Senator Tim Kaine tried to score points in DeVos’ confirmation hearing by asking if she agreed that all schools that receive federal funding should be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

For potential new and smaller schools that could accommodate a few hundred students in an impoverished area and literally change the lives of those children, compliance with every federal law and regulation including IDEA is a death knell. The personnel and other costs attendant to compliance are showstoppers.

If you mandate every school that indirectly or directly receives federal tax dollars to follow draconian and overly broad federal mandates, you destroy school choice.

Senator Tim Kaine knows this. He is deliberately choosing the welfare of unions that are Democrat donors, over the wellbeing of millions of low-income children who would benefit enormously by having school choice.

Giving communities flexibility of finding ways and resources to accommodate the needs of the wide variety of students in their area does not mean ignoring any students. A cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all approach to education run out of DC does not serve the best interests of America’s school children.

Now add in the Democrat mission to force schools to let high school boys shower with high school girls, so long as those boys claim they identify as a girl, and you have the rest of the picture. President Obama issued an edict that public schools must accommodate transgender students by allowing them to use the bathrooms, showers and changing areas they choose, rather than the bathrooms that matches their anatomy. There are millions of American parents who are not about to go along with that.

Congress passed no such law, but Obama’s transgender bathroom edict went from a suggested guideline to the basis of a Supreme Court case that will be heard in April. It raises the question whether the federal government can force a public high school that receives federal funding, to let a boy shower in the girls’ locker room, and vice versa.

At the heart of the battle over DeVos’ nomination is how far the feds will go in insisting that Washington controls the public schools.  Giving the power back to the states to expand school choice and to control public education is a great step toward reducing the ever-expanding power DC lawmakers, and worse bureaucrats, try to impose.

Debbie Georgatos

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