In the end, it was not the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for Health and Human Services secretary or even Rex Tillerson for secretary of state that sent the Democratic Party into overdrive, but rather the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. The opposition was fierce, personal and at times, vicious.
Ultimately, Democrats and their teacher unions supporters fell short of their mark after Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote when the Senate deadlocked on the nomination.
As a philanthropist and a businesswoman, DeVos has spent nearly three decades of her professional life trying to expand educational options for low-income minority families. Yet much was made of DeVos’ rocky confirmation hearing as a reason why every single Democrat and two Republican Senators voted against her, but the reality is that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party was never going to support her no matter how well the hearing went.
As a philanthropist and a businesswoman, DeVos has spent nearly three decades of her professional life trying to expand educational options for low-income minority families.
Groups such as the powerful National Education Association (NEA) and grassroots organizations like Badass Teachers realized that the tide of public opinion is beginning to turn against them as more Americans realize the status quo is leaving mostly low-income minority students behind. These special interest groups are determined to fight for their teacher constituency that is much more interested in job security and generous pay raises regardless of how well students are learning in public schools.
A reality that was lost on many opposing the nomination on ideological grounds is that spending billions of federal dollars and increasing federal government oversight has failed to close the racial educational achievement gap.
The irony is that some of those opposing the DeVos nomination claimed her appointment would destroy the public school system. But in many places around the country, the public schools are in shambles—despite the best intentions of progressive lawmakers. Defenders of the status quo seem determined to shut out additional educational options, such as public charter schools, for low-income families.
The irony is that some of those opposing the DeVos nomination claimed her appointment would destroy the public school system. But in many places around the country, the public schools are in shambles—despite the best intentions of progressive lawmakers.
Teachers unions bet big on a Secretary Hillary Clinton to win. They lost. Now they find themselves struggling to remain relevant under a Republican administration that has made school choice and increasing educational options for low-income families a priority.
DeVos has an opportunity to follow through and deliver in a big way for those that need help the most: African-American and Latino students. It would be a shame if DeVos were to temper her resolve and determination to inject increased educational options and greater accountability into our educational system after this bruising confirmation process as Education Secretary.
Public opinion polls suggest that African-American and Latino families are supportive of educational freedom. These same polls show that opposition to school choice is found most among white female women. A quick Internet search of those leading the fight against school choice would confirm these findings.
DeVos has an opportunity to follow through and deliver in a big way for those that need help the most: African-American and Latino students.
A new day is dawning for low-income minority families stuck in failing public schools in the poorest areas of our country that are yearning for increased options and a chance to receive a high quality education. In some cases, these same public schools may be able to turn around under new leadership, additional resources or a combination of both. DeVos should walk alongside these schools to find out what’s needed and why the approach of more resources has failed to bring about the change required.
But in other cases, parents may stand to benefit most — and right away — from increased educational options and greater say on how to spend their tax dollars for education services. There are a number of states that are already doing this and changing the way we think about our educational system that has changed little in nearly fifty years.
For those satisfied with the current public educational system, it’s unlikely that anything Betsy DeVos does as education secretary will directly impact them. But for the parents worried about ineffective educators, violence in their local school — or simply looking to have the same power that families of means have of not having to wait for the system to turn around, a ray of hope has broken through.
Israel Ortega is a Senior Writer for Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter: @IzzyOrtega.