Betsy DeVos won confirmation in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions earlier today. The 12-11 vote, along party lines, means her confirmation moves to the full Senate. Barring any huge crossover votes from the GOP to the Democrats, DeVos should expect confirmation.
However, the Democrats will not let up. DeVos is one of the last few nominees they are willing to die on a hill opposing. Her confirmation should, however, be a hill for conservatives and education reformers to die on.
The status quo in education has not worked. The loudest voices against DeVos are the ones who favor the status quo. This is particularly true of teachers unions, who stand to lose members and, more importantly, their money if choice and accountability are introduced into the public education system.
Democrats, likewise, stand to lose union money if the unions start bleeding out, and they get a lot of it from teachers unions.
The Secretaries of Education in the past have focused on national reforms to change and better schools, and every one of their plans has been a failure. “No Child Left Behind” is a stellar example of this. Its successor, the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” is better on this, but still has its flaws. As well, the Department of Education using federal money to entice schools to adopt the Common Core State Standards has resulted in heavy opposition to those standards, no matter whether or not you believe such standards are necessary.
DeVos represnets a change at the more local levels of education. She supports state and district choice when it comes to education policies and reforms, and has pushed for competition to the traditional system of education. We know that competition creates improvement, and if you don’t improve, you close. But, that result – a school closing – is what worries her opponents most.
If a school is continuously failing its students, then it deserves to be closed down, and better alternatives made available to the students who have repeatedly been let down.
It’s not a matter of race or wealth. It is a matter of public good, and that is exactly what DeVos and her beliefs in school choice work toward. The ones opposing her favor the old ways, the traditional ways, the status quo.
But, the status quo fails our children time and again. It’s time for something different.