- - Thursday, February 2, 2017


Democrats stood in solidarity when President Obama made his Cabinet picks in 2008. Eight years later the Republicans aren’t showing the same level of discipline for President Trump.

This week two liberal Republicans unexpectedly abandoned Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of education. Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maine’s Susan M. Collins revealed they will not support Ms. DeVos because they believe that she lacks the qualifications for the job.

Ms. DeVos is an exceptional nominee, an outsider who understands the political machinery within the federal bureaucracy and the need to break the unions’ stranglehold on a public education system badly in need of reform. Ms. DeVos believes in finding the right educational choice for each child, whether that be public, private, home-schooling or religious. The one-size-fits-all educational model is antiquated and needs a thorough overhaul.

But now the real story has been revealed. Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins have a cozy relationship with the National Education Association (NEA), which strongly opposes Ms. DeVos. The NEA, the largest labor union for public school teachers, is a fierce opponent of school choice. They view Ms. DeVos as a threat to the status quo — a top-down, government-run educational system.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that the two senators were among the very few Republicans to accept NEA campaign contributions. According to the Center of Responsive Politics, Ms. Collins received $2,000 in 2002 and 2008, and Ms. Murkowski received $23,500. NEA has also given them a rating of over 50 percent in their annual NEA report card — the only two GOP senators to receive such high scores.

Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski cited constituent calls asking them to oppose the nominee, but the NEA’s cash — and the calls their members can generate to a congressional office — may have been the more decisive factors. These senators have chosen the teachers union over parents and children. They have sided with burdensome federal bureaucracy over innovation and change in our traditional educational system.

Ms. DeVos poses a threat to the unions because of her staunch support of innovation and school choice for parents and children. She has been an advocate for school choice for over 30 years, spending considerable time and energy on education reform. She may be an outsider, but she has also received the support of Republican establishment types like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who wrote an op-ed supporting her nomination. “Instead of defending and increasing Washington’s power, Betsy will cut federal red tape and be a passionate advocate for state and local control of schools,” Mr. Bush wrote. “More importantly, she will empower parents with greater choices and a stronger voice over their children’s education.”

Therein lies the fear of the teachers’ unions: that they will lose federal power and control. While I expect that Ms. DeVos will be an honest broker with union leaders and state and local education officials, she recognizes that public education should not be the only choice for families.

I believe the Senate will confirm Ms. DeVos, but the fight should have never happened in the first place. Republicans need to stick together on Mr. Trump’s nominees, just as Democrats did for Mr. Obama’s picks. These two Republican senators apparently believe it is worth jumping ship to retain the favor of the education unions.

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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