- The Washington Times - Monday, January 16, 2017


Education Secretary-nominee Betsy DeVos is scheduled to be grilled Tuesday by senators as part of the advise and consent process. Let’s hope members of the exclusive club ask the all-revealing question: What’s next?

Probing whether Mrs. DeVos is qualified for the job is inconsequential. She’d be qualified even if she were a washer woman.

Rehashing what Mrs. DeVos has spent her money and energy on is worthy of the public’s attention, but hardly germane to where the Senate’s, the Trump administration’s and the general public’s attention rests.

The public, the very people whose lifelines depend on ensuring their children and their children’s children receive a solid education, want to hear Mrs. DeVos explain in which direction she would move the Department of Education.

She has her own experience as a school choice pioneer, President-elect Donald Trump’s vision and such federal laws as the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in 2015, and civil rights and anti-bias laws as guides.

To wit, how Mrs. DeVos proposes to implement school choice and education reforms is the question.

It’s up to Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to steer the pertinent focus of the DeVos confirmation hearing and to drown the voices of the opposition, which is being led by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Unions have taken Mr. Trump’s and Mrs. DeVos‘ reform and choice positions as hard slaps in the face. And it’s hardly a supposition that Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Bernard Sanders of Vermont will back unions’ claim that both are against public schools and trying to privatize public education.

Listen to people who delve into the weeds — people like Chad Aldeman, who during the Obama administration focused on the evaluation of teachers, the very people who, perhaps, are the second-most important cog in a child’s academic wheelhouse.

In our recent interview, Mr. Aldeman said the committee should focus on what does and does not work.

The hearing, he said, should “reflect on what went well” during the Obama administration and ask “what are her priorities and how would you put them in place.”

Mr. Aldeman is expected to release on Wednesday an evaluation of teachers in the journal Education Next, titled “The Teacher Evaluation Revamp, in Hindsight: What the Obama Administration’s Signature Reform Got Wrong.”

The Trump administration shouldn’t be expected to get everything right with the Education Department so deeply embedded in all aspects of America’s public schooling processes to the tune of $68 billion and some 4,400 workers.

To be sure, progressives are stretching the tentacles to provide free post-secondary education as well, and Mr. Sanders and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stand tall and firm. Thanks largely to President Jimmy Carter, K-12 free schooling and free Head Start have become a one-size-fits-all behemoth that wants your barely potty-trained toddlers straight through college.

Interesting, then, that while there is a plethora of public and private colleges for all parents and young adults to choose from, their choices among primary and secondary schools remain the chief target of the left.

The president of the United States and his education chief must represent all Americans and every aspect of school choice — from home-schooling and online courses to vouchers and charter schools and magnet schools, the precursor to charters.

Public schools — that is, the bricks and the mortar — are not failing our children. What the adults do and do not do inside those facilities do.

The push for public vouchers and public charters is growing, as are the online and home-schooling movements. These are the game changers.

How Mrs. DeVos proposes to bolster those game changers to change the circumstances for poor, disabled and underprivileged children — without additional red tape — must drive the discussion.

In other words, what’s next?

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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