- - Monday, February 12, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A tumultuous year has passed since Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, cast the deciding vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

All 48 Democrats, including the two who call themselves “independents,” voted against confirming her. Two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, joined the Democrats. That vote was the first ever to deny a president his choice for his Cabinet.

The National Education Association, the leading teachers’ union, still hasn’t got over it, and can’t “move forward,” as the cliche goes. Lily Eskelson Garcia, the president of the NEA who calls herself a “rabble-rouser,” has given Mrs. DeVos a failing grade for her first year, and told her to leave the Cabinet.

“[Mrs.] DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader,” she says, “She has had zero experience in public schools … Betsy DeVos has failed our students. It is time for [her] to resign.”

Mrs. DeVos considers her not having worked in a public education system not a liability but a welcome qualification. “I frankly think it’s been an asset,” she says. She isn’t wed to the old, familiar and incompetent ways of doing things. “I don’t know [why something] can’t be done,” she says. If Mrs. DeVos does nothing else for the rest of her term, she can take pride in having made a difference by undoing two of the Education Department’s most odious, onerous and overreaching decrees in Barack Obama’s legacy.

“Some of the most important work we’ve done in this first year has been in overreach, and rolling back the extended footprint of this department to a significant extent,” she says. First she rescinded the Education Department’s instructions to public schools to enable transgender students to use restrooms that correspond to their chosen “gender identity” of the day. Further, striking a needed blow in support of due process, she rescinded the Obama administration’s “guidance” outlining how colleges and universities must investigate sexual-assault cases on campus. Those rules upset the constitutional balance between the victim and accused, which stacked the deck against the accused.

“We need to get it right for all students,” Mrs. DeVos says, “and it clearly hasn’t worked for a lot of students.”

But above all, the teachers’ unions object to Mrs. DeVos‘ firm and unequivocal support of school choice, private school vouchers and charter schools. Her views on those issues are anathema to the educationist unions, much like how the cross and garlic offend Count Dracula.

The NEA’s Miss Garcia and the leaders of the other unions, and certain politicians who march with them, are stalwart defenders of the broken status quo, and they regard Betsy DeVos as an effective threat to that status quo. Education statistics make a compelling case for upending that status quo.

In December 2016, two months before Mrs. DeVos took office, cross-national educational achievement testing by the non-partisan Program for International Student Assessment, showed that despite the hundreds of billions of federal, state and local tax dollars spent annually on education, American 15-year-olds placed 40th of 73 nations in math literacy, 25th in science and 24th in reading ability. It was as if the idea of the teachers’ unions was to “keep ‘em dumb, Stupid.”

Citing similar statistics, shortly after Mrs. DeVos took office, the right-leaning Conservative Women Rock concluded that “If you think this woman is a threat to the ‘success’ of American education you must belong to a teachers’ union.” You don’t have to be a “rabble rouser” to understand that.


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