President-elect Donald Trump made a gutsy move in his pick for Education Secretary. Trump has chosen Betsy DeVos, described as national leader in the school choice movement. This is terrible news for public school unions. On the other hand, it is great news for minorities and the poor.
School choice is an area where conservatives tend to be more progressive than their liberal counterparts. Part of that may be because of the tight relationship between the public teachers unions and the Democrat party. Combined, the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers gave about $23 million to Democrats and liberal groups this past year. They gave about $300,000 to Republicans.
School choice would endanger public schools by taking away the monopoly they have on minority and low income families. It would open them up to competition with private schools by taking what the government would have spent on public education and turning it into a voucher that parents could use elsewhere. Basically, school choice provides disadvantaged students more opportunities for a better education at the cost of long-time ingrained teachers and administrations at failing public schools.
DeVos brings another positive to conservatives. She opposes federal Common Core standards. Common Core has at times been supported by Republicans like Jeb Bush, but has also become the butt of many jokes. A common criticism has been that Common Core forces schools to use counter-intuitive teaching methods.
Predictably, the National Education Association has opposed her nomination, calling school choice a “failed scheme”. In our opinion, opposition by the NEA is a clear positive for a nominee. The Michigan Democrat party also voiced its opposition to DeVos for promoting school choice. However, liberals to date have failed to demonstrate how school choice would help wealthy, privileged children rather than the poor and disadvantaged students who currently have no options.
DeVos joins South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as the second female appointee in Trump’s new government. Haley will be serving as ambassador to the UN.