Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education, defended her conservative philosophy on Tuesday in a heated confirmation hearing with Senate Democrats. At times, the hearing – which took place in front of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions – seemed more about conflicting ideologies than DeVos’s resume.
The central issue is DeVos’s support of school choice – voucher programs that give low-income families the opportunity to send their children to better schools than the ones they’re zoned for. Republicans, including DeVos, insist that school choice evens the playing field and gives poor Americans options that would otherwise only be available to the wealthy.
At the hearing, DeVos told the Committee that she had been introduced to the concept of school choice when she and her husband visited a Christian school in Grand Rapids.
“We saw the struggles and sacrifices many of these families faced when trying to choose the best educational option for their children,” she said. “For me, this was not just an issue of public policy but of national injustice.”
Democrats, however, argue that a DeVos-run Education Department would gradually reduce taxpayer funding for public schools while funneling the money into poorly accredited religious institutions.
“Charter schools are not the issue here,” said Sen. Al Franken. He pointed out that many states specifically prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for religious schools.
DeVos is likely to be one of the most controversial individuals up for confirmation in Trump’s administration, simply because Democrats know so much is on the line. The Obama/Sanders/Clinton message of education centers around universal pre-K and free college. The goal of the Democrats is to ultimately put all education under federal control, fund all schools through tax dollars, and eliminate private education altogether. A woman like DeVos threatens their strategy, which is a big winner among their voters.
Democrat voters, of course, are only part of the equation. There is another part – the teachers’ unions – which keeps the left from considering school choice programs. And of course there is the biggest factor – the left-wing radicals who populate the Democratic Party will rip their hair out before they willingly give Christian conservatives a foothold in public education.
But it really comes back to the voters, and that’s why Democratic opposition to school choice is so pathetic. Once again, Democrats – the self-proclaimed champions of the poor – are standing in the way of something that could immediately benefit poor children all over the country. After all, good schools could turn poor and dependent children into self-sustained adults.
And then who would vote for the Democrats?