Betsy DeVos and incoming administration present opportunity for bold education reform
By John Schilling
Inauguration Day is a reflection of who are as a nation. For those of us who have had the privilege of attending the inauguration, it’s an incredible experience. I’m not referring to the parties and other social events – or the D.C. street closures(!) – but being there to witness the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next. Its a time of coming together where new Presidents are typically afforded a “honeymoon” period and partisanship is kept to a minimum, at least for a short period of time.
The tumultuous nature of the 2016 election has unfortunately carried partisanship into the Cabinet nomination process and hearings. For education reformers, we’re focused on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Education Secretary. AFC makes no bones about it: we believe Betsy DeVos will be an outstanding Secretary of Education.
Leaving aside my own personal views and what I know about Betsy after 10 years of working with her, what I saw and heard sitting in the confirmation hearing room this week was a person of great character who wants to serve her country and who is absolutely committed to fighting for the right of every child in America to access a quality education. While this is something we should demand from every Secretary of Education, it frightens the education establishment and those vested in protecting the status quo. That fear has been manifesting itself in social media and much of the press. Yet, as Senator Lamar Alexander noted at the confirmation hearing, “I believe Mrs. DeVos is in the mainstream of public opinion on the best way to help children succeed, and her critics are outside of it.” Also noting, “[Mrs. DeVos] is on the side of our children.”
Betsy DeVos will bring a fresh perspective and approach to the U.S. Department of Education. She believes we can and must do better as a nation to improve educational outcomes for all children. The state of education today makes it clear that too many students are trapped in schools that are not meeting their needs. Too many students are leaving high school unprepared for college, vocational training, the military, or the workforce. Too many high school graduates either cannot afford to go to college or end up being strapped with huge debt. Our system needs an infusion of bold thinking, choice and innovation, and should be focused entirely on putting children and families first.
As we welcome a new administration in Washington, D.C. education reformers should embrace the tremendous opportunities before us. From D.C. to statehouses and state legislatures all across the country, we have policymakers in charge who are committed to fighting for education reforms, empowering parents with choice, and working to ensure that every child in America can get a great education.