by Sam Hieb
For starters, it looks as though Sen. Thom Tillis will support Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, setting up a showdown vote next week in which Vice President Mike Pence will a 50-50 tie.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune endorses DeVos. Not necessarily a surprise, but note the Tribune’s reasoning:
For many years we cheered Chicagoan Arne Duncan, President Barack Obama’s education secretary, as he tangled with teachers unions and other defenders of the public education industry’s status quo. He never lost his zeal for the mission: to help every student achieve the most that he or she can. To give all children a chance to attend excellent schools. To ensure that only the best teachers stand at the head of the class. To jolt educrats from complacency.
Now Duncan’s Cabinet seat may — or may not — soon be filled by President Donald Trump’s controversial nominee, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos.
We’ve strongly backed her because we hear echoes of Duncan in what DeVos says. Here’s an excerpt from a 2015 speech she delivered on what America’s education system is versus what it could be:
“It’s a battle of Industrial Age versus the Digital Age. It’s the Model T versus the Tesla. It’s old factory model versus the new internet model. It’s the Luddites versus the future. We must open up the education industry — and let’s not kid ourselves that it isn’t an industry — we must open it up to entrepreneurs and innovators. This is how families without means will get access to a world-class education. This is how a student who’s not learning in their current model can find an individualized learning environment that will meet their needs.
With this in mind, it’s worth taking a minute and researching Duncan’s path to education secretary. Fair enough—he was chief executive officer–an pretty business-like title, by the way— of Chicago Public Schools. But what did Duncan do before he assumed that role? According to his biography, Duncan ran a nonprofit education foundation which helped fund a college education for a class of inner-city children. He also worked with children who were wards of the sate while he played professional basketball in Australia.
That’s great, but far as I can tell, Duncan was never a teacher or a principal, so you can make the case that his practical experience as an educator was considerably lacking before he became head of the nation’s fourth-largest public school system, which in turn put him in position to become education secretary. Duncan is a white member of the upper class with a passion for educating children who was willing to try different theoratical methods in order to achieve that goal, agree with them or not. How is that dissimilar to DeVos’ considerable advocacy for Detroit’s charter school system? Yet Democrats in the Senate describe DeVos as the least qualified nominee ever. Even more offensive are unfavorable comparisons on social media to one of her confirmation hearing inquisitors, the smarmy former comedian Al Franken.
Let me just say I don’t know if there is a “qualified” nominee for education secretary, considering the department has very little –if any–practical application. If someone asked me whether or not I supported Betsy DeVos, I would honestly no I do not, because I do not think there should even be a Secretary of Education. And following that logic—guessed it— I don’t think there should be a Department of Education.