The Real Betsy DeVos

In the weeks leading up to and after Betsy DeVos being confirmed as head of the Department of Education, there was so much noise coming from the liberal media that it was impossible to have an honest and constructive conversation on what the education system would actually look like under her leadership. Now that the dust has settled, we can take a look.

Why Do Liberals Despise DeVos?

The first thing we should take a look at is why exactly liberals -- and the media they control -- despise DeVos so much. What is it about her that made them decide that, for many weeks, she would be the target of their ire? From leftwing bloggers to CNN, MSNBC, and everyone in between, the narrative quickly became that Betsy DeVos was (a) unqualified and (b) radical.

But when you study reality and examine the facts -- something that’s often challenging for those on the “emotional” left -- it’s obvious that both of these narratives are a little twisted and exaggerated.

“She hasn’t been a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent. She doesn’t know how to pick a curriculum, evaluate an instructor, or write an Individual Education Plan for students with disabilities. All true,” admits Michael J. Petrilli, former member of George W. Bush’s Education Department. “And if she were seeking employment as a teacher, a principal, or a superintendent, that experience gap would be damning. But she’s not.”

As Petrilli, someone who actually understands what goes on behind the scenes, explains, President Trump has elected her to be the U.S. Secretary of Education -- not a school principal. Her job is to handle education policy and politics. She’s tasked with interacting with governors and members of Congress, drafting bills, and providing support for those on the front lines. And for that, it would be hard to say she’s anything but qualified.

What about the narrative that DeVos has radical views? Once again, we call balderdash. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat explains in detail, Devos’ views aren’t really all that different from those of Democrat Senator Cory Booker or even the Obama Administration, which took a heavily pro-charter school position. While there are plenty of areas where her views differ from theirs, she’s simply suggesting new strategies for common goals that folks on both sides of the aisle tend to agree on.

Before we can have any constructive conversation on where education is going under the leadership of DeVos, it’s important for everyone to recognize that the narratives pushed by the liberal media over the past few months are completely asinine. There’s plenty that DeVos will do that upsets the left, but shouting “unqualified” and “radical” from the rooftops has done nothing but make the left look like a bunch of petulant schoolchildren clamoring for anything they can possibly get their hands on.

What Will DeVos’ Impact Be?

Now that things have settled a bit and the media has launched other witch hunts in hopes that something will stick, it’s time to have a constructive conversation on what sort of impact DeVos will have on this country’s education system. What sort of potential does she have and what can be expected?

Let’s discuss school choice first, since that’s the topic everyone gets so worked up about. School choice, something that DeVos adamantly supports, is about giving economically underprivileged kids the opportunity to attend top schools that better suit their needs and give them a chance to succeed. Whether it’s another public school, charter schools, or private school, students of every background would be given the chance to improve their situation.

Democrats argue that this would undermine the public school system and deplete it of resources. But when you consider that key metrics like high school seniors’ reading achievement scores and math performance have remained steady or dropped over the past couple of decades, does it really make sense to maintain the status quo?

Opposing school choice is all about maintaining control over impoverished communities and ensuring minorities don’t have an equal chance to thrive alongside more privileged students in good school districts. Supporting school choice is about giving everyone an opportunity to be successful in their own educational pursuits.

The second thing you can expect from DeVos is the abolishment of Common Core and decentralization of education. She’s in support of giving the decision-making back to individual states and removing Washington from the equation as much as possible. In other words, her goal is to essentially eliminate some of her own authority.

Thirdly, DeVos has the ability to change how federal Title I dollars are allocated. As things currently stand, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides roughly $15 billion in funding to schools in low-income neighborhoods. And while nobody is in disagreement that failing schools need help, DeVos has a chance to restructure the allocation of financial resources so that they have a positive impact beyond encouraging underperforming schools to continue underperforming.

Specifically, DeVos could try to make Title I dollars portable, meaning students and their families could use federal dollars to pay for things they need to thrive. For example, they could choose to use some of that money to participate in online courses that supplement the teaching they’re receiving in the classroom. Or they could use it to cover the cost of tuition for a private school. Options like these would allow for real change.