The Left is in full freak-out rage over Trump’s pick to be the country’s 12th Secretary of Education. Above is an Internet meme making the rounds on social media. Many of my liberal teacher Facebook friends have proudly displayed it. Of course, they are usually the ones that also fear the mass deportation of Muslims, portray every act of someone being an asshole as a “hate crime” or standing in solidarity with protesters at Standing Rock.
One of their biggest complaints is that she has no degree in education and no teaching experience. Simply, these are not prerequisites to be a bureaucrat, even in the Department of Education. That would be like saying that only teachers or citizens with children in public schools should be eligible to sit on a school board.
In fact, as best this writer can discern, of the previous 11 Education Secretaries, only three have any classroom experience in K-12 education. Of these three, two moved onto public school administration as a principal or higher. Others may have had “teaching experience” in higher education as a lecturer or guest lecturer. Others have been state-level education officials without ever setting foot in a classroom as a teacher. Hence, these criticisms are much ado about nothing. The first one, for crying out loud, under Carter was a federal judge!
What truly disturbs the Left is her advocacy for school choice. To the Left, this is a dog whistle term for decreasing funding for public education. On the personal level, this means decreased pay for teachers which, one suspects, is the real reason for the hyperbole. As for the assertion that she does not believe in nor support public education, most fact checkers that I have looked at cannot find a single comment that would support such an allegation. Instead, the Left makes the leap in logic that because she attended private school and her children attend private school, she must have some animus to public education.
Perhaps she does. Or perhaps, because of her wealth and that of her parents, she had an opportunity to attend private schools which is denied to many children because of their lack of wealth. Why the Left insists on denying disadvantaged children/students/parents the opportunity at a private, or charter school, or parochial education is one of the more perplexing aspects of their views when it comes to education.
Their solution is simple: just spend more money on public education. These efforts are usually accompanied with emotional pleas and an NEA-supported propaganda campaign telling us how important education is towards a child’s future and the only answer is through increased funding for public schools. What makes that solution fall increasingly on deaf ears is that their solution is not a solution and has not worked. Billions of dollars and years later, student academic performance has either stagnated or gone backwards. The list of reforms during the intervening years has been numerous culminating in the stupidity known as Common Core.
As an aside, it requires mentioning that Common Core, which many teachers now teach (some begrudgingly, but most with acceptance) was developed by someone who never set foot in a classroom either.
The fear is that DeVos, as Secretary of Education, will gut public school spending at the federal level. Considering that despite the billions spent, only about 9% of any school’s budget comes from federal dollars. Of that money, only about 67% of it actually reaches the classroom with the remainder eaten up by administration and oversight.
Obviously, these opponents of DeVos fail to understand how government works. She cannot just divert appropriated funds to school choice options like vouchers and such. The way Common Core was shoved down the throats of states was through the Race To The Top grants authorized under the Obama stimulus. Congress left the Department of Education leeway in determining how those grants were made. If the Left’s fear is that DeVos will do the same with school choice options using federal funds, then the legislative process- if the Left has the stomach- is where those fears can be abated.
Perhaps the current propaganda campaign against DeVos is an unconscious realization that they may be on the opposite side of the issue with the American public. This writer has always believed that those who oppose school choice are closet racists (we can’t call them that because they are on the Left and Leftists can’t be racists) who wish to deny those in failing public schools (most of them, let’s face reality) in minority areas the same educational choices which the more affluent take for granted or as a birthright.
If it works- be it public schools, charter schools for-profit or non-profit, private schools, boarding schools or parochial schools- then let’s give every parent and student the right to make the choice most appropriate for them. Public education is not going anywhere. Most state constitutions guarantee it. There will always be a need for teachers. No true conservative believes that all teachers are overpaid, but that some– the ineffective, unproductive ones- are overpaid and retain their jobs by a quirk of a collective bargaining contract.
The Left also fails to realize that it only takes 51 votes in the Senate to confirm DeVos, so she will be the next Secretary of Education barring some unforeseen scandal involving her and a donkey in Mexico. It would serve them better to work with her than against her.