By Teresa Mull
The confirmation hearing for President Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, had been delayed a few days to accommodate the U.S. Senate’s schedule. Teachers unions, which might as well be placed on the Endangered Species List, were taking advantage of the extra time to rally against DeVos and her desire to let parents be in charge of their children’s education.
The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest labor union, sent a mass e-mail last week urging supports to “Tell your senators: Vote NO on Betsy DeVos.” The e-mail attacks DeVos for having “a decades-long track record of working to undermine public education and privatize our public schools.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has called DeVos “the most anti-public education nominee in the history of the department,” and Weingarten claims DeVos “lacks the qualifications and experience to serve as secretary of education.”
“All kids have the right to a quality public education that helps them reach their full potential,” the NEA e-mail goes on to say. “We need a secretary of education who will support and strengthen public schools, fulfilling the promise of a great public school for every student, regardless of their ZIP code.”
Readers should take note of the two recurring themes among these diatribes: the emphasis that children deserve a quality education, provided it is public, and the demonization of private enterprise. It’s obvious the teachers unions feel threatened by DeVos and the school choice movement she has championed. That’s because they know choice works and the days of government schools – and the huge paychecks associated with them —are numbered.
Education is often low on the list of politicians’ priorities. The economy was voters’ number one issue of concern during the 2016 presidential campaign, as it often is. Terrorism, foreign policy, health care, gun policy, immigration, and social security also all ranked ahead of education, according to Pew Research. Why is that?
Most people in America, I’m sure, would agree access to a high-quality education is paramount to building a successful society and country, yet we don’t consider education policy all that important when we vote. Perhaps this is because education policy shouldn’t be all that important, because the government should not be involved in telling parents how to educate their children.
Unfortunately, schooling has, however, been tainted by the grips of Big Brother, and so we’re forced to be concerned about it. For many years, we’ve been lulled into a lazy ambivalence regarding education, blindly trusting government schools to get the job done. But the fact the teachers unions are so agitated by the nomination of Betsy DeVos shows something drastic is on the horizon, something the unions fear and loath—which means it must be a good thing.
Imagine for a moment just how big of a game-changer universal school choice would be for our country. If parents had as many options for educating their children as they do when buying their groceries and if children could choose the type of learning environment they like best, the modern education system would radically transform for the better. The best teachers would be appropriately awarded based on their merits, and the bad ones would be forced out of the system. The seemingly endless red tape that paralyzes our schools would be removed. And instead of being heavily regulated, schools would be free to experiment, compete, create, and innovate.
What would our country look like? Students would be free of the schools that force-feed them federal propaganda, telling them government is the answer for everything. They could learn and think for themselves. Parents would be more interested and involved in their children’s educations. Teachers would take a renewed interest in their professions. The best schools would expand and thrive, and the worst schools would shut down forever or dramatically reform.
Simply put, school choice would completely change the landscape of America, and the teachers unions know it, which is why they’re so adamantly opposed to and so desperately afraid of DeVos. The tens of millions of people who are participating in School Choice Week, which will be held January 22–28, also know it. It’s time the rest of the country made education policy a priority, too, by reconsidering the astounding advantages of school choice and education freedom.
Teresa Mull ([email protected]) is a research fellow in education policy at The Heartland Institute.