Joyce Rankin: Betsy DeVos deserves a fair chance
January 19, 2017
Members of Congress began confirmation hearings for President-elect Trump's Cabinet nominees this month. Regrettably, some lawmakers — spurred on by K Street lobbyists, public smear campaigns and the media — signaled their intent to sink some of the appointments even before the gavel called these sessions to order.
Coloradans, like all Americans, deserve better from their national representatives. And Betsy DeVos deserves a fair and timely confirmation hearing.
DeVos' qualifications are evident. For nearly 30 years she has championed efforts to empower families and educators with greater control over their children's learning. A mother and grandmother herself, she believes strongly in parents to make the best decisions for their kids. While she acknowledges the supervisory role of the federal government, she has pledged to restore more power back to the states.
DeVos believes every child deserves access to a quality education. That conviction, it seems, has guided her work to ensure no child is trapped in a persistently failing school — a mission that has proven especially impactful for minority, low-income and other traditionally at-risk communities.
In her home state of Michigan, enrollment in charter schools has increased by a third over the past eight years, and about 10 percent of students there now attend a charter school. Students attending these charter schools do better than their public school counterparts.
Recommended Stories For You
Teachers' unions and other vested groups comfortable with the status quo have bristled at her calls for stronger accountability guardrails and her support for alternative schooling options. As the Denver Post noted last month, the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers' union, has accused DeVos of driving "a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education." These critics would sooner cling to a sinking ship than take the tough but necessary steps to fix the nation's school systems.
A political outsider, DeVos is a logical pick to execute the president-elect's policy agenda.
During the last election, voters sent an undeniable message they are looking for wholesale change in Washington. They asked for a government answerable to them and for a greater say in the policies that affect their lives.
If lawmakers stand in the way, they do so at their own risk. The public will be watching these confirmation hearings closely to see whether their representatives got the message, especially on an issue as personal as education.
DeVos' nomination comes at a consequential time. Over a year ago the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law, permanently replacing No Child Left Behind. The first devolution of federal power in the past three decades, the law marks a profound reset in education policy.
DeVos is the right leader to fully ensure the law is implemented as intended by Congress and not scuttled by bureaucrats in Washington, which will be a tremendous win for families, teachers and most importantly, students.
Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the 3rd Congressional District. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street.” The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She is also a legislative aide at the Capitol for Representative Rankin.