This week, President-elect Donald Trump sent a strong signal when he announced he would choose longtime school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as his education secretary.
She’s drawn praise and congratulations from parental choice supporters (including some who oppose Trump) and concern over her role in Michigan’s charter school debate. But she’s often cited a different state (Florida!) as a model for the nation.
As we’ve heard since the DeVos announcement on Wednesday, some education pundits seem to believe that supporting vouchers is dooming the republic; that there is some larger good served by state-run school monopolies where low-income kids have the least leverage and the least opportunity. Though his support of charter schools has been laudable, one of these people, President Obama, currently sits in the White House. I’ve always found the president’s blind spot on private-school choice troubling given his own schooling, which included St. Francis of Assisi and the prestigious Punahou School in Honolulu, which he attended from grades five to 12 — on a scholarship. Though he is not the first political figure to ignore that his own life and success were profoundly affected by a private school, his lapse on this issue may be the most profound given his role as the country’s first black president. I’ve agreed with the president on a great many things, but in denying children the same opportunities we both had, we will disagree violently and always.
Much of Trump’s education agenda still lacks specifics. So what does a conservative plan that promotes school choice without dictating policy to states look like? Congressman Luke Messer talked about that on a recent podcast. DeVos is a longtime ally of Vice President-elect Mike Pence, whom Messer replaced in Congress.
Some parts of Trump’s agenda that aren’t explicitly about education stoke fear among students.