Put ed­u­ca­tion re­form on Christ­mas wish list

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS

You say you want a rev­o­lu­tion? Well, you know Betsy DeVos is an­tic­i­pat­ing one — in ed­u­ca­tion, that is. Mrs. DeVos is Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s pick to run the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. She should be con­firmed. Not be­cause she rubs noses with ed­u­ca­tion unions or sucks face with bu­reau­cratic hel­lions.

She is the right choice be­cause there is an evo­lu­tion un­der­foot in pub­lic school­ing, and the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment needs to be brought up to speed.

Un­der­stand, un­til Congress passed leg­is­la­tion and then-Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter signed the bill in 1979, there was no Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. There was a fo­cus on teach­ing and learn­ing on the ex­ec­u­tive side, but its red tape was part of the Depart­ment of Health, Ed­u­ca­tion and Wel­fare. Since then, the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment’s tangled knots have been a free-stand­ing, Cabi­net-level agency.

The then-Of­fice of Ed­u­ca­tion grew from 3,000 em­ploy­ees in 1979 and a budget of $12 bil­lion to Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion with 5,000 em­ploy­ees and a budget of $73 bil­lion this year.

Along the way, no mat­ter who pro­fessed to try to put that costly bu­reau­cratic be­he­moth back into its bot­tle, we knew it wasn’t gonna hap­pen. We know it ain’t gonna hap­pen.

More­over, even as the depart­ment’s bu­reau­cracy grew and its budget bal­looned, none of those bu­reau­crats taught any stu­dents any­thing. Teach­ing and learn­ing in­struc­tions were not line items in their train­ing man­u­als.

The school-choice move­ment at least has the edu­crats stut­ter-step­ping with mag­net schools, char­ter schools, pub­lic vouch­ers, vo­ca­tional and on­line programs, ed­u­ca­tion sav­ings ac­counts and a push to­ward pri­vate fund­ing for pub­lic school­ing.

This Christ­mas, as ev­ery Christ­mas, par­ents con­sider what gifts should be placed un­der the tree (on be­half of Santa, of course). Will the pa­ja­mas fit? What size shoe does she wear? Is this win­ter coat too big or too small?

Well, each and ev­ery year, par­ents ask the same ques­tions re­gard­ing their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion: “Does this school fit my child?” Some par­ents, like those in the nation’s capital, have to sign up for a lot­tery to get their “choice” of pub­lic schools for their chil­dren. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

If you need a glimpse into what Mrs. Devos thinks about ed­u­ca­tion rev­o­lu­tion, you’ll see she is clear-sighted.

“More and more par­ents are com­ing to re­al­ize their chil­dren are suf­fer­ing at the hands of a sys­tem built to stran­gle any re­form, any in­no­va­tion or any change. This re­al­iza­tion is be­com­ing more ev­i­dent as the mo­men­tum builds for an ed­u­ca­tion rev­o­lu­tion,” Mrs. DeVos, 58, said in May at con­fer­ence held by the con­ser­va­tive Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion for Chil­dren, where au­thor and for­mer D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Kevin Chavous sits on the board.

We will know soon enough how the Se­nate is poised re­gard­ing Mrs. DeVos’ con­fir­ma­tion, af­ter two mi­nor af­fairs are taken care of — the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Don­ald Trump and the mem­bers of the 115th Congress take their seats.

For sure, we can count on Democrats to pound away on fund­ing is­sues, and they cer­tainly don’t want any sur­prises on the pol­icy or school-choice fronts. One of the Demo­cratic Party’s BFF’s, Randi Wein­garten, al­ready has per­formed her Chicken Lit­tle rou­tine, say­ing that broad­en­ing and pub­licly fi­nanc­ing school-choice op­tions “would de­stroy neigh­bor­hood schools.”

Per­haps it’s time to in­form Ms. Wein­garten and her en­trenched Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers that the Con­sti­tu­tion is moot on de­stroy­ing pub­lic neigh­bor­hood school­houses. She also should be re­minded that a mind is a ter­ri­ble thing to waste, re­gard­less of where the school­house is lo­cated or what ZIP code the child lives in.

Congress passed the Ev­ery Stu­dent Suc­ceeds Act one year ago. As ex­pected, it is not a per­fect fit, as no leg­is­la­tion is. It does, how­ever, grant states and school au­thor­i­ties a bit more lee­way to ap­proach ed­u­ca­tion dif­fer­ently.

That is how things should be. Af­ter all, when it comes to teach­ing and learn­ing, fund­ing is not the prob­lem, as Sen. Chuck Schumer, in­com­ing Se­nate Demo­cratic leader, and Big La­bor want you to think. In­deed, a $73 bil­lion budget is a “yuge” budget, es­pe­cially when you con­sider the fact that the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment is the small­est Cabi­net-level depart­ment.

The bot­tom-line is this: On who and what do the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment and its edu­crats spend all that money?

An item for our wish lists if ever there were one.

Merry Christ­mas.

● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

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