Put education reform on Christmas wish list
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.
● Deborah Simmons can be contacted at email@example.com.