The start of something big?

Education | Trump and DeVos could finally set poor children free from underperforming public schools
by Cal Thomas
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2017, at 3:23 pm

The White House press corps has its knickers in a twist over suggestions by the incoming administration that reporters might have to vacate their cramped quarters in the West Wing for a larger venue on White House grounds. That the current quarters have become too crowded to accommodate the growing number of reporters covering the White House matters little to those who have occupied that territory for many years. The New York Times and Washington Post have contributed to the overcrowding by assigning six reporters each—a record—to cover the Trump administration. Don’t expect them to cut back in deference to others.

A sign of changes to come was also contained in Secretary of Education–designate Betsy DeVos’ testimony at her confirmation hearings Tuesday. She noted the disparity between wealthier families who are able to choose better schools for their children, and the poor whose kids are often trapped in underperforming, even failing public schools. DeVos said, “We recognized that other parents were not able to make similar decisions about their children’s education, based on their income or the ZIP code in which they lived.” She called that a “national injustice.”

Many on the left believe school choice should not be available to poor children, not because school choice is a bad idea, but because liberals don’t want to alienate teachers’ unions that oppose it. Teachers’ unions make generous contributions and deliver union votes to left wing politicians. Yet these same politicians have no skin in the game; many send their children to elite private schools.

Much of what Donald Trump proposes has been tried before, but not since the Reagan administration has smaller government, lower taxes, fewer unnecessary regulations, and personal responsibility been promoted. But personal responsibility and self-reliance are not taught in today’s public schools, which is why too many young people are deficient in these areas.

Democrats have put DeVos at the top of their hit list. She represents a threat to them and their union supporters.

A press release from the office of the president-elect said about his choice for education secretary: “Mrs. DeVos’ most important qualification is that she has the courage of her convictions.” Some may remember when such people were in greater supply.

The release continues: “During the 1990s, [DeVos and her husband] patronized a private-school scholarship fund for low-income families and championed Michigan’s first charter school law. In 2000 they helped bankroll a voucher initiative, which was defeated by a union blitz. The DeVoses then turned to expanding charters, which have become Exhibit A in the progressive campaign against her.”

Democrats have put DeVos at the top of their hit list. She represents a threat to them and their union supporters. Instead of going in a new direction, Democrats cling to a model that doesn’t work and then have the audacity to resist change.

If Trump and DeVos play this right, they will earn the gratitude (and possibly votes) of thousands of parents who yearn for their children to be set free from their unsafe and underperforming public schools. As the song says, “This could be the start of something big.”

Listen to Cal Thomas’ commentary on the Jan. 20 edition of The World and Everything in It.

© 2017 Tribune Content Agency LLC.

Cal Thomas

Cal contributes weekly commentary to WORLD Radio. Over the last five decades, he worked for NBC News, FOX News, and USA Today and began his syndicated news column in 1984. Cal is the author of 10 books, including What Works: Commonsense Solutions to the Nation's Problems. Follow him on Twitter @CalThomas.

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  •  austinbeartux's picture
    Posted: Fri, 01/20/2017 10:19 am

    I would appreciate other opinions on this subject.

    As someone who loves freedom, liberty, and independence, I like the concept of school vouchers because it's MY tax dollars.  I'd like the freedom, liberty, and choice to use MY tax dollars to educate my kids in the school of my choice.  I have serious, legitimate issues with my public school to which I'm ASSIGNED.  Therefore, I'd like to use those $$$ to go towards my private school tuition.

    I understand that this means less $$$ for public schools.  If my public schools weren't so awful (in my opinon), then I'd happily send them there and they could keep my $$$.  It seems liberals and teacher's unions are demanding to have and spend MY $$$.  That's not compassion.  That's a form of socialism and wealth redistribution.

    30 states are already doing this.  And here's a Business 101 principle--competition sharpens and innovates.  More competition, more innovation.  Less competition, less innovation.  If parents were to pull kids out of public schools, then that promotes competition, and public school administrators ought to take notice and change their schools to become more competitive.  That would bring private school kids back.

    Here's the other side of the argument without sugar: No matter what you want or think, we want you to work, pay school taxes, and then we want that money to benefit public schools to bring as much money into the system as possible.  Because supposedly more money = better education.

    All of this is in addition to the fact that a portion of Teacher's Union dues go directly into the Democrat National Party.

  • RD
    Posted: Sat, 01/21/2017 02:43 pm

    I enjoy reading Cal Thomas BUT my mobile version of World did not say Opinion or Editorial anywhere that I could find in his story about DeVos - and this is clearly not written as a News Story, but Opinion.  As our culture struggles to differentiate between News and Opinion, I would encourage World to help readers be very clear about this by labeling anything that is not straight news.

  • socialworker
    Posted: Tue, 01/24/2017 08:56 am

    This is what I don't understand.  The teacher's unions and the dems talk as though Charter Schools have an abysmal record, yet this is what this lady championed and they seem to be well attended.  I live in a small community where our public schools are acceptable and there are few options, all of which are faith based.  No charter schools in other words.  What's the truth?  

  • Janet B
    Posted: Tue, 01/24/2017 11:11 am

    I hope that Mrs. DeVoss researches dyslexia and its prevalence as the reason so many children fail to learn to read.  I suggest that it is not because they are poor that they fail to learn, but rather it is because they have not been able to learn (due to a lack of instruction specifically necessary to dyslexia) that they are poor.  

    Dyslexia is inherited; it runs in families.  A non-reader who lives in poverty not only cannot pay for the outside tutoring need, they often do not even know what the problem is.  They expect the public school personnel to know, and they, unfortunately, have not been taught anything about it.

    There is some mighty good awareness going on in Congress, and I sincerely hope Mrs. DeVoss takes advantage of it.