Special to WorldTribune.com
By Star Parker
What is it about new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that so bothers Democrats that not a single Democratic Senator voted to confirm her, requiring Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote?
You would think, after years of Washington pumping tens of billions of taxpayer funds into public education with virtually no improvement in test scores, a new Education secretary that genuinely wants change would be celebrated.
Programme for International Student Assessment tests administered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an organization of 34 of the largest industrialized nations in the world, showed that American 15-year-olds finish only slightly above average in science, and they perform below average in reading and math.
This is despite the U.S. spending 31 percent more per student for elementary and secondary education than the average of these 34 nations.
Secretary DeVos is an advocate of opening the public school system to competition and new ideas. Commitment to these principles of freedom and competition touch the essence of American exceptionalism.
Anyone who claims to care about excellence yet supports government monopoly and opposes competition is not being honest with themselves, with others, or both.
And this, sadly, summarizes what is going on with Democrats and education. It’s about politics, power and interests — not about excellence. And here we must note the perverse influence of teachers unions.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the teachers unions are among the largest political spenders in the nation. Of 20,000 organizations surveyed, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers combined were second in the nation in total political contributions since 1989 — $212 million.
And overwhelmingly these contributions are to Democrats. In 2016, 92 percent of the contributions of the two unions went to Democrats.
Two prominent Democrat Senators, Cory Booker from New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts, are both on record in previous years, before being elected to the Senate, supporting parental choice in education. Yet both, after getting elected to the Senate, and both with presidential ambitions, have somehow changed their minds on this critical issue and both voted against DeVos’s confirmation.
Booker, while mayor of Newark, New Jersey, in 2012, gave the keynote address for Betsy DeVos’s organization American Federation for Children, and spoke passionately for parental choice.
A few days after being confirmed, DeVos attended an event at Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington, D.C. Protestors greeted her and blocked her entrance to the school.
The protest was encouraged on Twitter by president of the Washington Teachers’ Union Elizabeth Davis, who said, “We want to share the message that we love our public school system.”
Teachers may love their public school system, but they certainly don’t love the children in it trying to get an education.
According to a study by WalletHub, the D.C. public school system, despite ranking 13th in the nation in spending, ranks 47 out of 51 in performance. It ranks worst in the nation in dropout rates, math scores, reading scores and SAT scores.
Sixty-four percent of children in the D.C. public school system are black and 18 percent are Hispanic.
In a Gallup poll published last August, 28 percent of parents with their oldest child in a public school said they were “completely satisfied” with the education their child is getting. This compared with 62 percent whose child is in private school saying they are “completely satisfied.” The 62 percent satisfaction with private school was the same for high-income parents and for medium- and low-income parents.
There is a reason why more than a million children are on waiting lists to enter charter schools nationwide and why studies show that parental choice produces positive results.
Yet teachers unions and the many with allegiances to the Democratic Party fight to keep the government monopoly of public schools. Fighting for their own selfish interests, they hurt America’s children and our nation’s future.
Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education. Contact her at www.urbancure.org.