Friday, February 10, 2017

DeVos confirmation triggered outpouring of support for public education system | EdSource

DeVos confirmation triggered outpouring of support for public education system | EdSource:

DeVos confirmation triggered outpouring of support for public education system

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 In this unusual political season, marked by one unexpected turn after another, the emergence of Betsy DeVos, confirmed this week as President Trump’s secretary of education, as the main target of opposition by Senate Democrats was one of the most surprising, especially because she has far more limited powers than many other cabinet secretaries.
With virtually no power to stop DeVos’ nomination, Democrats nonetheless mounted a nearly 24-hour long talkathon in which Senators derisively declared her totally unfit to be secretary of education. No other Trump nominee got a similar round-the-clock treatment.
Equally surprising – and encouraging to public school advocates – was the stirring defense of public schools, coming after years of sustained criticism from numerous quarters, both Democrat and Republican. That was capped by Trump campaign rhetoric routinely attacking “failing schools,” a theme that extended right into his inaugural address when he said students were being “deprived of all knowledge.”
There were some obvious reasons DeVos attracted the ire of Democrats.
“She emerged as a poster child for concerns about the Trump administration because of her persona and her poor performance at her confirmation hearing,” said Andy Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, and a former education policy adviser to President Bill Clinton.
Also, Rotherham noted, a vast number of education advocacy groups at local, state and national levels are in general much better organized than interest groups in policy areas such as housing or energy groups. That helps explain why two other controversial Trump nominees, Ben Carson for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Rick Perry for the Department of Energy, both of whom were widely criticized for lacking the knowledge or competence to run their departments, were both easily confirmed.
Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said the strength of teachers unions was key to elevating DeVos as a primary target of Democratic ire.
“That explains the sheer volume of calls and emails coming to Capitol Hill offices,” he said. “No other interest group on the left has anywhere near the numbers that the teachers unions do. And they know how to get their members fired up.”
“There just isn’t anything similar in the housing world, or the health world or the DeVos confirmation triggered outpouring of support for public education system | EdSource:


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