Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice
WASHINGTON — By her own admission, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos came here to push the USA’s public education system to support not just public schools, but also private and religious schools.
A leading proponent of private-school choice, the GOP mega-donor last January asked lawmakers during her Senate confirmation hearing, “Why, in 2017, are we still questioning parents’ ability to exercise educational choice for their children?”
GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill have already responded, floating several proposals to give families taxpayer-funded tuition and federal tax credits to help them send their kids to the school of their choice. On Wednesday, DeVos delivers the keynote at annual D.C. event that ranks the nation’s 100 largest school districts by how well they deliver on private-school options, among others.
But even with the legislative and executive branches controlled by Republicans, conservative policy wonks in DeVos’ own party are warning: When it comes to school choice, be careful what you wish for.
“I think that there are real reasons to be worried about how on earth this thing comes out right,” Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning D.C. education think tank, told USA TODAY.
While school choice advocates steadfastly support the federal government underwriting small private-school voucher efforts in places like Washington, D.C., and in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, among others, even these folks caution that the Trump administration should think twice before expanding school choice nationwide. On the campaign trail, Trump proposed giving families $20 billion for school choice. In his 2018 budget, he proposed $1.4 billion in new spending on school choice.
“When I hear folks talking about getting Washington involved in tuition tax credits for scholarship-granting organizations, and I hear the proposals that are being broadly floated, it makes me extraordinarily nervous,” said the American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess.
At a forum on the topic held last week at the conservative Heritage Foundation, Hess and others said that perhaps the biggest concern was what federal regulations and Conservatives to DeVos: Be careful what you wish for on school choice: