Education at a Crossroads with Betsy DeVos

By Thomas Sowel
Editors Note: While Thomas Sowell has retired from weekly editorials we have a few more of his works left to publish. This is one. Enjoy.

Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell

USA – -( In just a matter of days — perhaps next Monday — a decision will be made in Washington affecting the futures of millions of children in low-income communities, and in the very troubled area of race relations in America.

An opportunity has arisen — belatedly — that may not come again in this generation. That is an opportunity to greatly expand the kinds of schools that have successfully educated, to a high level, inner-city youngsters whom the great bulk of public schools fail to educate to even minimally adequate levels.

What may seem on the surface to be merely a matter of whether the U.S. Senate confirms or rejects the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be head of the U.S. Department of Education involves far bigger stakes.

The teachers' unions and the education establishment in general know how big those stakes are, and have mounted an all-out smear campaign to prevent her from being confirmed.

What makes Mrs. DeVos seem so threatening to the teachers' unions and their political allies?

She has, for more than 20 years, been promoting programs, laws and policies that enable parents to choose which schools their children will attend — whether these are charter schools, voucher schools or parochial schools.

Some of these charter schools — especially those in the chain of the Success Academy schools and the chain of the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools — operate in low-income, minority neighborhoods in the inner-cities, and turn out graduates who can match the educational performances of students in affluent suburbs. What is even more remarkable, these charter schools are often housed in the very same buildings, in the very same ghettoes, where students in the regular public schools fail to learn even the basics in English or math.

You and I may think this is great. But, to the teachers' unions, such charter schools are a major threat to their members' jobs — and ultimately to the unions' power or existence.

If parents have a choice of where to send their children, many of those parents are not likely to send them to failing public schools, when there are alternative schools available that equip those youngsters with an education that can open the way to a far better future for them.

Already there are tens of thousands of children on waiting lists to get into charter schools, just in New York alone. Those waiting lists are a clear threat to teachers' unions, whose leaders think schools exist to provide guaranteed jobs for their members.

Mrs. DeVos has shown for more than 20 years that she thinks schools exist to educate children. One of the biggest complaints about her is that, unlike Secretaries of Education before her, she does not come out of the government's education establishment. Considering what a miserable job that establishment has done, especially in inner-city schools, her independence is a plus.

Teachers' unions have fought for years to prevent charter schools from being created.

Now that such schools have been created, and there are now huge waiting lists, the teachers' unions have gotten politicians to put a numerical cap on the number of such schools, regardless of how large the waiting lists are.

Desperate attempts to smear Betsy DeVos, in order to prevent her from being confirmed as Secretary of Education, have not let the facts get in the way.

She is accused of “steering public dollars away from traditional public schools.” But nobody can steer anything anywhere, when it is individual parents who make the decisions as to where they want their children educated. The money follows the children.

Neither the money nor the children get steered by education bureaucrats, as happens with traditional public schools.

If charter schools educate one-third of the students in a district, and get one-third of the money, how does that reduce the amount of money per child in the public school? Actually, charter schools usually get less money per student, but produce better results.

American education is at a crossroads. If the teachers' unions and their allies can defeat the nomination of Mrs. DeVos, and the Republicans substitute someone else more acceptable to the education establishment, a historic opportunity will be lost, and may never come again in this generation.

About Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, as well as a prolific author including Black Rednecks And White Liberals. His website is To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read his articles visit his website above.

  • 13 thoughts on “Education at a Crossroads with Betsy DeVos

    1. Many teachers can not teach. Many can not even express themselves or speak correctly. How can you be expected to learn when the person teaching the class does not have command of the English language. These “teachers” obtained their credentials because of lax regulations that allowed the unqualified to teach our children. I hated school because the instruction was terrible. When finally assigned to classes where the teacher expected and demanded the students to work and learn I worked and I learned. This made me want to learn, attend college and improve my own education. I think back to when I had a “talking moron” in front of the class and thank God I finally had teachers that cared about our education and not just the job.

    2. Give Her a Chance ! (what do you have to lose)
      Our Schools are a mess, Teachers who don’t teach,
      Students who don’t care or want to learn, all in a
      country that has to wake up ! and see the corner
      before turning the wrong way ! Is she the best choice ?
      I don’t think so but I am willing to give her the chance
      to fix what is so very broken.

    3. Her one weak point appears to be education when it comes to guns in schools. When the topic did come up her only stumbling reply was something about protecting students from bears! She should have stood firmly and said “the more armed teachers, faculty, parents and (in college, students who meet State requirements) students who are armed the fewer instances of violence, mass murder and attempted murder of our children we’ll see. Gun free zones are murder zones”.

      That’s what she should have said. That takes moral standards and fortitude that few possess. Are you listening all Administration employees and soon to be appointees?

      1. Vanns40,
        I think her answer to the guns in school question was a great response. Having a gun at a school to deal with an out of control wild animal in a rural setting is very understandable and hard to argue with. Hard for anti gunners to nay say that argument. Of course the flip side of all that is that if having gun(s) at a school for that reason is understandable, then how about having them for dealing with out of control wild animals of the two legged variety? Her response puts a very reasonable foot-in-the- door for elimination of school as “gun-free” free fire zones for the deranged.

        So, I think that rather than being a “week stumbling reply”, her come back was well thought out and delivered is a way that made it hard to argue with. In any event, her taking on the role of head of the USDOE will stir the education pot, as Trump is doing a good job of stirring the political one. A stirred pot isn’t as likely to burn on the bottom, ruining the whole recipe.


    4. Jocko is correct. DeVoss made money off of a system that had little or no accountability. A system where students did not excel. Heck, she wasn’t even capable of answering softball questions that I, as a parent could answer quickly and easily. Then again I went to PTO and actually took an interest in my kids’ education. i didn’t simply cash the check from looting school state budgets like she did. DeVoss is a disaster. I voted for Trump. I didn’t vote for stupid.

      Pence should never have voted for her. Trump should never have put her forward.

      1. Hate to burst your bubble, but neither state nor federal education heads have any control over school budgets. And the money DeVos has is due to her husband being involved with Amway. And if you really want to hear about a true disaster, 40% of the kids in public high schools in my state don’t graduate. Where is the accountability there? And you don’t get to vote for Secretary of Education. If you want to experience stupid; look in the mirror.

    5. The education system has not worked in years. Seems that the liberals want to force their view at early ages. This view was well documented during the last election. Change for this country requires a change at the core. NO more Snowflakes” time to grow up.

      1. The two most significant reason the Education system has not worked is: 1) It is attempted to be managed by the Federal Govt. 2) It has a Teachers union that is totally controlled by the Democrat Party, who have attempted to control all the wealth. This combination requires Teachers to “DUMB DOWN STUDENTS< SO THEY BECOME LIBERAL DEMOCRATS" and the system becomes perpetual motion. Each Generation "DUMBER THAN THE LAST"!!!

    6. “Unions have fought for years to keep charter schools from being created. ” Well, that’s because charter schools suck. I’m not a teacher but I have many friends that are, and they explain to me the lunacy that goes on in the charter school system. It’s all about money and the kids suffer because of it. I think the right-wing needs to get off the whole let’s run the government like a business thing. It’s not a business – they are two wholly different entities

      1. @Jocko, Your statement about Charter Schools is odd. The parents that I have talked to have nothing bad to say about charter schools, and everything good to say about charter schools.When I ask them about public schools, they say the there is too much propaganda and not enough learning about the things needed to succeed in the real world.

      2. They are two different entities, so why is liberal politics taught in public schools, or should I say crammed down students throat. I know students, and have friends that were kicked out of a class because of their political opinion. We hear so much about freedom of speech and it is seen in riots where harm and damage is done. But when a student who should be taught to think on their own is punished by the educators teaching them, well it is time for a change. The system does not work and has not for years. Sorry snowflake, time for a change!

    Comments are closed.