Secretary Betsy DeVos: The First Cabinet Pick Ever Saved by the Vice President

Congratulations, Secretary Betsy DeVos.

First, this is exciting news for Minnesota’s students, parents and educators.

But as this close vote demonstrates, DeVos will have to fight her well-funded opponents every day. The power of government education unions is hard to overstate.

Unions do not care about failing schools, or the mission of teaching. All they care about is protecting their power and political turf, and making educators fund their agenda.

Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Gail Collins, who voted against DeVos, were quoted repeatedly about receiving thousands of calls and emails from “citizens” opposed to DeVos.

The Senators, who are two of a handful of Republicans to receive contributions from government education unions, both know very well that all those phone calls, emails and protests were orchestrated by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA) and its affiliate the AFL-CIO.

This was not a citizen ground swell.

Between these three trade unions, they have 17 million members, hundreds of millions in cash and assets, and thousands of union officials paid very well to oppose anyone who threatens their power. DeVos is their worst nightmare.

Secretary DeVos will also have to battle her own Department of Education.

The knives will be out Day One and will not go back in the drawer during the DeVos tenure. The bureaucracy will fight to protect itself from change. We saw DeVos graciously take hits from people like Sen. Al Franken during her confirmation.

Now that the confirmation muzzle is off, I would like to see DeVos land some blows of her own. If she is not aggressively making the case for educational choice, and calling out the government unions that enforce the status quo, they could succeed in making her the issue instead of advancing new policies.

People confuse their schools and teachers with the teachers unions. DeVos needs to use her bully pulpit to educate America.

It is our hope that DeVos will succeed in introducing competition and new ideas desperately needed in public education. Her approach will benefit our underperforming schools, but also our best schools and everything in between. I hope it means that private schools, especially religious schools, will grow in number and flourish, too.

If public schools know they cannot take enrollment for granted, we will see them step up to the plate.

I think DeVos will also be a voice for teachers, most of whom go into the classroom every day ready to teach but their students may not be prepared to learn. But she will also not be afraid to back reforms that help schools fire incompetent or indifferent teachers.

Minnesota has one of the worst achievement gaps for poor and minority kids in the nation. We also have one of the most powerful government education union in the country, Education Minnesota. I think there is an inverse relationship there.

The good news is, we also have decades of experience with success. Washington, D.C. cannot fix what ails our educational system, or point us in a new direction. We have to do that. But D.C. can get out of the way, and let us keep our precious tax dollars here at home to spend on our kids and their future.

Here is our favorite California teacher Rebecca Friedrichs at PragerU with a lesson on why good teachers support school choice.