Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' nomination and approval certainly riled up teachers unions across the country, causing panic that their power over education policy may finally be challenged.
DeVos has made clear that advocating for school choice will be a central part of how she approaches her job, something that evidently unnerves the education establishment.
"DeVos shows an antipathy for public schools; a full-throttled embrace of private, for-profit alternatives and a lack of basic understanding of what children need to succeed in school," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, upon DeVos' confirmation. Similarly, the National Education Association took the occasion to call for "resistance" to the "Trump-DeVos agenda."
What precisely constitutes this agenda isn't clear, but most of the rhetoric flung around involves fear-mongering that public education is suddenly at risk, that corporate profiteers will be let loose to exploit students and that poor and minority students are at risk of not getting the sort of education they need.
The panicked rhetoric seems to stem from DeVos' long history of advocacy for charter schools and school vouchers. In her home state of Michigan, DeVos and her husband have championed charter schools — to positive effect.
According to studies conducted by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Michigan charter school students, on average, "make larger learning gains in both reading and mathematics" than Michigan students in traditional public schools. Similar findings were identified in Detroit charter schools, with African American, Hispanic, low-income and special education students making larger gains in both reading and mathematics than students in traditional schools. ...
Of course, the hyperpoliticized teachers unions can't resist appealing to manufactured fear over DeVos to advance their own agenda. The California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers, for example, are asking Californians to take a pledge in support of "the public education all California's students deserve." According to the unions, attaining public education that students deserve requires one to support sanctuary cities and the belief that "social justice for all begins with a quality, free public education," whatever that means. ...
Perhaps what threatens teachers unions the most is the prospect of a renewed focus on accountability, competition and choice in education. Parents want the best education for their students. Whether education is made available via traditional public schools, charter schools or private schools, what ultimately matters is whether students actually receive the best education they can get.