Education’s Bright New Future

Now we are getting somewhere.  When Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million member American Federation of Teachers, says about the President-elect’s pick as Secretary of Education, “Trump has chosen the most idealogical, anti-public ed nominee since the creation of the Department of Education,” you have to know that Betsy Devos must be a unique and great pick.

On July 11 last year, Ms. Weingarten came under fire after her executive council voted to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential Primary.

Even though the endorsement was supposed to be backed by polling of members, many teachers questioned the tactic, saying they knew of no one who was even asked.

Commondreams.org wrote, “Activist teacher members and others lamented that the AFT endorsement of Clinton was a clear reminder of President Randi Weingarten’s autocratic leadership style that treats teachers like passive herd-driven professionals rather than independent thinkers with a voice.”

At the same time, Phil Sorenson tweeted to President Weingarten, “I’m glad I’m National Education Association – you don’t speak for me, you just made teachers’ look politically inept. Thanks for nothing.”

The article concludes with, since no one could locate AFT’s poll of members, the BAT (Teachers Association) took matters into their own hands by conducting a poll on Face Book. So far 1,240 teachers endorsed Bernie Sanders and only 84 endorsed Clinton.  One teacher said, “Weingarten has this thing about giving false information via polls.  It’s scary.”

Putting it another way, Ms. Weingarten leads the AFT, which is focused on what’s best for adults.  Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal writes Ms. Weingarten brings a different set of priorities.  She has fought to keep persistently failing schools open because they still provide jobs for her dues-paying members.

Here in Oklahoma, the education establishment wants more money.  There is little discussion of what to do with our failing schools and teachers.  There is also no proposal on how to consolidate the wasteful and inefficient 516 school district systems.

Betsy Devos is a reformer.  She pushed the private school choice movement.  The school voucher program in Washington, D.C., that President Obama has spent eight years to shut down, is expected to flourish under the new administration.

Expanded educational options for low-income families should be a priority in Oklahoma.  Failing schools should be consolidated with better-run ones.  School districts should also meet some student attendance threshold.  To say that a district with less than 100 students is effective is simply wrong.  At that level, they cannot afford to promote excellence.

The San Diego Union–Tribune Editorial Board wrote that Trump’s education nominee’s agenda is dead on arrival.  They cited the large numbers of senators and representatives who approved the “No Child Left Behind Act” and later its replacement, the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”  The former thrust the federal government into state decision-making on public education and the latter sharply limited federal influence over education decisions.

Actually, the editorial board’s big quarrel is with the Trump idea of providing $130 billion on school vouchers.  If Mr. Trump turned down a new Air Force One because of cost, I cannot see him spending that kind of money.

The board does say, “The idea of forcing public schools to face competition to get them to improve still makes sense.”  They also say, “Perhaps the Trump administration can introduce a version of the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program to provide incentives to get states to pursue education reforms.”

Perhaps we are not that far apart?  What Oklahoma badly needs is competition and reform.  That is not a DOA issue.