Lisa Meier: Trump Made the Right Pick With Betsy DeVos

U.S. Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos testifies at her confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate.

After a contentious election cycle, it is time for lawmakers to begin binding up division across the nation. The American public spoke. They expressed a desire to reroute the direction of the country entirely, and they put their faith in the incoming administration to deliver that change. It is Congress’ responsibility to honor and uphold that charge, not to rehash old wounds through further political gamesmanship.

While lawmakers share a duty to thoroughly vet President Trump’s senior political appointments, the hearings should not serve as an airing of grievances. Especially on the issue of our children’s education, the stakes are too high to afford the partisan gridlock Washington has become notorious for. It is critical leaders in Congress, starting with North Dakota’s Senator Heidi Heitkamp, to provide Education Secretary-appointee Betsy DeVos a civil and impartial consideration.

DeVos is a respected education advocate and reformer. She has a tested record of tearing down walls in the way of academic equity. She is a disrupter who will bring the change our school systems need. Hers is the leadership our children deserve, and it comes at a time of historic transformation. Public officials should have no reservations in approving her nomination.

For more than 25 years DeVos has served at the forefront of the education reform movement. Guided by a faith in parents and teachers to make the best choices for their children, she has fought to ensure all young people have access to a good education, no matter where they grow up. To that end, she has taken on special interests to expand school choice and put greater power in the hands of families.

…DeVos has rejected the federal government’s heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all approach to education.

In her home state of Michigan DeVos helped to grow non-traditional school options, like charter schools, voucher programs and virtual classrooms. One in ten students in the state now attends a charter school, a 33 percent increase over the past eight years. The positive impact is tangible. In Detroit, charter-school students outperformed traditional public-school students in nearly every subject on state assessments, according to research by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

Contrary to critics’ allegations, DeVos has not discounted the importance of conventional public schools. She has boldly called on policymakers to raise classroom expectations for all students to levels that truly reflect college and career readiness. Likewise, she has fought to create greater accountability measures, so that parents and teachers can provide the support their kids need when and where they need it most.

Recognizing learning needs are unique from state to state and district to district, DeVos has rejected the federal government’s heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all approach to education. Like President Trump, she has articulated a vision to limit Washington’s footprint in the classroom, while respecting the role of appropriate federal oversight. As states implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, which permanently replaced No Child Left Behind, DeVos will ensure they are in the driver’s seat of education policy.

In many ways Senator Heitkamp, an education advocate in her own right, shares DeVos’ commitment to fixing the country’s ailing school systems. Sen. Heitkamp has strived tirelessly to create better academic equity and equality and to ensure all North Dakota students have the resources they need to reach their full potential. As a leader on the Senate education committee, Sen. Heitkamp is positioned to direct the tone of DeVos’ confirmation, and it is vital she weigh the Education Secretary-nominee based on ability and vision – not party ideology.

President Trump has made a wise pick in Betsy DeVos to steer the country’s education system. It is now incumbent on lawmakers to give her the due consideration she deserves. If they will put aside party dogma, they will find no reason to oppose the next Secretary of Education’s nomination – and our state and our children will be better for it.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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