Video: Senator Heitkamp Says She Can’t Support Trump’s Education Pick


In a video released on social media today North Dakota’s only Democrat elected to statewide office says she can’t support President Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary.

She expressed her point of view in a video posted on social media, saying she can’t support DeVos because supposedly the appointee would take funding away from public schools.

Not a surprising move, I think.

All of Senator Heitkamp’s decisions in this vein are going to be heavily colored by the electoral realities of North Dakota in 2017 (and 2018 when she’s up for re-election). While it behooves her to snuggle up to Trump on top issues for North Dakotans like agriculture and energy, education is one area where she can safely split.

By picking DeVos to be Secretary of Education the Trump administration intended to emphasize school choice. DeVos is a well-known advocate for school choice policies and voucher programs, and generally I think that’s a good thing.

If there is any area of government which needs a shock to the system it’s education, where entrenched attitudes in one of the last bastions of organized labor are rampant.

But in North Dakota school choice isn’t a top-line issue, mostly because of the realities of living in a rural state. While the idea of engendering healthy competition in education by empowering parents to choose schools that fit them best is fine, it means very little to people in a state where most of the people live in areas not populous enough to support multiple public or private schools.

For many rural communities it’s a fight just to keep their public schools open. Pitting them against private schools in a competition for students is a foreign concept.

I think there are ways to implement good school choice policy in North Dakota – one such proposal, HB1382, has a committee hearing in Bismarck this week – but it’s just not a top-of-the-list issue for most who live in our state.

Which makes it an issue where pandering to Democrats is safe for Heitkamp.