Hats off to “Iron” Betsy DeVos

Helen Raleigh

The last couple of months haven’t been very easy on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Liberals put a target on her back from the get go. If not for VP Mike Pence casting the deciding vote at her confirmation, she wouldn’t have become the 11th and our current Secretary of Education.  

Everywhere she went, she was met by increasingly raucous protesters. She was physically blocked by protesters from entering a DC public school and a protester even shouted at her “Shame! Shame!” as if she was the disgraced queen Cersei from “Game of Thrones.”  When she was visiting Van Wert High School in Ohio, the district superintendent had to coordinate with U.S. Marshals to keep a tab on protesters.

More than 50,000 people signed a petition against historical black college Bethune-Cookman University’s decision to invite her to speak at its commencement ceremony. The school administrators showed their courage by refusing to recant their invitation. When Secretary DeVos was giving her commencement speech as planned, she was met with jeers, booing and many students even turned their back at her

What could she have possibly done to deserve such degrading treatment? If you follow the liberal media reports, her critics found her unacceptable on these grounds: she is evil because she’s rich; she’s evil because she donated a lot of money to the GOP; and she’s evil because she’s a champion for school choice.  

Yes, Betsy DeVos is rich but her wealth didn’t come from charging $400,000 for giving an empty talk. The DeVos’ earned their wealth and success in the most American way, by taking on risks, starting an enterprise and selling good products people want. Their business created many jobs for Americans. Their success should be inspirational, not condemned.

betsyiron_small Hats off to "Iron" Betsy DeVos Activism

Yes, Betsy DeVos and her family have donated large sums to the GOP. How is her act different from Gorge Soros or Michel Bloomberg donating large sums to the Democrats? Last time I checked, such donation is a form of free speech and is protected by our Constitution. 

I’ve said this before. Betsy DeVos could have retreated to a sheltered life as a result of her wealth. Instead, she devoted 30 years to helping better education outcomes especially for students from low income families by being a champion for school choice. As chair of the American Federation for Children, her record speak for itself:

  • 1,289: the number of school choice programs that are now available to parents and students across the country.
  • $4,902: the average scholarship amount students received to attend a choice private school in the 2015-2016 school year alone.
  • 394,311: the number of students who received scholarships to enroll in the private school of their choice during the 2015-2016 school year.

School choice isn’t a threat to well-run public schools. It’s a threat to failing public schools. The real evil is to limit parents’ choice by keeping failing public schools open and trapping children from low income or minority families in them. The real evil is condemning these innocent children to a lifetime of poverty as a result of the lack of quality education.

To answer the question “Why Blacks Support Vouchers,” Professor Michael L. Owens explained in his New York Times essaythey (vouchers) offer the only hope available to many poor students trapped in the nation’s worst schools. For a limited number of children, they may make a crucial difference. That possibility is enough for black parents to take a chance.”

Parents know what’s best for their children. Survey after survey show the majority of minority voters in America support school choice. For example, The Black Alliance for Educational Options poll in 2015 showed the majority of African-American voters surveyed support charter schools – Tennessee 67%, Louisiana 65%, New Jersey 65%, Alabama 54%. An American Federation for Children poll in 2016 shows 75 percent of Latinos support school choice.  

Betsy DeVos’ critics are the ones who are tone deaf to these voters’ plea for change. If they think their heckling, protesting, shouting, booing and shaming will force Secretary DeVos to change course, they do not know her at all. Betsy DeVos is the “iron” lady in America’s education field. She has given 30 years of her time to advocate for school choice. There’s no way she is changing course now. Her perseverance should be good news to all parents who want to choose the best education solution for their children.

During Wednesday’s commencement ceremony at the Bethune-Cookman University, “Iron” Betsy, as always, responded to hostility with grace. In her speech, she reminded the graduates that “one of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree…we will not solve the significant and real problems our country faces if we cannot bring ourselves to embrace a mind-set of grace.”

It helped that the school’s president, Edison O. Jackson, offered Secretary DeVos unequivocal support. He told the raucous students that “If this behavior continues, your degree will be mailed to you.” Thank you, President Jackson!

It’s unfortunate that education has become one of the most divisive issues in America. But we are fortunate to have an unwavering woman as our Secretary of Education who is here to help American parents and children onto a path of self-determination. Hats off to you, “Iron” Betsy!