by Jeb Bush
She’ll make sure education dollars reach the classroom instead of getting wasted on bureaucrats.
With Republicans now controlling the governorships and legislatures in 25 states, the prospect for a conservative revolution is stronger than at any time in my lifetime. I am hopeful that Republicans in Washington will seize this opportunity to shift power and money back to the states, heeding the Tenth Amendment and fully harnessing the benefits of federalism. The state laboratories of government should have ample chance to innovate with scores of new ideas and policies to spark economic growth and improve education to lift people out of poverty and lift up the middle class.
With these goals in mind, I am especially heartened by President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Education. The choice of Betsy DeVos to spearhead education reform is inspired. Betsy will fight hard to remove the biggest barriers to improving student achievement in America and give millions of young people the opportunity to rise.
While the vast majority of K-12 spending is done by state and local governments, the bulging layers of bureaucracy that administer education policy are the direct result of federal overreach into our education system. As a result, too many education dollars are wasted on bureaucrats and administrators instead of being driven down into the classroom where they could make a bigger impact on learning.
Instead of defending and increasing Washington’s power, Betsy will cut federal red tape and be a passionate advocate for state and local control of schools. More importantly, she will empower parents with greater choices and a stronger voice over their children’s education. In the two decades that I have been actively involved in education reform, I have worked side-by-side with Betsy to promote school choice and put the interests of students first. I know her commitment to children, especially at-risk kids, is genuine and deep.
Given her longstanding support for school choice, it is not surprising that Betsy’s nomination has drawn strong opposition from teachers’ unions. While America is blessed with many great teachers who are motivated by doing the right thing for students, the unfortunate reality is that their union leadership is out of touch with reality and reflexively opposed to reforms that empower parents. Betsy has the courage to take on the entrenched special interests and stand strong for the president-elect’s proposal to dedicate a significant stream of federal funding to promote school choice in the states.
To the teachers’ unions and liberal naysayers who continue to reject the benefits of school choice and are trying to derail the DeVos nomination, I point to the example we established in Florida. During my first term as governor, we passed bold education reforms that held public schools accountable, set high standards and expanded parental choice, including establishing the first statewide voucher program in America. These reforms provided parents in failing schools, low-income parents and parents with children with learning disabilities with the right to use scholarships to attend high-performing public or private schools. We also tripled the number of charter schools during my eight years in office, making Florida the national leader in school choice. The unions fought us every step of the way, just as they will attempt now, but we fought back and succeeded in advancing our reforms. As a result, Florida has seen dramatic across-the-board gains in student achievement and our high school graduation rate has increased by 50%. Florida is one of the few states that is closing the achievement gap.
I believe Betsy Devos, working closely with America’s governors, can help usher in game-changing education reforms at the state and local level. There is no more committed advocate for school choice and the interests of parents and students. I am thrilled by her nomination and I urge the U.S. Senate to confirm her quickly so she can get about the important business of raising the bar on education in America and preparing our kids for success in college, their careers and in life.
Jeb Bush was the 43rd governor of Florida.