Last week, President-elect Donald Trump announced American Federation for Children founder Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in his administration.
While DeVos was identified as a candidate weeks prior to the announcement, her nomination still surprised some due to her ties to groups that supported Common Core, close relationship with former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, and overall lack of experience being involved in public education.
The greatest divide in opinion, however, exists because of her support for school choice and her potential intention to use her new federal power to implement it on a national scale.
Though education never made it to a presidential debate stage, Trump’s education secretary pick is now highlighting yet again just how divided the nation is—this time on the issue of how to reform U.S. schools to finally make sure that no child is left behind, that every student succeeds, etcetera, etcetera.
There are many renowned individuals in the education community who believe that school choice and its champion DeVos are the best way to reform schools.
Education expert and Every Student Succeeds Act architect Lamar Alexander, for example, is praising DeVos’ appointment as an “excellent one.”
Failed presidential hopeful and former governor of Florida Jeb Bush, who has made a name for himself in the education reform world and during the presidential election as the only candidate to release a detailed, 10-page education plan, called DeVos an “outstanding pick."
Bush has worked closely with DeVos over the years and quickly made it publicly known he was happy to see her in the role of overseeing America’s education system in a federal capacity.
Many other supporters of school choice have come out and expressed support for DeVos—most of whom are Republican.
Democrats, on the other hand, are almost as disgusted by DeVos’ appointment as they are that President-elect Trump is the one given the power to appoint her.
Leaders of America’s largest teachers' unions have been perhaps some of the loudest vocal opponents thus far.
"Trump has chosen the most ideological, anti-public ed nominee since the creation of the Dept of Education,” said American Federations of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten.
National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia expressed similar criticism by saying “the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.”
Both the AFT and the NEA endorsed Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton early on.
Unfortunately, there was little opportunity for supporters of either candidate to find out more about their respective education plans as it was only mentioned fleetingly and—again—never was addressed on a debate stage.
Trump’s announcement in September of a $20 billion proposal to help make school choice a reality in every state went largely unchallenged.
Similarly, Clinton’s $2 billion to tackle the school-to-prison pipeline barely broke into the national conversation.
Thanks to the appointment of DeVos, the discussions and debates over what kind of reform is best to fix America’s broken education system are just happening now.
Only now is it becoming increasingly apparent that despite the lack of discussion during the election, this divided nation is also divided on school reform.
The difference? The decisions affect 74 million U.S. citizens who can't vote for themselves—America's children.
Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor