What makes Mrs. DeVos seem so threatening to the teachers’ unions and their political allies?
She has, for more than 20 years, been promoting programs, laws and policies that enable parents to choose which schools their children will attend — whether these are charter schools, voucher schools or parochial schools.
Some of these charter schools — especially those in the chain of the Success Academy schools and the chain of the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools — operate in low-income, minority neighborhoods in the inner-cities, and turn out graduates who can match the educational performances of students in affluent suburbs. What is even more remarkable, these charter schools are often housed in the very same buildings, in the very same ghettoes, where students in the regular public schools fail to learn even the basics in English or math.
You and I may think this is great. But, to the teachers’ unions, such charter schools are a major threat to their members’ jobs — and ultimately to the unions’ power or existence.
If parents have a choice of where to send their children, many of those parents are not likely to send them to failing public schools, when there are alternative schools available that equip those youngsters with an education that can open the way to a far better future for them.
Already there are tens of thousands of children on waiting lists to get into charter schools, just in New York alone. Those waiting lists are a clear threat to teachers’ unions, whose leaders think schools exist to provide guaranteed jobs for their members.
Mrs. DeVos has shown for more than 20 years that she thinks schools exist to educate children. One of the biggest complaints about her is that, unlike Secretaries of Education before her, she does not come out of the government’s education establishment. Considering what a miserable job that establishment has done, especially in inner-city schools, her independence is a plus.
Teachers’ unions have fought for years to prevent charter schools from being created. Now that such schools have been created, and there are now huge waiting lists, the teachers’ unions have gotten politicians to put a numerical cap on the number of such schools, regardless of how large the waiting lists are.