At an American Enterprise Institute conference this week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, long known as a champion for school choice, vouchers, and other initiatives that piss off left-leaning teachers unions, said that Common Core was effectively finished at her department.
In a wide-ranging speech, DeVos said that it was crucial to learn the lessons of both the Obama and the Bush administrations to see what was and wasn’t working in the public education sector. While she praised both Republicans and Democrats for their “valiant efforts to improve education,” she lamented that “federal education reform efforts have not worked as hoped.”
“That’s not a point I make lightly or joyfully,” she said. “Yes, there have been some minor improvements in a few areas. But we’re far from where we need to be.”
DeVos said that while she wasn’t interested in maligning anyone or questioning their motives, she did have some questions about how it had all gone so terribly wrong.
“Why,” she asked, “after all the good intentions, the worthwhile goals, the wealth of expertise mustered, and the billions and billions of dollars spent, are students still unprepared?”
To that end, DeVos said, she was willing to criticize both the No Child Left Behind Program and Common Core as initiatives that had failed to live up to their preposterous billing.
“I agree — and have always agreed — with President Trump on this: ‘Common Core is a disaster,’” she said. “And at the U.S. Department of Education, Common Core is dead.”
But DeVos made it clear that Common Core was not a problem by way of its construction but rather by way of its provenance. And in this, she said, it had much in common with previous versions of federal education reform.
“Perhaps the lesson lies not in what made the approaches different, but in what made them the same: the federal government,” she said. “Both approaches had the same Washington ‘experts’ telling educators how to behave.”
If you could boil DeVos’s educational ideology down to its core elements, it would involve giving power back to local schools, teachers, and, ultimately, the parents themselves. “Getting the feds out” isn’t a cure-all for what ails our public schools, but we’re so far overbalanced towards Washington centralism that we desperately need a good dose of DeVos’s anti-federal approach.
Hell, at this point, we just need a different approach, period. Thankfully, Betsy DeVos isn’t afraid to take one.