A bit more on this important event. It will be interesting to see the landscape 4 years hence.
WSJ 2/9/2017 By Daniel Henninger
The extraordinary battle over Betsy De Vos’s nomination to be secretary of education is the defining event of the Trump presidency’s early days.
As presented, the DeVos confirmation appeared to be a standard partisan conflict between Democrats and Republicans, or in the conventional update, all that’s good and all that’s Trump.
But something deeper was at stake here, which is why the Democrats raised the nomination for a second-level cabinet post to a political apocalypse.
The person who introduced Mrs. DeVos at her confirmation hearing was former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, arguably the last of the unequivocal Democratic moderates. In the confirmation vote, every Democrat opposed Mrs. DeVos, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
The issue presumably at the center of this nomination fight is the future of the education of black children who live in urban neighborhoods.
During a strike in the 1930s, a miner’s wife wrote a song that became a Democratic anthem, “Which Side Are You On?” The question remains: Which side are you on?
A standard answer is that the interests of the Democrats and the teachers unions are conjoined. Still, many of us have wondered at the party’s massive resistance to publicschool alternatives and most reforms.
Beneath that resistance sits a grim reality: Many urban school systems are slowly dying. As with the decline of the industrial unions, the Democrats’ urban base of teachers is disappearing by attrition. The party is desperate to hold on to what’s left, and increasingly that includes its bedrock —black parents.
Enrollment in many urban schools has been declining for years. It’s down significantly in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and elsewhere. Falling alongside have been membership rolls in urban teachers unions, notably in Michigan and Wisconsin, two Trump pickups this election.
Families who could afford it have moved away. Many adult blacks stayed behind and, inexorably, the education of their children fell behind, a fact documented annually year after year. By the way, good public teachers got trapped, too. Some of the best lost heart and left, replaced by less able teachers, some grossly so.
For parents of children in the nation’s suburban public schools, none of this mattered much, so sustained political support for reform of city schools was never very deep. But in the cities, dissent rose.
The charter-school movement emerged first in Minnesota in 1991. Wisconsin passed the first school-choice legislation in 1989, authored by a Democratic black activist named Polly Williams. Some of us thought then that Polly Williams was the start of a new, bipartisan civil-rights movement. How naive we were.
The movement persisted. According to a 2016 study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, using state databases, these are the percentages of students now enrolled in public charters only: In now-famous Flint, Mich.: 53%. Kansas City: 40%; Philadelphia: 32%; the District of Columbia: 45%; Detroit: 53%.
In Louisiana, which essentially abandoned its failed central- administration model after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans charters are at 92%.
The steady migration of poor families to these alternatives is a historic saga of social transformation. It happened for two reasons: to escape public-school disorder and to give their kids a shot at learning.
This is one of greatest civilrights stories since the mid-1960s. And the Democratic Party’s role in it? About zero. Other than, as in the past two weeks, resistance.
In 2002, the Supreme Court, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s deciding vote, ruled that Cleveland’s (still successful) school voucher program was constitutional.
In 2013, the Obama Justice Department sought an injunction against Louisiana’s voucher system, arguing the alternative schools were . . . too black. By this logic, children are wards of the state first and the free sons and daughters of their parents second.
Let’s be clear. We are talking about the professional Democratic Party and their full-time adjuncts. Many Democrats, some as “wealthy” as Betsy De-Vos, abandoned the party’s hard-line resistance and supported charters and choice.
America’s inner cities are the foundation of the Democratic Party. Now, its urban political arm, the teachers unions, is shrinking. And its moral foundation of black parents is drifting away. Hillary Clinton explicitly promised more of the status quo. They didn’t turn out for her.
This relentless erosion of an unreformable party explains the rage over one woman, Betsy DeVos.
Some of the least attractive elements of this opposition reemerged, notably anti-Catholicism and anti-Christian bigotry. Stories cited as reason for opposition to Mrs. DeVos her support for “Christian schools.” It’s true. Those Christian and Catholic schools, supported by vouchers, have sent thousands of black and Hispanic kids on to college, the first in their families to make it that far.
Frederick Douglass, speaking in 1894 in Manassas, Va., said, “To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature.” That in 2016 this reality should be redefined in our politics as it was so clearly by the fight against Betsy DeVos is one for the history books.