Former secretary of education Betsy DeVos on Wednesday said blowback against COVID-era school closures and "woke" teachers has given Republicans a "window of opportunity" to help parents seize control of their children’s education.
Speaking on Capitol Hill, DeVos urged Republicans to pass school choice legislation now that parents are "mad as hell" at public schools and searching for alternatives. The former secretary said students are being held "hostage" by powerful teachers’ unions that pushed for school closures and oversaw the "rise of critical race theory" and "radical gender theory" in curricula.
DeVos told the Washington Free Beacon that school choice is the only solution to the left’s grip on education, providing "relief" to parents who don’t want their children indoctrinated with woke concepts.
"Families in many cases are being subjected to a religion they don’t subscribe to," DeVos said. "The schools they are fleeing will need to either pay attention and make changes or serve families that decide they want to have that experience."
Teachers’ unions and their Democratic allies are in the hot seat after news broke in September about the negative effects of school closures on students’ academic performance. The Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed students’ average math and reading scores plummeted by several points.
DeVos delivered her remarks at a School Choice Caucus event alongside caucus co-chairs Rep. John Moolenaar (R., Mich.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.). She called on members of Congress to pass Scott’s Educational Choice for Children Act, which provides billions of dollars in tax credits for millions of students to attend the school of their choice. DeVos also prodded state leaders to follow Republican governor Doug Ducey’s lead in Arizona by passing universal school choice into law.
"Now is the time to strike," DeVos told the Free Beacon. "I suspect it won’t be too long before we see a universal provision advanced in Florida."
The Educational Choice for Children Act would provide $10 billion in annual tax credits, allowing around two million students access to the school of their choice. Scott has also introduced bills to pull federal funding from public schools that conceal students’ gender identity from parents and to stop the Biden administration from cutting off funding to some charter schools.
Scott told the Free Beacon the "silver lining" of the COVID-19 pandemic has been parents’ increased appetite for educational reform. More than two-thirds, he says, now back school choice. Scott also noted the issue is becoming more bipartisan. Pennsylvania’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro tepidly endorsed school choice this month, changes to his campaign website show. But that’s not the case in the nation’s capital, Scott quickly added.
"For more than a decade, I’ve worked to advance school choice because I know that if a student’s education is not limited by their zip code, they can achieve anything in our great land of opportunity," Scott told the Free Beacon. "Unfortunately, this is a bipartisan issue everywhere except Washington, D.C."
Seventy-five percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats support school choice, a Real Clear Opinion Research poll found in June. A majority of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian voters surveyed also backed school choice. Only 36 percent of voters said they backed teachers’ unions.