Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos is the agent of change voters demanded


Betsy DeVos speaks during her confirmation hearing for secretary of Education before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Jan. 17 in Washington.

This past fall millions of Americans sent a remarkable and irrefutable message in their vote. In electing a political outsider, a man whose résumé boasted none of the bureaucratic trappings typical of the Washington establishment, millions of everyday men and women bucked convention of the punditry and ruling class. Their message was clear: They expect blanket change and no institution, no matter how entrenched, is immune.

Congress recently began confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet appointments. Among those who testified was Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee to serve as the next U.S. secretary of Education. During her three-hour hearing, it was reassuring to hear our own Sen. Michael Bennet and many others on the committee reconfirm their support for a strong public school system that will work for all of our children. Therefore, I encourage Bennet to consider DeVos on merit and vision — not along lines of party dogma and half-truths.

DeVos is poised to take the helm of the country’s school system at a consequential time. In December 2015, Congress approved and President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act. Reversing years of consolidation of power in Washington, the law marks the first devolution of the federal government’s grip on education. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray deserve a great deal of credit for restoring ownership where it belongs — with state and local officials — and Trump has made the right choice in a leader to usher in a more accountable, state-driven system of education governance.

Her credentials and experience speak for themselves. She is a battle-tested education advocate and reformer who has spent nearly 30 years on the front lines fighting for children. A strong believer in parents and communities to make the right choices for their kids, her leadership has helped empower countless families — especially those from minority and low-income backgrounds — with greater choice. No child should be stuck in a chronically failing school, because, in her own words, every child deserves access to a quality education.

As chairman of the Senate HELP Committee Alexander noted during his opening statement, “Betsy DeVos is on our children’s side.”

If her hearing was any indication, DeVos is a political outsider who will undoubtedly shake up the bureaucracy in Washington for the better. Not surprisingly, that has many special-interest groups that have long embraced the status quo worried. They have mobilized their members to paint DeVos as a threat to public schools and even launched attacks on her character. But let’s not forget, this election was about taking the country in an entirely new direction. Their concern signals that Mr. Trump has picked a leader who will execute the change voters demanded.

As she noted in her confirmation hearing, Ms. DeVos is grounded in the conviction that public schools should be accountable to the families they serve, not to politicians, and she will give parents and teachers the voice they deserve. Instead of laundering local tax dollars through Washington only to return them with strings and conditions attached, she is guided by an awareness of the costly red tape imposed by layers of federal inefficiency. She has made clear she will encourage states to raise expectations for students and to hold all schools accountable to attaining those goals.

Americans demonstrated their frustration with Washington’s business-as-usual when they went to the polls in November. Trump has pledged to make government answer to those it serves. He has found a capable ally in Betsy DeVos. Members of Congress have an opportunity to show they too have heard their constituents by giving DeVos a quick and fair confirmation vote in the coming weeks.

State Sen. Owen Hill represents the citizens of Senate District 10 in El Paso County and he is chairman of the Senate Education Committee. He is also a founding member of the Conservative Leaders for Education coalition.