Politics & Policy

DeVos Critics’ Hypocrisy on Public Schools

Betsy DeVos testifies before her confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education (Reuters: Yuri Gripas)
School choice for me — but not for thee, or your kids

Today’s U.S. Senate vote on Betsy DeVos should be a nail-biter. Every Democrat and two stray Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — plan to oppose DeVos’s nomination for secretary of education. This probably will trigger a 50–50 tie, with Vice President Mike Pence splitting the difference and confirming DeVos. If only one more Republican defects, DeVos will not survive. The outcome is unpredictable.

What is sadly and maddeningly predictable is the stench-inducing hypocrisy of Democrats who attack DeVos as a creature of private schools — even as they and their children have attended and otherwise benefited from private education.

“The basic reason I’ll oppose her nomination is that I don’t think she is committed to public education,” Senator Robert Casey (D., Pa.) declared about DeVos. This could be easier to take from Casey, if he were the product of public education.

“Casey and his father are regarded as the most famous alumni of Scranton Preparatory School, a Catholic Jesuit preparatory day school in Pennsylvania,” the Daily Signal reported last month. “Casey’s daughters, Caroline Casey and Julia Madeline, also attended Scranton Prep.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) announced that “I have received thousands of letters, calls, and emails in opposition to her nomination, many of them citing the school voucher and privatization agenda Mrs. DeVos and her allies imposed in Michigan.” He also addressed government-education advocates in Providence in December. As WPRI reported, “The senator also questioned whether DeVos had ever entered a public school, drawing laughs from the supportive roundtable.”

While Whitehouse surely has entered a public school, he never studied in one until he had graduated from Yale and entered the University of Virginia Law School. Whitehouse is an alumnus of St. Paul’s School, a private boarding institution set on 2,000 bucolic acres in New Hampshire. Whitehouse’s daughter, Molly, studied at Providence’s Wheeler School. His son, Alexander, also attended a private boarding school, as the Daily Caller discovered.

Whitehouse explained on the Senate floor in 2012 that he sent his kids to private campuses so that he could give them “the best education that I can for them, and I felt that, in their circumstances, the places that I chose to send them were the best schools for them.”

Senator Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) rose last night to attack DeVos on the Senate floor.

“Mrs. DeVos has shown no evidence of her commitment to be the torchbearer for both excellence and equity,” Bennet complained. “And a commitment to competition without a commitment to equity would forsake our democratic ideal that a free, high-quality public education must open the doors of opportunity for all.”

But Bennet did not walk through those doors.

In fact, Bennet is a product of St. Albans, one of the most prestigious private schools in Washington, D.C. His daughter attended Denver’s Logan School for Creative Learning, an exclusive private institution of learning.

According to the Daily Signal, Senators Casey, Whitehouse, and Bennet “never attended public school.”

Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin of Illinois also will oppose DeVos today. “She is not committed to public education, which is our first obligation as a government,” Durbin told teachers unionists in Springfield on Saturday.

But during a March 2009 Senate debate on school choice in Washington, D.C., “Durbin, in turn, said he and his wife sent their kids out of the private system to get Catholic education,” Politico reported. Durbin, himself, attended Assumption Catholic High School in East Saint Louis, Ill.

“Our children and families deserve better than a secretary of education who would work to gut our public school system,” Senator Maggie Hassan (D., N.H.) told the New Hampshire School Administrators Association yesterday.

Too many Democrats ballyhoo the imploding government-school system for everyone else, especially poor black and Hispanic children, even as they and their spawn dive through the escape hatches onto private campuses.

Hassan’s husband, Tom, was a school administrator. He was principal of the almost stereotypically highbrow Philips Exeter Academy, the Platonic form of American private education. The Hassans’ daughter, Margaret, attended Exeter.

Too many Democrats ballyhoo the imploding government-school system for everyone else, especially poor black and Hispanic children, even as they and their spawn dive through the escape hatches onto private campuses. Ironically, multibillionaire education reformer Betsy DeVos favors private-school options available for low-income students in America’s ghettos and barrios. The fact that Senate Democrats are lined up unanimously to stop her — under orders of their teachers’-union owners — highlights the moral rot at the core of America’s so-called party of the little guy.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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