January 17, 2017
I often say education is the great equalizer. Equipped with a quality education, there’s nothing in life you can’t accomplish, if you’re committed to working hard and applying what you’ve learned.
The challenge we face as a nation is how to ensure that children from every rung of the economic ladder have access to a quality education. To date, despite an investment of hundreds of billions of dollars, we haven’t been able to achieve this goal. We’ve relied too heavily on a system that minimizes options for parents and sometimes emphasizes the protection of bureaucrats and special interests over the interests of students.
We need leaders with a compassion for students and families, a passion for innovation and a willingness to challenge the status quo when it isn’t serving our children well.
This is why I strongly support President-elect Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos to serve as America’s next Secretary of Education.
I first met Betsy DeVos more than 20 years ago, when I was serving as a Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the panel I later chaired.
A successful business leader and entrepreneur with a passion for education reform, Betsy was instrumental during my years working with legislators of both parties to establish and defend the first federal school choice initiative in America, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP).
Through the DCOSP, parents in Washington, D.C. have the chance to choose the best schools available for their children – a choice that has ultimately changed and improved many lives.
Establishing the DCOSP program was a priority for me as chairman of the House education committee. Protecting it from the unyielding attacks waged against it by proponents of the status quo was a priority for me during my subsequent years as House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader and Speaker.
A champion for education reform, Betsy DeVos stood with us every step of the way, working side by side with me and many other proponents of equal opportunity in education to ensure the program continued.
The DCOSP initiative has rattled the education bureaucracy both inside the Beltway and around the country. Threatened by its existence, opponents of school choice hoped it would fail. But instead it has changed lives, giving thousands of students who grew up within miles of the U.S. Capitol the opportunity to gain a high-quality education.
Many of the same forces that tried to abolish the DCOSP are now working to try to create opposition to Betsy DeVos’s nomination to lead the U.S. Department of Education. This is disappointing, but really comes as no surprise.
Giving our children a world-class education system requires that we keep pushing the envelope in terms of possibilities, in an ongoing effort to support what works and challenge what doesn’t.
Betsy DeVos understands the need for constant innovation in our education system. She knows that in order to ensure the next generation of Americans can compete and lead the world, we have to have an education system in which doors are open to continual improvement. And she has applied that knowledge with courage and conviction for years, personally leading major education reform initiatives in support of charter schools, school choice and other innovations that have opened new doors for students in her native Michigan and throughout the country.
Betsy also understands how to bring people together. She has a long track record of working with education reformers of all political stripes to advance policies that put the interests of parents and students first.
Our education system needs a leader who can bring together people who share those passions and rally them in support of innovative changes that will make a real difference in improving struggling schools, empowering parents, and raising student achievement.
With Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, our country is going to gain that type of leadership. I know she’ll serve as Education Secretary in the same manner in which she’s done everything since I’ve known her: with honor, grace, courage and compassion for those most in need of a hand up.
I congratulate President-elect Trump on his excellent choice in selecting Betsy to serve as our Secretary of Education, and hope she is quickly confirmed by the Senate. Our country needs her, and will benefit greatly from her service.