Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Chairman of the U. S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) had the task of holding hearings on the nomination of President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as U. S. Secretary of Education. As expected, the Betsy DeVos nomination quickly became a partisan brawl, with Democrats complaining loudly. Much of the mainstream media is condemning Senator Alexander because of their bias; I think Lamar Alexander deserves to be PRAISED.
If anyone doubts the efficacy of institutional knowledge, Senator Alexander’s performance more than amply demonstrated just what a useful tool institutional memory can be. Democratic senators groused they were only given five minutes each to question DeVos, with Alexander and the top Democrat on the committee, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, allowed an additional five minutes each. Alexander reminded his colleagues he was following the very same process used by the committee in holding hearings on Barack Obama’s nominees for Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan and John King. “”I’m trying to be fair,” Alexander explained. “We’re not going to treat a Republican nominee differently than we are going to treat a Democratic nominee.”
Not surprisingly, Democrats, who talk incessantly about fairness, ultimately cared little about fairness and ignored how they had done things while occupying the majority in the Senate. Despite repeated attempts by Democrat senators, Alexander, with Tennessee tenacity, held his ground and refused to budge.
Of course the thunder from the disgruntled left was to be expected. Democrats have complained DeVos never sent her own children to public schools; neither did Barack and Michelle Obama. In fact, most of those senators and congressmen with school age children probably don’t send their children to public schools if they reside in the nation’s Capitol. Of course those public officials who support the left’s vision of public education are always excused when they opt not to send their own children to public schools. Neither fair nor honest, but the truth and hypocrisy.
The Democrats snarl that DeVos spent millions of her own dollars to provide alternatives to failing public schools. Remember, the mantra of the left and the teachers’ union is there are no bad teachers and there are no failing schools, only failing communities. Therein lies the problem. For decades unions have formed one of the most powerful constituencies inside the Democratic Party and the teachers’ union has fought any and every effort to hold them more accountable. The unionists squall there is only one way to fix failing schools: raise taxes and spend more money. That has traditionally been their only fix for education throughout the ages and spending on schools has more than doubled over a short period of time while preparation rates remain abysmal.
Senate Democrats and the teachers’ union are deeply opposed to Betsy DeVos’s nomination precisely because of her commitment to lift children out of poverty and failing schools to provide them with an opportunity to do better. The unionists never fail to wrap themselves in the protective cloak of the children, attributing their motives as being in the best interest of the kids. There’s not a child in America who pays union dues.
Lamar Alexander is pretty well immune to attack from serious people on his record on education. Few people have had as varied and as impressive a resume as Alexander, who has served twice as governor of Tennessee, President of the University of Tennessee, and Secretary of Education. Alexander may also well have been the governor who presided over the biggest change in education in our state’s history. Alexander crafted the “Better Schools” program, which included the designation of “Master Teachers”, as well as the “Career Ladder.” Alexander’s program increased educational opportunities in math, science and computer skills in Tennessee’s classrooms. Tens of thousands of teachers have benefitted from the increased pay and supplements made possible through Alexander’s reforms, yet the greatest opposition to Alexander’s education program came from the teachers’ union. Lamar Alexander did more for public education in Tennessee than any teachers’ union member, dead or alive.
In the end, the fight over Betsy Devos’s nomination hasn’t a thing to do with qualifications; it’s about her support for alternatives like charter schools and vouchers, at least with the Democrats and certainly the unionists.
Lamar Alexander stood his ground and every Tennessean ought to be mighty proud of him; I know that I am.