Betsy DeVos spent her four years as… President Trump’s Secretary of Education buried under a mountain of criticism. A fighter for school choice, and therefore a lightning rod for educational institute attacks, which she went through at the hands of her adversaries, could fill an entire book.
This week she published her rebuttal. DeVos’ new book “Hostages No More: The Fight for Education Freedom and the Future of the American Child” is not just a look behind the curtain of the Trump administrationbut a complete rejection of the people and policies that haunted her while she was a part of it.
DeVos makes no bones about her agenda. “I’ve made a long journey — working in states for over thirty years promoting school choice, advising governors, and implementing reform — to come to Washington to advocate for a different approach: freedom,” she writes.
In front of DeVos, educational freedom means liberating our public schools from the unionized, zip code, government-run monopoly. “It means empowering families to choose how and where the education dollars already earmarked for their children are spent.”
Opposition to her fight for educational freedom came quickly and furiously.
“Elizabeth Warren was one of the coldest people I’ve ever met,” DeVos wrote about the… Democratic Senator from Massachusetts† Shortly after her nomination was announced, Warren sent her a sixteen pages letter” claiming she was completely unqualified for the job. After her confirmation hearing, Warren refused to shake her hand.
But DeVos loves to expose Warren’s hypocrisy. †[A] ten years earlier, in a book she’d co-authored with her daughter, Warren agreed. She correctly determined that the problem in American education was that parents with money already had school choice – by moving to a good school district. Meanwhile, middle- and lower-class families were trapped in bad schools.” DeVos goes on to quote Warren’s book: “Any policy that loosens the rock-solid relationship between location-location-location and school-school-school would destroy the need for parents to to pay too high a price for a house. … A well-designed voucher program would be a perfect fit for that.”
“In a complete turnaround,” writes DeVos, “when she had to win favor with the union bosses, Warren forgot about middle- and lower-class families trapped in failing schools. Warren had sent her child to a private school. She had exercised her choice, but she fought my nomination because I thought all parents should have the same choice.”
sen. Cory BookerDN.J, a former mayor of Newark, was another more personal disappointment to DeVos.
Before being sold to the unions and against school choice, Booker was a famously pro-school choice mayor of Newark before being elected to the Senate in 2012. “Cory and me [served] together on pro-school-choice organization boards through the 2000s,” says DeVos. They collaborated and supported each other in numerous reform efforts.
“Cory’s was a valuable voice for the school choice movement. He spoke on behalf of the Americans hurt by the current system. He was aggressive and direct about all the failed promises given to poor families,” DeVos wrote.
But when it came time to vote for DeVos for Trump’s cabinet, Booker fell in line with his party to vote “no.”
“I’ve been involved in politics for a long time. I know that a politician… let’s say, morally malleable,DeVos said. “But Cory’s betrayal ran deep. Not only did he turn his back on me, he turned his back on millions of children and counted on someone like him to do the right thing.”
DeVos details Booker’s union-friendly turnaround: “He never said my name. He just said that ‘the nominee’ had no obligation whatsoever to defend the rights of minority children, gay children and children with disabilities — literally all the same virtues he had attributed to the school choice movement [eight months earlier]† Even for Washington, it was a breathtaking turnaround.”
Above these and other “morally malleable” politicians looms the all-powerful teacher unions, portraying DeVos as one of, if not the most powerful special interest group in Democratic politics, perhaps even America. “For me [Cory’s ‘no’ vote] was the personification of what happens when a party is controlled by a special interest group… I was disappointed and hurt by Cory’s actions, but I wasn’t surprised. He was running for the Democratic Party nomination for 2020. He couldn’t betray the well-funded, well-organized advocacy groups who held his political future in the palm of their hands—and held our children hostages to themselves—interested cause.”
The unions are also holding some Republicans in the palm of their hands.
DeVos tells the story of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, de Republican Senator from Alaska who faced a Tea Party challenger in her re-election bid in 2010. To avert him, teacher unions threw their weight behind Murkowski. The Tea Party candidate won the primary, but Murkowski won the general election with help from the unions. They backed her again in 2016, and in 2017, Murkowski was one of two Republicans to oppose DeVos’ nomination.
After her confirmation, DeVos traveled to Alaska at the invitation of Murkowski, but was resurrected there.
“I had hoped that a trip to Alaska might spark some goodwill in Senator Murkowski. But from the start, her staff tried to control my travel schedule by pushing traditional public schools and union offices,” she recalls. “In the end, despite her invitation, Senator Murkowski didn’t seem to really want me in Alaska. She didn’t even show up for a visit she arranged for both of us at a school at Eielson Air Force Base, in Fairbanks. Her staff said she was still in Anchorage because her flight was delayed by ash from volcanic activity that limited visibility around Denali Sorry they said she couldn’t be with me But a few hours later Murkowski was spotted at the airport in Fairbanks on her way to a place to get out of the state. She’d been in town the whole time.”
DeVos spends many pages of her book describing what she believes union-controlled politicians enable and support: falling test scores, inflated budgets, excessive bureaucrats, and toxic curricula. In the past two years, as millions of children suffered lengthy and unnecessary school closures, DeVos believes parents have woken up to this grim reality.
For those still asleep, “Hostages No More” is meant to be the wake-up call.