Donald Trump is going to make a great president. His style of big-thinking and bold leadership is exactly what our country needs. After endorsing him early in the election cycle, I had the opportunity to spend the past several months campaigning across the country for him. That experience bolstered what I knew to be true: Mr. Trump will not be boxed in by labels or narrow thinking that have become convention in Washington.
As transition teams prepare for the transfer of power in less than two months, there has been a great deal of speculation about who the President-elect will tap to fill his Cabinet. Here again Mr. Trump has not been shy to shrug off labels and put merit ahead of politics. Like millions of Americans who turned out to the polls, I am confident Mr. Trump will surround himself with the best people, even when they may not see eye-to-eye with him.
Education is an issue close to my heart, so it is particularly encouraging to see the good judgment in the selection of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. A champion of school choice and a staunch believer in local control, Ms. DeVos is the kind of education advocate and reformer who will provide the leadership our school systems need during a time of historic transformation. Her experience fighting for what’s best for our kids, not special interests, demonstrates she will not be bullied by teachers’ unions – or anyone else.
Like Mr. Trump, Ms. DeVos defies labels in her own right. Working in the education trenches for two decades, she has a hard-earned reputation for “telling it like it is.” Parents and teachers can be sure they will have a leader at the head of the federal Department of Education who says what she means and means what she says, and who will have the courage to stand up for what’s right in the face of the constantly shifting political currents in Washington. That’s exactly the kind of leadership families and educators deserve.
Ms. DeVos’ brand of independent thinking seems to have the punditry baffled – much like Mr. Trump’s outsider appeal confounded the establishment. Soon after the announcement of her appointment, the talking heads began to question whether Ms. DeVos is too “pro-Common Core.” Others asked whether her support for charter schools and voucher programs was too much. That is all pointless conjecture.
To start, the issue of high, comparable education standards has been resolved. States have adopted a more rigorous baseline of academic expectations. They continue to build on it and to implement what works best for their students. As Governor of Arizona, I oversaw implementation of tougher education standards. We continued to fine tune those learning goals and renamed them to make absolutely clear they were for Arizonians, by Arizonians.
Further making this a non-starter is the fact that Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act last year, which permanently replaces No Child Left Behind. The law prohibits the federal government from meddling in states’ standards and accountability systems. Mr. Trump has made clear he will ensure the law is implemented as written, and there is every reason to believe Ms. DeVos will execute the law as it was intended – to give full control to states and school districts.
Ms. DeVos’ own words demonstrate she understands it’s time to move on and that her leadership won’t be fenced in or dictated by more squabbling. “I do support high standards, strong accountability, and local control,” she said this month. “Above all, I believe every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education.”
On the issue of school choice, Ms. DeVos has dedicated her career to tearing down barriers that trapped students in failing schools. She has worked tirelessly to empower families to choose the path that is best for their child, so moms like her (and me) don’t have to settle for poor-performing schools. At the same time, she is committed to building up public schools so all students have access to a first-rate education, no matter where they live.
Ms. DeVos’ results-focused vision may be difficult to comprehend for the politicos in Washington, who seem more concerned with raising alarms than answering them. But it is exactly the kind of leadership our parents, students and teachers deserve. President-elect Trump pledged to empower everyday individuals to build a better life for themselves. His selection of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education makes clear he is willing to cast aside labels and Washington’s “business as usual” to make good on that promise.