Democrats are united against Betsy DeVos, Trump’s school-privatizing, private-school attending Secretary of Education. Democratic lawmakers and even a few Republicans resisted her appointment. But in the wake of their failed last stand against the heiress’ nomination it’s worth asking: What do Democrats want for education?
It is possible that Democrats wish for a return to President Obama’s longtime Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who looked to New Orleans’ massive post-Katrina shift to charter schools as a blueprint for public education, which was accompanied by the firing of nearly all of the cities’ union teachers. Or perhaps Democrats are looking towards blue states for a public school model, like the state of Delaware, where a combination of private and charter schools segregate the public system by both race and class.
The reality is, there is no comprehensive program on the left for change in public education. While it is important to resist the nomination of Betsy DeVos, resistance will only keep us in the same place we are now. The real task ahead is crafting a vision for US education—one that serves children of all backgrounds without undermining unions at the hands of the centrist privatizers of the world.
Right now, resistance to privatization and corporatization of education is the obvious imperative. But four years from now, will those who resisted have a vision for change, or will we still be hoping to preserve what’s left of the Obama-era status quo? The coming years are the time to build a vision forward so that we are not left relying on a leftover program from another era or trying to meet our conservative adversaries halfway. Building that vision will mean seriously addressing what skills children need to gain from schools, as well as what the very goals of our 100-year-old education system should be.