Would her critics be happier if she had spent her time and money trying to deny children from low-income families the choices of schools that wealthy families have instead of trying to help them?—Lamar Alexander

At Tuesday’s Senate education committee hearing on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said “Betsy DeVos is on our children’s side. On charter schools and school choice, she is in the mainstream of those trying to help children succeed and her critics are outside of it.”
Alexander, who was Education Secretary for President George H. W. Bush, said his last act as secretary in 1993 was to ask every U.S. school district to emulate the dozen charter schools started by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Since then, he said, broad, bipartisan support has increased that number to 6,800 charter schools, attended by 2.7 million children. He asked, “Who is in the mainstream on public charter schools? The Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama; the last six U.S. Education Secretaries, the U.S. Congress, 43 states and the District of Columbia, Betsy DeVos—or her critics?”
On school choice, Alexander said that the idea of allowing taxpayer money to follow students to educational institutions of their choice began with the GI Bill for Veterans in 1944 and has continued through federal Pell grants and student loans. He asked, “Why is an idea that has helped to create the best colleges in the world not a good idea to help create the best schools in the world?” Pointing to increasing support for giving low-income families more choices of accredited schools, public, private or religious, he asked: “Who is in the mainstream? Both Presidents Bush, the President-elect, 25 states, the U.S. Congress in the D.C. Voucher program, 45 U.S. Senators, 73 percent of Americans, Betsy DeVos, or her critics?”
Sen. Alexander said, “Would her critics be happier if she had spent her time and her money trying to deny children from low-income families the opportunity to attend schools that wealthy families can choose rather than trying to help them?”
“We are fortunate that Betsy DeVos is President-elect’s Trump nominee for U.S. Education Secretary, I am going to do my best to support her confirmation and look forward to working with her.”