Betsy Appleseed and School Choice

Paul E. Peterson
Year of publication: 
April 29, 2021
Education Next

Betsy DeVos must be quietly enjoying her retirement from public office. After resigning in protest against presidential actions during the closing days of the Trump Administration, she is beginning to see the fruits of her steady advocacy of school choice throughout her term in office. When she took office in 2017, public support for choice had been in the doldrums.Throughout the latter years of the Obama administration choice support drifted downward, as can be seen in the graph from EdChoice polling shown below. Indeed, support for the education savings account idea was dropping so rapidly in the survey, its designers altered the question in 2017 to make it more savings-account friendly, thereby giving it an artificial 19 percentage boost in its support level.

DeVos’s nomination as secretary of education hardly helped the choice cause. The battle in the Senate over her confirmation gave choice opponents an opportunity to mobilize public opinion against any policy that seemed to take money away from the public schools. Charter advocates began fighting among themselves, and the choice movement in general seemed in disarray at the very time it had access to the highest levels of the federal government. The capture of both the presidency and Congress by the Democratic party seemed to drive the final nail into the coffin. I discuss the state of the landscape in a report, “Toward Equitable School Choice,” issued as part of the Hoover Education Success Initiative.

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