DeVos nomination confronts Democrats with grim reality: Urban black parents are opting out

by WorldTribune Staff, February 9, 2017

Still hurting mightily from the 2016 election, Democrats pulled out all the stops to derail the nomination of Besty Devos as secretary of education.

“The extraordinary battle over Betsy DeVos’s nomination … is the defining event of the Trump presidency’s early days,” Daniel Henninger wrote for the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 8.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. / AP

Every Democrat in the confirmation vote opposed DeVos, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie by voting in DeVos’s favor.

Henninger noted that “the interests of the Democrats and the teachers unions are conjoined. Still, many of us have wondered at the party’s massive resistance to public-school alternatives and most reforms.

“Beneath that resistance sits a grim reality: Many urban school systems are slowly dying. As with the decline of the industrial unions, the Democrats’ urban base of teachers is disappearing by attrition. The party is desperate to hold on to what’s left, and increasingly that includes its bedrock — black parents.”

Enrollment in urban schools is down significantly in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and other cities that have been under Democratic control for decades.

“Falling alongside have been membership rolls in urban teachers unions, notably in Michigan and Wisconsin, two Trump pickups this election,” Henninger wrote.

“Families who could afford it have moved away. Many adult blacks stayed behind and, inexorably, the education of their children fell behind, a fact documented annually year after year. By the way, good public teachers got trapped, too. Some of the best lost heart and left, replaced by less able teachers, some grossly so.”

Enter the charter school movement. According to a 2016 study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, using state databases, these are the percentages of students now enrolled in public charters only:

Flint, Michigan: 53 percent; Kansas City: 40 percent; Philadelphia: 32 percent; Washington, D.C.: 45 percent; Detroit: 53 percent.

In Louisiana, which essentially abandoned its failed central-administration model after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans charters are at 92 percent.

“The steady migration of poor families to these alternatives is a historic saga of social transformation,” Henninger wrote. “It happened for two reasons: to escape public-school disorder and to give their kids a shot at learning.

“This is one of greatest civil-rights stories since the mid-1960s. And the Democratic Party’s role in it? About zero. Other than, as in the past two weeks, resistance.”

Henninger continued: “America’s inner cities are the foundation of the Democratic Party. Now, its urban political arm, the teachers unions, is shrinking. And its moral foundation of black parents is drifting away. Hillary Clinton explicitly promised more of the status quo. They didn’t turn out for her.

“This relentless erosion of an unreformable party explains the rage over one woman, Betsy DeVos.”