THE HILL - Betsy DeVos will empower Latino families, not bureaucrats

The Hill -  If Betsy DeVos were to have a conversation with every Latino in America, a majority of them would support her for U.S. Secretary of Education.

It’s not a far-fetched notion. According to a recent survey from Beck Research, a Democratic polling firm, 75 percent of likely Latino voters support the concept of school choice. Betsy DeVos is school choice, and school choice is the future of education.

School choice is an honest and respectful response to Latino families who have been—and continue to be—trapped in a failing public school system. Over the past 25 years, Mrs. DeVos has expressed jarring, but honest sentiments about the quality of public education. This candor is refreshing to many Latinos.

The Secretary of Education-designate doesn’t pretend to care about our poor children by making excuses on their behalf. She doesn't promote the soft bigotry of lowered expectations that insults our dignity. Instead, she has personally invested her time and treasure to raise our expectations and the quality of schools in our barrios.

As chairwoman of the American Federation for Children (AFC), Mrs. DeVos financially assisted numerous local organizations such as Hispanics for School Choice in Wisconsin. I founded Hispanics for School Choice in 2009 because even though there were over 5,000 Latino students thriving in the Milwaukee Parental School Choice Program, most Latino leaders didn’t want to upset the teacher’s union with their approval—this is still a problem.

But with the help of AFC, our group was successful in educating families and expanding their educational options. The most effective way to earn the respect of Latinos is to find them where they are and to tell them the truth. Mrs. DeVos has a track record of reaching out with straight talk and real dollars. Our community is worth the investment.

The verdict is still out as to whether the Latino electorate will ever become the political powerhouse most grassroots Latinos have been claiming is inevitable since 2008. According to Pew Research Center, at 44 percent, millennials (ages 18-34) are the largest voting bloc of eligible Latino voters, and the median age of an American born Latino is only nineteen years old (47 percent are under the age of eighteen).

It’s not a matter of if Latinos will ever come of political age but when Latinos actually come of political age. When that time arrives, Latino voters likely won't be as concerned with party affiliation and partisan rhetoric as much as they will be about what has been done for their families.

There are some well-intentioned people who think Mrs. DeVos is insensitive to the plight of poor families who they believe are “incapable” of making good educational choices on behalf of their children. They believe that only government run schools can provide the appropriate environment for the most needy. Those folks are free to put their trust in government, but they don’t have the right to force that monopoly on the majority of Latinos who support a school choice agenda.

Should Betsy DeVos be confirmed as Secretary of Education, she will earn the trust of Latino families by making sure parents are in control of their children’s future instead of Washington bureaucrats.

Zeus Rodriguez, founder of Hispanics for School Choice and former president of St. Anthony School in Milwaukee the largest K-12 Catholic School in the United States, is president of Education Matters—Latino.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

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