Two Catholic Republican Senators are reportedly defecting from the rest of their conservative colleagues by stating their planned ‘No’ vote on confirming Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.
These Senators, Republicans Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, recently accepted funds from the National Education Association (NEA), a teachers’ union group.
Murkowski’s Office put out a statement explaining her ‘no’ vote, saying the Senator heard from “thousands of Alaskans” who were concerned about DeVos. Along with her, Collins voiced her fear that DeVos would devote all of her energy to vouchers and lacks an understanding of public schools and their governing regulations.
This is a strange and misguided decision for Senators who have raised and can continue to raise significantly more from conservative groups and private donors than the NEA contributed, provided they uphold conservative values. Paramount among these values is freedom of choice in education.
Catholics in particular are a driving force in the advancement of new educational institutions, forming charter and other private schools as well as homeschool co-ops. Collins and Murkowski, both of the Catholic faith, would hardly be shocked to find that in their own community, families often look outside public schools for the best education for their children.
In resisting Betsy DeVos’ confirmation, Murkowski and Collins are joining with the party that has been holding back educational advances that benefit poor children — all for a few thousand dollars and an “A grade” from the organization that gives Democrats millions to defend its agenda in the legislature.
Meanwhile, lay Catholics have been leading the charge to get the government out of the business of regulating the choices families make for their children’s education.
When Republican Senators fight for conservative causes — particularly those that increase choice and quality in a child’s education — conservative support will undoubtedly pour in for them in return. If NEA funding is withdrawn from these Senators after voting for DeVos, enthusiastic conservatives families would, without a doubt, happily make up the difference in the form of financial and political support.
Families know that public schools are underperforming, especially in low-income areas. Many of these schools deprive students of any moral education and it is no surprise that Catholic families are looking to Murkowski and Collins, as Catholic Senators, for help in fighting the regulations burdening alternative schooling options such as homeschool co-ops or vouchers for Catholic charter or private schools.
After such a momentous presidential election, where American Catholics resoundingly supported a candidate that favored school of choice, Murkowski and Collins would do well to give their defection second thoughts.