Skubick: Betsy DeVos a woman who can plan in the man's world

- Here's an angle on the Betsy DeVos story that none of the national folks are aware of: She played in the percussion section of her high school band.

What the heck does that have to do with being the next U.S. Secretary of Education?

Good question, but it reveals a significant peak into the kind of scrapper she will be as she tackles teachers unions and portions of the education establishment that is underwhelmed by President-elect Donald Trump's choice. "Her goal is to destroy the public school system," noted the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.

For you non-music majors out there, a female in a percussion section is not the norm. It is a macho, male-dominated club, and to survive, a female must possess a lot of drive, cannot give in and, if she takes and gives it back, she willl emerge prepared to deal with the real world where women face challenges men seldom confront.

The fiesty Ms. DeVos parlayed those lessons learned in the drum section and converted them into a resume that includes being one of a few female chairs of the Michigan Republican Party. And from that post she locked horns with one of the toughest governor's in Michigan history.

Back in the day, Ms. DeVos and her hubby, Dick, were pushing a statewide ballot proposal to legalize vouchers whereby state tax dollars are given to parent who can use the money to send their children to a public, private or religious school.

Recall that Michigan voters in the '70s placed a ban on state aid to religious schools, and here was the wealthy West Michigan family trying to undo what the electorate did.

GOP Governor John Engler may have been sympathetic to the concept but got into a very public and ugly exchange with Ms. DeVos.

He told her the ballot issue would flop. She would not budge as she stood toe-to-toe with the guy who had bullied others with great ease, but not Ms. DeVos. Mr. Engler turned out to be right, and she resigned the GOP chairmanship and faded from the scene. But she re-emerged as a driving force behind the charter school movement and spreading thousands of dollars around to House and Senate GOP like-minded lawmakers.

And that gave rise to another confrontation with another sitting GOP governor. The mild-manner, "I can't-stand-confrontation" Gov. Rick Snyder was a pushover for Ms. DeVos and company on the Detroit school rescue package.

Mr. Snyder, senate Republicans and Democrats, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Public school lobby all wanted to creat the Detroit Education Commisision (DEC) that would have had far-reaching authority over the opening and closing all all schools in the city including the charters which she backs. And they won round one in the senate.

But then the DeVos folks went into action in the House and methodically dismanlted the DEC, in effect beating the governor and all those other formitable opponents with ease.

When the dust settled the DEC was killed.

Fast forward to her impending emergence on the national stage. The appointment only served to underscore a fact about Ms. DeVos. There is no middle ground. Either you love her or you hate her and the flurry of news releases from both sides proved it.

"A great day for Michigan," gloated a Michigan charter school lobbyist.

Much "of her efforts over the years have done more to undermine public education than support students," lamented the head of the National Education Association.

Mr. Trump wants to shake up the status quo and he's found a woman who can play this game in the man's world. The opposition may bring a political knife to the fight, but she'll be there with her kettle drum. 

Let the music begin.


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