Several influential American Orthodox Jewish organizations have welcomed President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary in his administration, seeing it as a harbinger of major reform which will ease the high costs of private Jewish schooling.
Agudath Israel of America (AIA), an Orthodox leadership and policy organization, quickly praised DeVos, citing its personal experience with the billionaire activist for education reform.
“Agudath Israel has worked closely with Mrs. DeVos for many years, together with other organizations and legislators from both sides of the aisle, to give parents educational options for their children,” read the AIA’s statement, published in The Yeshiva World.
“Thanks to that effort, hundreds of thousands of children across the United States are receiving a quality education they couldn’t otherwise afford, including many students who choose to attend Jewish day schools.”
AIA’s national director of state relations, Rabbi A.D. Motzen, noted DeVos’s “passionate support for school choice”, or the supporting of private education with public, government funds.
Currently, American education policy cuts religious schools off from public funding due to the Constitutional separation of church and state. The exorbitant cost of private Jewish education, which most religious Jews consider a basic necessity for instilling Jewish values in a secular world, puts serious financial pressure on Jewish families. Day school tuition can cost up to $12,000 a year, while high school tuition is often double that number.
DeVos, as the leader of the pro-charter school American Federation for Children, supports an education model incorporating school choice which would see billions in federal money earmarked towards chartering independent schools and funding private school vouchers for less affluent students – including religious schools.
“Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families,” Trump said in his announcement of DeVos’s nomination on November 23.
Nathan Diament, executive director of the policy branch of the Orthodox Union, the largest Orthodox Jewish organization in the U.S., also hailed the announcement with satisfaction. Diament said the appointment signaled that Trump would keep a campaign promise which had made him “attractive” to Orthodox voters.
School choice, Diament told the Algemeiner, is the “number one kitchen-table domestic policy issue for the Orthodox community.”
Trump’s proposal of a $20 billion earmark for private education “has the potential to greatly assist the Jewish community with its affordability challenge,” he said.
Such a move would put more control in the parents’ hands, he argued. “The regulators of the schools should be the parents, the parents who care for their children.”