I am enthusiastically endorsing Betsy DeVos to be our next secretary of education. DeVos has a real compassion for children and a proven record of championing reforms to improve literacy and learning in our nation. I am confident that she will provide the leadership we sorely need to raise the bar on education in America and provide better opportunities for our most vulnerable students.

For the past 25 years, I have worked to find solutions to the high illiteracy rate in America. This is one of the most significant problems contributing to the intractable nature of poverty in our country and we need more leaders like Betsy DeVos who understand the stakes involved. Sadly, there are 36 million adults in America today who are either functionally illiterate or have low literacy skills. We need to get serious about promoting proven solutions at the state level that put a premium on ensuring children are proficient readers by the third grade. Research shows that students who are not reading at grade level by the third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma. The economic consequences of poor reading skills will haunt these unfortunate children throughout their lives.

DeVos has helped pass reforms to drive gains in literacy. The Great Lakes Education Project she founded in Michigan was instrumental in passing a comprehensive reading law last year that provides extra tutoring to struggling students and other intervention strategies to ensure that kids are leaving third grade with the literacy skills they will need to succeed in later grades. Reading is truly the building block of a successful education and DeVos has fought hard to ensure that elected officials in her home state and across the nation are giving literacy its proper attention.

I also believe DeVos has the right priorities on important issues such as school choice, early childhood development and accountability in education. I have worked with DeVos’ advocacy organizations for years and I know that her commitment to children runs deep. She believes passionately that children should have access to high performing schools regardless of their race, income or zip code. That is why she has fought valiantly to give parents of at-risk children the right to send their kids to charter and private schools when the public school system is letting them down.

The problems in American education are complicated. There are no quick and easy one-size-fits-all fixes. Rather than trying to micromanage our schools with a top-down approach from Washington, D.C., Betsy DeVos will rely on the creative energies of the state laboratories of democracy. Sending more funding and authority over our schools back to the states will empower governors and reformers at the local level to experiment with innovative reforms that ensure our children are obtaining the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the modern economy while measuring on success each and every step of the way.

I believe DeVos is an educator at heart. She is a woman who has dedicated much of her adult life to fighting some really tough battles on behalf of our nation’s school children, including mentoring children for decades in her home state of Michigan. There are powerful forces in our education system that are resistant to change. DeVos has the courage to do the thing for parents and their children.

I know Betsy DeVos is the right woman to help usher in an era of education reforms that can drive significant improvement in student achievement. She has a big heart, a strong backbone and she wants to serve in Washington for only one reason; to make a difference in the lives of America’s school children. We need more people likeDeVos in our nation’s capital. She is the type of leader and reformer who can bring positive and lasting change to America’s classrooms.

Barbara Bush is the former first lady of the United States and the founder of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

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