Educators continue to sound the alarm on DeVos nomination for Secretary of Ed

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By Amanda Litvinov

The tide is rising against billionaire anti-public school crusader Betsy DeVos serving as the U.S. Secretary of Education–particularly following her following her awkward-at-best Senate hearing earlier this month.

Teachers and education support professionals have taken the lead in voicing their concerns and showing their opposition to her nomination. Educators across the country wore red on January 17 in protest. The same day, Sarah Vigrass, an NEA member working at a publicly funded online charter school, spoke at a press conference called by Senate Democratic leaders (pictured above).

California teacher Sarah Vigrass

“For the past ten years I have worked at California Virtual Academies, an online, publicly funded charter school. Our curriculum, technology, training, and management are provided by K12 Inc., a for profit education company. Betsy DeVos and her family were early investors in K12 Inc.,” Vigrass explained.

“What I have witnessed with my school has me deeply concerned about what an education department led by Betsy DeVos will mean for students,” Vigrass said. “The involvement of for-profit companies in public education is very problematic. Education should be focused solely on students—and their best interests. Schools like mine, however, are serving a second master, executives and shareholders who view kids not as tomorrow’s leaders and professionals but as today’s revenue. When shareholders are prioritized over the needs of our students, kids lose.”

DeVos’s Senate confirmation hearing later that day confirmed what Vigrass and other educators and parents have been saying: That DeVos’s lack of knowledge about public education and the needs of students and her support for voucher schemes and corporate charter schools make her a dangerous choice.

In their own words, here are other educators’ concerns:

I am a special education teacher in a Title I school in Oakland, California. Teachers here face a lack of support, resources, and basic supplies on a daily basis. Our students face many challenges, but they love to learn, and we love to teach. We are proud of the work that we do with students and families, so we will not let your lack of respect for public education discourage us, Ms. DeVos.  We will continue to organize and fight for the schools our students deserve.

–Bethany Meyer, special education teacher, California

 

I have been a public school teacher for the past 30 years. I have taught exclusively in low income, urban schools (average free lunch rate 98%) around the state. I know that for most of my students, whose parents work two or three minimum wage jobs, public education is their only hope. Their parents don’t have the ability to transport them to charter schools. Most of the charter schools in my area employ college graduates with little or no education experience, who generally last only one or two years in the classroom. I will not allow Betsy DeVos to destroy the public schools in my state!

–Dr. Carol Wilcox, teacher, Colorado

 

As an educational consultant, I have served hundreds of school districts. Without exception, voucher schools lag far behind our public schools in training, dedication, and service to children and families. Their facilities and staff are abysmal–old, and dilapidated for the facilities, and extremely young and inexperienced for the faculties and staff. I cannot support vouchers in any way–especially without constant vigilance. I oppose your appointment on these grounds.

–Jacquelyn Drummer, educational consultant, Wisconsin

 

I teach English in a public high school where more than 65% of students are military kids who have lived around the nation and the world. If you could witness the way these students come together and interact to enrich my class and enhance the vibrancy of our school through clubs, the arts, athletics, and community service, you would understand how a free, open education that accepts all students for the betterment of our nation truly operates. Your money cannot begin to match the value of such a transformational experience, and to think that your aim is to squeeze the life out of our public schools is unconscionable.

–Michael Struchen, high school English teacher, New York

 

I teach at a Title I elementary school that provides our students with some of the best teachers, methods, resources, and technology that any school–public or private–can offer. Nearly all of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and we have a significant English learner population. Ms. DeVos, your agenda regarding vouchers and privatizing our public school system is neither warranted nor wanted. Please visit our classrooms and educate yourself regarding the needs of our children. We serve children from extreme poverty, single parent or no parent homes, and those with special needs. Vouchers and charter schools will not change the circumstances that children come from and the challenges they bring with them to school. Privatization will only accomplish further depletion of public school funding.

–Julianna Mann, teacher, Alabama

 

Reader Comments

  1. My kids both went to private school until 5th and 6th grade and had difficulty throughout their years there. It wasn’t bad teaching and not for lack of trying but rather the resources were not there.
    Skip forward to the next year, we moved and they went to public school. HUGE difference!! They got all of the help they needed and the resources were amazing. They did much better and I felt such relief that public schools had the assistance they had.
    Betsy DeVos is rich and clueless and will make things so much worse for our education system. Oh, and special needs? She’ll say-who??

  2. Wearing red is not only not effective it’s weak and infantile. If we are going to survive the Trump administration and DeVos, then we need to be willing to act in a system that will make a much more impactful statement than wearing red where no one sees. Good gravy people! What next? A bake sale? Wake up! Ris up! Fight for our students, our communities and our profession! Now!

  3. We are trying to teach virtues and values to our students. We can’t do this with this group of greedy bigots in office. Ms. DeVos should not be in office because she is not qualified to do the job. Period.

  4. I am a public school teacher. I have 21 years of experience. NEA should spend its time and money to make sure Devos doesn’t get this position. The major problem here is that she and her rich elitist husband are worth nearly 5 billion dollars. And money talks in DC.

  5. How can we respect someone who is not educated on education? The vast majority of schools do educate students with less funding each and every year. Ms. Devon has backed Detroit charter schools, who many parents say that their children have been to 6-7 elementary schools in their elementary career. The charter schools are rate that 80% have failed to reach the state standards. Whole charter schools reject students with special need, children who has discipline records and students with low tests. Talk about failure! This failure to provide an education to all students, failure to be professional to teach all students and failure to give the next generation hope of a brighter future. Public Teaching is passion and
    profession not to be confused by a quick money grab and warehouse for children.

  6. MarineBob, I realize by your comments that you are a very bitter, uneducated racist. Your comment on no English no American Citizen is just racist. It’s clear you hate Obama. This argument about Obama’s deficit is without any merit. The deficit means nothing if you don’t improve the state of the country. Obama put millions of people back to work with his deficit. Bush pushed us into 2 unnecessary wars with his and created 0 jobs. Actually lost jobs. It seems that most republicans forgot, or should I say, choose to forget, that there was a president in between Clinton and Obama. After reading your comments I suggest that you stop, rewind, and educate yourself on America. This includes its values, its educational programs, and its political policies. Good luck to you and I hope that in the future you can conquer your personal demons. I truly believe that you will be a much happier person if you can get rid of all that hate inside of yourself.

    1. Perhaps what is really needed is for bleeding heart liberals to wake up and understand that if a person can not speak/understand English, they do not belong in a public school, funded by taxpayers. Why should hardworking tax payers have to educate people who will not take the initiative to learn the language of this nation on their own dime. As usual, a liberal rant confuses me: how does a comment that no English, no public school turn into a racist remark? Is there some connection between race and speaking English? You did make one correct comment. I do not like Obama, His waste of something like 8 trillion……8 .trillion…… dollars is disgraceful. His hate for the military and social engineering attempts demonstrate his hate for this nation. His farewell, look at how great things are speech really did cap it all. We are all so much better off that he is now just a foot note to history. I educated myself on this nation in the military, private Fortune company and the classroom, Unfortunately, few people have those three different perspectives and seem to not want to believe that the nation was in a tail spin with Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Schumers et al running around trying to have the federal government run everything

      1. MarineBob-these non English speaking students are children. Where do you expect them to learn English if not at school? Shame on you for wanting to deprive children of an education!

        1. Shame on me? NO……… shame on people who want taxpayers to teach people who are not citizens the language of this nation: English. Where do I expect them to learn English? Their parents pay tutors outside the public school system. Oh, wait, they don’t have money. Great, those are good people to have here, living off taxpayers.

          1. Mr. MarineBob,
            I would like to inquire about the ancestry of your family? What country did they IMMIGRATE to the United States from? Did they speak perfect English when they came to the United States? Did they ever attend public school? Did any of them, at any time, receive government money for any purpose (such as welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, Military pension, etc.?) Have you?
            You seem to be proud that you have formed your opinions from “three different perspectives” and feel that not many others have as much perspective as you. Have you ever felt persecuted by the government of your country? Have you ever been afraid to practice the religion of your choosing? Have you ever been denied the opportunity of a free, public education? Have you always had enough to eat? Has your home and country ever been bombed by people who don’t like you just because you are different from them? I think you are missing some “perspective” if you cannot answer “yes” to those questions.
            Perhaps something to think about…

      2. MarineBob – Tell me how you propose school age immigrant children learn the English language w/o exposure to it? Their parents may not be fluent. Whether it be public or private, isn’t ANY school the exact place where English speaking and understanding should be taught? Why are you assuming that these people lack the initiative to learn our language? They may be feeling shy in a new and unfamiliar environment. I find your comments nonsensical and reeking of intolerance.

          1. MarineBob – You and other shortsighted conservatives need to face facts. These children didn’t ask to be here, but they’re HERE and they aren’t going anywhere any time soon. So unless you want them to become a total drag on our system, they need to be educated so they can become contributing members to our society. If not, then go ahead and expand government power and waste billions of dollars creating a deportation force and a border wall. Conservatives don’t want to do either, spend what it takes to educate our young or spend what it takes to make our country impenetrable to illegals. It seems all you really want to do is complain about it!

            1. They won’t be a drag on the economy if they are deported and become a burden to their country of origin. Maybe we ought to send the bill for educating their citizens to them? All I want is my hard earned tax money to go to the legal citizens of this country. Not illegal aliens.

            2. MarineBob – What you want and what’s sensible and realistic are apparently two different animals. I think you can forget deporting the estimated one million undocumented children living in the U.S. w/o overburdening our resources and taxpayers in the effort. Billing their country of origin for educating them? That fantasy can go in the same file with Mexico paying for a border wall. Please check what’s in that pipe you AND your president-elect are smoking.

            3. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. You sir can’t put two coherent thoughts together. First all you liberals complain there is not enough money given to support schools. Obviously realizing it costs money to run schools. But now, you say it does not burden our system to educated illegal aliens. Please, in your own warped, bent, misunderstanding of reality, explain how that works? I guess it does not cost anything to educated those who are here illegally?

            4. MarineBob – I NEVER said it doesn’t cost money to educate children undocumented or otherwise but trying to deport them all will likely cost you MORE than if you just made them productive loyal citizens. Let’s get real here. We’re talking the removal of eleven million people minimum…the children plus their parents. This is a massive undertaking. The estimate is $15 billion for an impractical wall plus a deportation force cautiously estimated to cost an additional $400-600 billion dollars and take 20 years to accomplish their task. Who’s going to pay for all that? People like you? I’m really doubtful. We can’t even get the conservatives to approve funds for basic infrastructure improvements or public education. Mexico? Gimme a break. In the meantime, what are we as public educators supposed to do? Stand around and wait for a wall and a deportation force that will likely never materialize all the while refusing to educate these kids?

            5. Bingo! Finally. Yes, refuse to do what is not legal. Follow the law. Deport people who are here illegally. Which other laws should we ignore?

            6. MarineBob – Ok Bob, you keep on supporting the creation of a wall and a deportation force that bankrupts this country trying to uphold the law. I’ve got kids to teach. Btw. your own GOP lawmakers are deserting Trump on this project. I guess they’re ignoring the law. Or maybe, they can’t ignore reality.

  7. “When shareholders are prioritized over the needs of our students, kids lose.”

    This is more than ironic but very hypocritical of the NEA to point this out, leading the charge!

    Have you ever looked your very own handbook, NEA members??? (You need to order one if you don’t have one.) Look at resolution i-6 for “nuclear freeze/cessation.” Or i- 23 and see that the NEA “…believes that ALL nations SHOULD…” (Wouldn’t most of us believe that “ALL nations should” adopt our ways and believe the way “we” do???) There is even a “Drag Queen Caucus!” I am not really sure just what the NEA saw as the connection to these things any our PROFESSION, but there is a plethora of similarly UNrelated resolutions in the 400+ page handbook!

    Do resolutions help to bolster the NEA as a PROFESSIONAL organization???
    OR
    Is this proof positive that (regardless of any political leanings) the NEA is a POLITICAL association??? And to top it off …on YOUR dime???

    We need to speak up because the NEA is speaking for you!

  8. I am very sorry, teachers, but I am a retired Special Ed teacher, and I do support Betsy DeVos! What has anyone in that position done to better Public Education since the passage of The Special Education Law so many years ago? All the money that has been spent, and where is American Education today? I am ready for a new approach! I truly want to give her a chance!

    1. I too am a retired Special Education teacher and have serviced special needs students in both public education and charter school settings. Believe me the students in the public schools get a much better education. The public schools offer much more in terms of course offerings and integration with non-disabled peers. Public schools also offer students with special needs more actual minutes devoted to individual instruction based on needs.

      It was shocking how little Betsy DeVos knew about IDEA and the rights and processes it entails. in fact, she knew very little about public education in any context.

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