Republican educators say DeVos nomination for Secretary of Ed violates GOP values

55 comments

By Amanda Litvinov

Take Action ›

Tell Your Senators: Vote NO on Betsy DeVos for Ed Secretary Click here ›

Cathy Boote, a retired middle school art teacher from Holland, Michigan, has more than a passing familiarity with Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education.

Boote can see the DeVos family’s summer home from her own back patio. She knows people who grew up with Betsy DeVos, and they were both raised in different branches of the same church. Although the two women are both Republicans, their values and beliefs around education are sharply divided.

Cathy Boote

“Betsy DeVos is trying to change the entire premise of education in America,” said Boote, who taught for 37 years. “Her ultimate goal is to move along the message that using public dollars for private schools is not a problem.”

For educators like Boote, the idea of draining taxpayer money from public schools to pay for private school vouchers or for-profit charters goes against their Republican values of fiscal and social responsibility.

The DeVos family has spent upward of $10 million in lobbying for voucher programs across the country. Betsy DeVos serves as chairman of the American Federation for Children, the largest organization in the United States promoting vouchers, corporate tax credits and other school choice programs.

“We have to ask: What does that do to a community? When all the kids in the neighborhood go to different schools and their parents don’t meet each other through school events and activities? It divides communities rather than pulling them together,” Boote said.

David Kinsella

David Kinsella, a high school special education teacher in Prince William County, Virginia, and Vice Chair of the NEA Republican Educator Caucus, is not surprised that DeVos is out of touch with the role that neighborhood schools play in most people’s lives.

“She has never attended a public school, nor did she send her children to public schools, nor has she ever worked in one,” said Kinsella. “That’s a huge concern. And it should concern everyone, no matter their political affiliation.”

“DeVos talks about ‘school choice’ as if it’s a positive thing—on the surface, choice doesn’t sound bad,” Kinsella said. “But make no mistake, it’s a smokescreen masking a privatization agenda.”

Nearly a million educators, of all political allegiances, have spoken out against the DeVos nomination by making calls and writing letters to their Senators.

E-Ben Grisby

One of them is E-Ben Grisby, a special education teacher in Green Bay, Wisconsin, who is also a Republican.

“It angered me that she could be in charge of a federal education office and not even understand a law that is there to protect some of our most vulnerable students,” Grisby said, referring to DeVos’s inability to answer questions about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) during her Senate confirmation hearing.

“How would she deal with equity and accessibility for students—or are those just non-issues to her?” Grisby wonders.

He encourages all educators, regardless of political affiliation, to question her nomination.

“The issue of who should serve as our next Secretary of Education goes beyond politics, this is about ethics,” said Grisby.

“Is it ethical to put someone in charge who has no idea how public schools operate and what we need for our students? Just because you question her appointment, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a good Republican.”

David Kinsella takes it a step further.

“The president should have long list of candidates who are highly qualified. I don’t understand how Betsy DeVos was picked—I hate to think it’s because of her political donations, but it’s hard not to suspect that her immense wealth has played a role here.”

“For me the bottom line is that all students, including special education students, deserve to have their needs met in their public school, Kinsella said.

“I’m hearing our potential Secretary of Education pushing a privatization and pro-charter agenda; I’m not hearing anything about meeting the needs of students like mine. If you’re diverting funds away from public schools, students with special needs will be the first ones to lose.”

Reader Comments

  1. Not sure that those who are paying for there kids to go to a private school and taking some of the burden off the cost off the public schools should be having their tax payer dollors going to pay for everyone elses children also. It just a flip of the coin.

  2. As an AARP recently graduated from a State university I can tell you the young people there are working hard on a future. They are smart, hard-working, talented people, we should honor how they need to work a full-time job to get through full time college. At the end of it they will still face debt. As a sincere believer in people we have to take out all political leanings out of this argument as they are a distraction. Think about the personality of Trump. We have all met people like him, people that put other people down, shout their way through an argument without a good point to make and flatter others to get their own way. This man is not a leader, he is not presenting good leaders and we need to keep telling that to anyone who will listen. This is about justice, truth and the American way, really, it is, we are fighting for a morality all of us share, people matter more than money.

  3. I quake at the thought of Betsey DeVos being in charge of the nation’s department that impacts education from kindergarten to colleges and universities and beyond. Public education is the bedrock, the leveling-field for a democratic society, and she has not demonstrated a concrete knowledge to enable her to lead this department!! I listened carefully to how she answered questions from the committee interviewing her. In many cases, she had no idea about what was being asked

    Senators should vote NO on her confirmation as Secretary of Education.

  4. Ms Devos advocates charter schools (as does Ted Cruz).
    As the former principal of a high school run by a religious movement (Fethullah Gulen) which has 130 charter schools in the United States, 45 in Texas alone, and a total of about 1000 all over the world I can personally testify to the following. And I only worked there for one school year!
    Robert Amsterdam has recently brought charges against Fethullah Gulen in Pennsylvania for human rights violations. At the moment the case is on hold for procedural reasons.
    Is this what we want for our children?
    • The school was very secretive about its association with the XXX movement. I only discovered who I was really working for by chance. I later talked to a man who was sued for libel when he publically stated that the association which founded my school was a XXX group. He lost the court case and had to a pay a fine. The school now publically admits that it is a XXX school. That means the association, which runs a kindergarten and a high school, lied to the court.
    • The school proselytized, particularly among students who were boarding. In public the school emphasized that it was secular.
    • The schools are generally run by men. Women only have a chance if no man can be certified by the government. Women are fired if males are available. I was the only teacher who applied at the time the school I worked in was founded who had state teaching credentials and could serve as the principal during accreditation proceedings. I talked to another principal who was demoted to the classroom when a male replacement was found.
    • The association which founded the school curries the favor of politicians. Did it deliver the votes of the 600 male members and their wives?
    • I was told that the divorce rate among members of the association was very high because young women no longer know how to cook.
    • I was told by a board member that his marriage had been arranged according to the customs of the group. He only saw his wife once before the marriage.
    • I was told that the educational principles of the group involve “kind” mentors and “mean” mentors. Is this a means of psychological conditioning to enable brainwashing?
    • Highly discriminatory remarks were made about homosexuals. (Homosexuality is the punishment for being a child molester or a murderer. No matter how rejecting or accepting you are this is a blatant lie.)
    • I was told that the kindergarten was putting in partitions so that the children could receive individual lessons in small rooms. Does this mean indoctrination of selected children? I was shown a video of a 3-year old singing a foreign national anthem at an event.
    • My colleagues and I were constantly threatened with dismissal for not being available day and night, for defending colleagues who had committed a “transgression” or for doing anything the business manager did not like.
    • We did not receive all the benefits promised to us in our contracts. Our salary was always late, sometimes up to 21 days.
    • At a meeting with a government official I was forbidden to open my mouth when asked a question until the business manager nodded at me.
    • The bookkeeping was very informal. Receipts were not kept. Large sums of cash passed hands, including salaries.
    • The business manager visited every parent of every pupil to solicit donations.
    • The website could only be described as fraudulent. I was not able to convince the business manager to change it. (Long after I left it was finally changed, again with misleading elements.)
    • All the colleagues were “offered” the chance to go to on a trip to a foreign country where most of the association members came from. We had to pay an outrageous price ourselves. I excused myself and was reminded of my “misdemeanor” for the rest of the school year. A colleague who did go told me “It was pure PR.”
    • The association which founded the school provides sleeping facilities for visitors on site so members can travel among sister associations leaving no traceable trail. During the year students were offered a chance to travel to another association.
    • A tutor at another facility told me she had to wear a coat while teaching so as not to arouse the 5th and 6th grade boys in her care. She was not allowed to use good teaching methods. (!!!)
    • A sister school hired a man as a principal who had been removed from his post at a public school for an affair with a student teacher. She had been given a reprimand for starting an exchange program (as the principal) which is the first step in firing someone.
    • I was not allowed to be present at interviews to hire new teachers even though I was the principal. There were internal criteria for hiring new staff that I was not allowed to know about.
    • For several weeks no phone calls reached me in the principal’s office. All calls were rerouted to the business manager who was travelling abroad at the time. He then called me and told me to call whoever. This went on until the government officials in charge of accreditation said it was not acceptable.
    • Two books were removed from the school library despite my protests, one about Charles Darwin and one by a well-known author with a less fundamentalist approach to religion than the business manager ascribed to.

    I could continue, but I hope this will convince you that the movement is not a movement that any of us want founding and running schools in the United States.

    1. I can understand why you only stayed a year! We need to prevent the deteriation of our schools! It’s bad enough that teachers pay averages below minimum wage when hours home are calculated in with hours at the school. Common Core isn’t age appropriate. Expectations of teachers & students are insane. There’s so much that needs to be fixed. DeVos will just ADD to the problems!

  5. I have worked and volunteered in public education for almost 30 years. I had a son in a wheelchair with an IQ of 140 who went through the public schools. I had 2 other children who went through the public schools, and all 3 tested into a specialty high school. All 3 attended college.

    I do not have a problem with a voucher system for private schools, so long as the parents given the vouchers have paid their taxes, but the private schools must be subject to all of the federal/state/local mandates. Vouchers would, in essence, equate to federal/state/local funding should we institute them.

    1. I agree with you, which is why I oppose vouchers. I send my children to a Catholic School. It’s in the best interest of the school to comply with educational requirements, and it does. However, once tax money is funneled in, the school is beholden to all of the rules and regulations that I believe are destroying local control and hurting public education.

    2. Take a look at what Devo$ managed to do to Michigan’s charter schools: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/12/08/a-sobering-look-at-what-betsy-devos-did-to-education-in-michigan-and-what-she-might-do-as-secretary-of-education/?utm_term=.eea941e1030f I for one am tired of paying for two systems in education. That’s no arena to foster competition. And in Michigan, I noted that those young people getting out of college don’t go to charter schools for jobs. No, they only go there if they can’t get one in the public school system. As soon as something becomes available, they’re gone. And has anyone questioned this voucher system going to private schools? Does that include religious schools?

  6. You wouldn’t nominate someone as health director if their only experiences personally were with alternative medicine options. Sure chiropractic, acupuncture, reike, etc are a personal choice that is the financial responsibility of the patient the same as private schools.. Betsy DeVoss is unqualified there should be no debate.. she has an agenda and an ax to grind. Her nomination is strictly about donating to the Tump campaign.

  7. Brenda, I’m glad that you are able to send your children to the school of your choice. However, I do not believe that taxpayers should be paying for children to go to private or religious schools. That is a freedom of religion choice that you have made for your children in this democracy. Remember, not everyone can afford to send their children to a private school. Public schools need everyone’s support. If we are going to understand and respect our fellow Americans we need to get to know them. As a public school teacher of 35 years in a district that has a very diverse population, I marveled every day how students from every possible background, religion, color, etc. learned to appreciate and respect each other. Our country is very diverse, and this is what makes it great. If we don’t get to know our neighbors, and only keep to “our” kind, we all our missing out on a chance to heal the hatred and bigotry that continues to divide. Betsey DeVos does not have the background of a public education. She didn’t go to public schools. She didn’t teach in public schools. How can she possibly understand how great our American schools are and can be if she is only an “arm chair” expert. To be the next Secretary of Education one has to have the desire to help our public schools, not degrade them.
    We live in a democracy where every child deserves a great education. As a progressive society, we should have the best public schools in the world. By diverting tax payer money to private and religious schools, or privatization of “public schools”, we will further divide the country.
    We really need to get this right. Betsy DeVos is a very poor choice for Secretary of Education. I know we can do better. President Trump, I understand you think you are listening to the “top” people in this instance, but this candidate and her ideas will only make things worse. You promised to unite the country. Listen to the parents, students, and educators that are in the classrooms every day. They are the experts you need to consult.

    1. Absolutely!!! I, too, am a retired teacher. (28 1/2yrs) I’ve studied two years in the University of the Philippines & I’ve been in classrooms in foreign countries, as well as taught all levels. I’ve taught in the public & private schools. I have two master degrees. I am MUCH MORE qualified than Betsy DeVow. I’m just not wealthy!!!’n

  8. When the candidate for this vitally important cabinet position doesn’t know what IDEA stands for, she needs to go back to “public schools 101”.
    Her lack of knowledge makes Betsy DeVos eminently unqualified for this cabinet role!

    1. DeVos is a typical example of “pay for play”. She has donated a great deal of money to the Republican party and in return trump has selected her for this position. She is harmfully unqualified and it is obvious that she fits this “pay for play” scheme.
      By the way Lemar Alexander, the chair of this committee is the original founder of privatizing eduction under the Reagan Presidency. He has, in his position of chairman, denied a second round of questioning when it was proved that this was allowed under the Obama nomination for Ed. Sec. To try to push this nomination through is sinful because she will do great harm to public education in this country.
      Privatization is only a way to make a profit off the education of our children. When this happens then we see all kinds of graft coming to the surface. There is no place for profit in our education system. It isn not a business and profits are not part of the equation.

  9. This country realized the necessity of a strong public school system in which all children are educated. If parents wish to send their children to a private school they are free to do so. However, tax dollars should not be used to fund private schools.

    We need someone to head the Department of Education who has the qualifications to do so.

  10. What qualifies her to be in this position? That is a basic question for any job interview. I’m a 20 year educator in a Title I school, and spent 10 years working for a Fortune 500 company prior to that. It almost sounds like she has never set foot in a public school. Private companies are also held accountable to their shareholders which, in the voucher world, should be taxpayers. It was clear in the hearing that she has very little basic knowledge of the job she is up for. She has very little knowledge of the challenges, successes, and issues in schools. What does she really bring to the table? We need someone who is knowledgeable and ready to go now. I’m so very disappointed that advisors to our President considered her qualified for the job.

  11. DeVos’s nomination, and the movement to privatize so much of our social services, is an example of the clash of ideas of what government is for. I, and many voters, believe that taxes we pay for public education are for the good of all citizens, not just parents, not even just for students. Public education is intended to ensure that voters can read and think critically, that all adults will have the mathematical tools to make good economic decisions, that the nation will raise and educate competent and knowledgable doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, business owners, scientists, as well as carpenters, engineers bus drivers, waitresses, laborers, parents and neighbors. Education — as health should be — is a NOT FOR PROFIT enterprise, devoted to the common good of the society. We did not get a chance to debate this issue in the campaign. Let’s not let it get obscured in the process of setting up this new administration.

  12. Finally….. the D’s & some establishment R’s are becoming alarmed about the basic fact that there is no constitutionally enumerated authority whatever for federal intervention in public education, but they have claimed that power for so long that they have to deal with the “foo on the other shut”…. If someone believes that to be a false assertion, please cite the Article and Section wherein such authority is granted… Do not come up with this stuff… “Well, in Smith v Jones in 1937…” …. You will only be affirming Jefferson’s prophecy that the SCOTUS would eventually twist words and squeeze meanings to the point of the destruction of the US Constitution…….. With that being said, having experienced a total of 48 years in public education, the opinion is here expressed that this voucher stuff is a trial lawyer’s dream if nothing else…

    1. ” the SCOTUS would eventually twist words and squeeze meanings
      to the point of the destruction of the US Constitution”

      By saying that Jefferson meant his rural/regional dream of America whould lose in the hands of the SCOTUS that was charged with making the US Constitution a living document for a living nation. He was right — he did lose.

      To deny SCOTUS the right to interpret and reinterpret the US Constitution as understanding grows, and the lives of the nation’s people change, is an assault on the literal words of that Constitution.

  13. DeVos lost me with the comment that schools might need guns to protect against bears. Well, that and the fact that her family has donated tens of millions of dollars, if not, hundreds of millions, to the GOP. She has BOUGHT her nomination, no doubt.

    1. Your ignorance of Bernie Sanders, economics, and the role of government and the commons in a democratic society is striking in your smart-aleck comments. We all have a responsibility to continue informing ourselves even when a formal education is unavailable. Why did you stop? Clearly you have some work to do.

  14. The contents of any New England seafood chowder are more qualified than the DeVos woman to be secretary of Education. I say that as a 10th and 12th generation Yankee WASP, 6th generation college graduate (Yale, Vermont, Middlebury, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton) 4th generation holder of graduate degrees (MA, Ph.D.) and lifelong student and educator. The DeVos woman’s candidacy is proof enough to me that the civilians on Trump’s cabinet list were chosen for him by the Koch brothers and ALEC. Clap the lot of them in Prison and let them back out on Judgement Day, which they apparently believe in currently en route.

    1. WOW!… Be still, my beating heart!… Dr. L… Your resume is so magnificent… Your opinions must be indubitably infallible… Oh!, me?… I’m just a feeble old man who is trying to master the English language… By the way, I mess up stuff all the time, but you might check your post for what I think they call a little type-o, or typo or something like that…

    2. Hey Doc, PhD, did you ever get educated in how this nation has laws? How people work hard and get rich? How morons like Bernie S want to give away everyone else’s money? Seems like you got more degrees than a thermometer. Quite an impressive list of colleges you got there too. Anyone in your 10 and 12 generation WASP family ever work at a for profit enterprise?

      1. You’re missing the point. It’s not about profit vs. nonprofit. It’s about fulfiiing the intent of IDEA. If you want, here’s an economic spin: Your tax dollars are going to send your brightest students out of your community to be educated in the private sector who then will never return to contribute as citizens in your community. You know why? It’s because the community will be comprised of the families who didn’t have the means to make up the difference in tuition, didn’t have dependable transportation to travel to and from private school everyday, or were rejected by the private school because the student has a learning disability, mental health issues, or is medically fragile. Forget expanding the local economy in these communities. Here’s the irony, it’s because you sent your tax dollars to for profit organizations in another community instead of investing in your own.

        This message is brought to you by the nonprofit organization of Get Your Head Out of Your Ass.

      2. Your ignorance of Bernie Sanders, economics, and the role of government and the commons in a democratic society is striking in your smart-aleck comments. We all have a responsibility to continue informing ourselves even when a formal education is unavailable. Why did you stop? Clearly you have some work to do.

        1. I would have to say that anyone who think Sanders is rational, has some issues. When ever anyone says ‘free’, you must immediate become a cynic and skeptical. Nothing is free, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Are there teachers in college who will teach for free? Free heat and utilities for the free building? Free books? Why isn’t he honest and say something like: tax payer funded college, free to those who want to take tax payer money? How about those who do not graduate? What about the 25-30% who enter college unprepared and need reading and math remediation? No such thing as free anything.

          1. MarineBob- unfortunately I believe that is EXACTLY WHAT they are being taught in college. Have you talked to anyone attending college lately? These confused “children” are so politically correct that it is nauseating. There isn’t a thought of their own in their heads… However, there IS a reason for it. It ISN’T just because they are being fed all of this left wing crap ( they are- but it’s more than that) . In their lives they don’t see any way that they will be able to, Buy a house. AND have a family AND pay back their student loans….they are working 3 part time jobs!! ( not THEIR fault- they need hours AND insurance) AND they are carrying a full class schedule… They CAN’T even imagine what it would be like to have a family with a stay at home parent… THAT is because OUR GOVERNMENT GOT GREEDY.. And WE let them STAY and line their pockets… THEY ALL HAVE RETIREMENT and decent healthcare… Politicians.. Our future doesn’t see ANYTHING positive. I understand why.

            1. All levels of legislators need to be subject to term limits, moronic voters of this country complain about decisions politicians makes then keep reelecting them. that would fix the politician problem, oh and, there should not be pay for political offices. That would quickly fix the too many term problem. And no one who serves in a public office should be allowed to become a lobbyist.

              As far as the college problem and loans etc. I sincerely doubt that many engineer/math/science majors are having problems with finding good paying jobs. Loans need to be tied to major: no job prospect, no loan. However, once you sing up for a loan, you own it. Not the tax payers.

              Apparently today’s college students are subject to continuous liberal ‘kool aid’. Too bad

      3. Marine Bob – Mrs. DeVos did not work for anything; she inherited wealth and married up. Like former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Senator sanders believes the wealthy should pay their fair share for the common good of this country as they did when the Interstate Highway system was built. The upper brackets were taxed at 90% then under that great American patriot.

      4. It’s a quirk of human nature that the guy who makes the most thoughtless, most ignorant, most unkind, most aggressive and least useful comment in a discussion fixates the attention of our responses.

        We humans are a very strange species.

  15. We all pay taxes for our schools. If I want to send my child to my church K-12 school then I think it should be my choice as a parent to send my child there. That’s just my opinion. Thanks for inviting different views.

    1. Brenda… You can send your child to that school now… The feds have no authority to mess with it one way or another… They certainly have no authority to use someone else’s $ to pay for it…

    2. I attended all public schools/college and taught in a public school. We did send our children to a Catholic School and would NEVER, EVER think that the tuition for these schools was not our responsibility. It was our choice and we were glad we did it, but did not think our taxes would be to pay for this education. There is a separation of church and state for a reason.

    3. Sure, send them there, but at your own expense. Private schools aren’t held to the same mandates as public schools in regard to standardized testing, special education, teacher qualifications and continuing education, etc. If your child is sent back to public schools, those schools are required to meet many more standards, and that’s expensive. If those dollars are going to private and charter schools instead of public, it’s draining public schools at a disproportionate rate.

    4. Choice yes free no. My mom taught me that the public school system was there for any and all that chose to utilize them by choice or by means and that her choice to chose parochial school was not one that others should pay for. She said we were fortunate enough to have our religious school to attend but that should that not be available we had a system of free school in our country that would be available. She was never in favor of government funds for providing private education. As a young child I knew my family could have used the tax break for not using the public schools but mom advised me that those funds were for the public at large to ensure that every child had the ability to attend school.

    5. The law in the US says every child has a right to a free PUBLIC education. If you want to attend a private school it is your right. But tax dollars shouldn’t have to pay for it.

      1. Is my understanding correct in that Devos wants to leave voucher payment etc up to individual states? In other words get the feds out of directing local issues?

    6. You may send your child to any school you choose, or even home school them; that’s your right. But our taxes support a public school system, and you can pay for your alternative school out of your own funds. We don’t have the option of private military, fire, or police protection paid for by tax dollars. Once you start down the road of individual services paid for by tax dollars, the whole social network of what we call “the commons” breaks down.

      So, no, you want private education, then you can privately pay for it.

      1. In some ways, public funds are expended for home schooling. My understanding (at least in some states) there are rules (somebody took the time to create those rules=cost) review of the parents/teachers program (review=effort=bureaucrat=cost) periodic checks on the progress of the students (reviews=cost). So even for home schooling there are tax dollars spent on home schooling. That would suggest there is already tax money being spent on ‘private’ education. Those choosing to home school ought to reimburse the district for costs incurred to support their efforts

      2. Well said, Me Just Sharing My Story. When public schools receive government funding, they must follow certain federal and state rules, standards and assessments, among many other mandates or guidelines. If public schools don’t meet these requirements, what happens? They risk losing government funding! If private schools were to take public school funding, it follows that they should be accountable to the same requirements. If they don’t follow the requirements, they don’t get the money!

    7. I sent my children to my church P-K and loved it, but I paid for it. Church and State are separate per our Constitution. You can’t expect everyone’s public tax dollars to pay for your child’s education through your church school, with its private curriculum, hiring standards, etc. Any organization receiving public money must be held to the same standards as the public equivalent, becoming public itself. Are you ready for your Church’s school to do that? Could that even happen? Of course there are fine private schools, and it sounds like you have found one that you like. However, private schools should not receive public money, for all the reasons discussed in the main conversation.

    8. It is not my position that I should provide funds to send your child to a religious school. You have made that choice and you must pay for it. There is such a thing as separation of religion and state. Your religious school does not enter into this constitutional law. My children where taught their religious beliefs in Sunday School outside the walls of public education and that is what the forefathers insisted on.

  16. I totally challenge Betsey DeVos’s ability to represent education, public education, and all children’s best interest in education. She does not have the knowledge base nor has she elected to inform herself in the field of education. Donating to the party is not a qualification……Children with low income will not be traveling around to “get the best education available” and disabled children would not be advocated with her in this position. Poor -Poor choice!

    1. When the candidate for this vitally important cabinet position doesn’t know what IDEA stands for, she needs to go back to “public schools 101”.
      Her lack of knowledge makes Betsy DeVos eminently unqualified for this cabinet role! He

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *