by Brian Washington
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Student leaders at the University of Baltimore have collected thousands of signatures demanding that the school rescind its invitation to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to speak at this year’s fall graduation.
This follows a crowd of students staging a protest yesterday to take their concerns about DeVos public.
“I grew up in the Baltimore public school system,” said Benita Vargas-Brown, a senior at the school. “I do social work and I work with kids who come into the school system who need behavior plans and additional assistance in order to be successful, and so often the resources aren’t there. Betsy DeVos just continues to pull resources out of that environment and give them to private schools.”
DeVos, who has proven on numerous occasions that she is unqualified for her new post, backs a privatization agenda that includes vouchers. Vouchers use public dollars to subsidize tuition at private and/or religious schools that are unaccountable to taxpayers and the general public. They also drain scarce dollars away from public schools and the vast majority of students who attend them. DeVos and President Trump support a federal budget proposal that calls for a $1 billion national voucher scheme.
On social media, educators and those who support public schools sided with university students and pointed out that DeVos is an enemy of public education.
“Stand up, speak up, do not remain silent! DeVos is in direct contradiction to all of our American values!” — Harriet Unger Sandberg
“Good for the students. The university president ought to be ashamed.” — D.E. Gaffney
“Perhaps the University of Baltimore needs a new president if this is any example of the type of decisions he makes. Call out the president, President Kurt Schmoke, and let him know that America does not support this poor decision.” — Bill Owens
The anti-DeVos commencement petition crafted by the UB Student Government Association has collected more than 3-thousand signatures.
“This decision was not made in any way by the faculty, student government, or the student body as a whole. Invitations to speak were extended solely by the University President, Kurt Schmoke,” reads the petition. “This is not what UB students want. The overwhelming majority of UB students and alumni, as well as the Baltimore community in general are appalled at this decision. UB is a place that supports social justice and equality, and students consistently fight for what is right in the Baltimore community.”
Meanwhile, students at the UB Law School want to make sure their voices are heard regarding future law school commencement speakers. The Student Bar Association is currently drafting a policy to ensure that student input is included in such decisions.
Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report reports that one week before the announcement of DeVos’ commencement speech, President Schmoke’s first cousin, Julian Schmoke Jr., got a big job within the U.S. Department of Education. He now leads a unit that looks at fraud and abuse within colleges and universities across the country. President Schmoke says DeVos’ commencement speech and his cousin’s appointment are “unrelated” and are a “coincidence.”
TAKE ACTION: Pledge to protect quality public schools for all students. Join us in the fight against vouchers.