By Brian Washington
TAKE ACTION ›
Tell Congress not to divert billions of dollars to vouchers or similar privatization schemes. CLICK HERE ›
She traveled 65 miles and even had to take a ferry boat. She felt she had to be there—outside the Bellevue Hyatt in the state of Washington, where more than 1,000 activists showed up to tell Education Secretary Betsy DeVos her destructive ideas are not welcome here.
“It was a bit of a distance to travel for me, but I needed to be there,” said Martha Patterson, a special education teacher with the Central Kitsap School District. “I needed to do it as an educator, a parent, and a union member to let her know that what she’s trying to do is not okay.”
The Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank, hosted its annual dinner Friday with DeVos as the main attraction. About 1,500 educators, parents as well as labor and community activists practically surrounded the hotel chanting and carrying signs registering their outrage with DeVos’ lack of qualifications for her current job and support for policies that, if implemented, would destroy America’s public schools.
DeVos put charter schools run by for-profit companies, and private school vouchers, which drain scarce dollars away from public schools and the majority of the nation’s students who attend them, at the top of her destructive agenda for education.
Charter schools, which are not held to the same regulations and guidelines as traditional public schools, and private schools that accept vouchers can reject students as they see fit, including students like the ones Patterson teaches, students with special needs.
I think they (for-profit charters and voucher schemes) are vile and disgusting. They are basically legalizing discrimination,” said Patterson, who also pointed out that vouchers are impractical for struggling families. “The vouchers don’t cover enough of a full year’s tuition so really the only people they benefit are those families that can already pay to send their child to a private school.
While Patterson and others rallied outside the hotel, inside at the high-priced fundraiser, DeVos explained to corporate fat cats how parents choosing a school for their child is like picking a food truck. More proof she knows nothing about educating children.
“I did hear some of the comments she made during her speech and it is quite clear she is out of touch with reality,” said Patterson. “She grew up in wealth and privilege. That’s her world and she hasn’t ventured out of that world to see how out of touch she really is.”
Patterson says DeVos isn’t just bad for public education—she’s bad for the country. However, she knows it’s going to take more than rallies to stop her.
We caught up with Patterson as she campaigned locally to elect public education champions to the state legislature. The same will need to happen next year before the midterm elections to get a Congress willing to stand up to the education agenda put forth by DeVos and President Trump.
In the meantime, Patterson urges public education activists to contact their lawmakers on Capitol Hill and demand that they do what they can to block DeVos’ corporate takeover of public schools.
“The public needs to lobby their members of Congress to make sure her policies do not pass,” said Patterson. “Because enough people spoke up, her initial budget proposal stalled and that is good. We just need to keep fighting the good fight.”