By Amanda Litvinov
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It’s cold and snowy in Erie, Pennsylvania, where middle school educator Cari Rowe works. That’s why she was so concerned to discover last week that one of her students had large holes in the soles of her shoes that left her with dripping wet socks.
“Instead of eating lunch that day, I ran out to buy her sneakers, winter boots and a package of socks,” said Rowe. She knew that the student’s parents—who both work—simply couldn’t afford the new footwear.
Rowe related the story in response to our query: “What do you wish Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos knew about our public schools?” a question we posed because DeVos would be the first Secretary of Education with no experience of any kind in public schools.
For Rowe, here is the bottom line: “Without quality public education, this beautiful child has little hope. We must not allow for-profit charters and private schools to strip funds from the public schools serving our neediest children.”
DeVos is a proponent of vouchers and privatization–in other words, funneling tax dollars into private schools and for-profit charters that do not serve all students and are not held to the same standards as public schools.
No one knows better than educators why Betsy DeVos is wrong to head up the nation’s school system. Take a look at more of the responses we received, then share your story.
Dear Betsy DeVos…
I have worked in public education for 17 years. Education is not a business. Filtering students into corporate charter schools is not the answer. Investing in ALL of our public schools with adequate funding that attracts great teachers and supports appropriate class sizes is how you improve education. If you want to improve education, Ms. DeVos, FUND IT.
–Kari Smith, teacher, Virginia
I am a first grade teacher at a public school in a low-income area with a high English learner population. Many of my students come into kindergarten barely able to speak English, hold a pencil, or write their name. By the time they leave first grade, after only two years of schooling, my students can have conversations using academic language, write narrative and informative paragraphs, research and present information independently using an iPad, solve real world math problems that apply to scenarios relevant to the 21st century, and solve conflicts with peers using problem solving skills.
I work hard to provide quality education to my students so that they can be successful, open minded, innovative people who will influence the future of our country. I am proud to say that I work in public education and I hope that one day, Betsy DeVos, you are able to see public education for what it really is, and be proud of it, too.
–Brooke Villalpando, teacher, California
I am an educator in a high poverty suburban school. We have been successful year after year (6th year in a row with an ‘A’ grade) but we aren’t in the news. There are many other schools like us. Why not find out how we are succeeding? Why disparage the entire system when it is working in many places? Why not tackle the root causes for children struggling in school, like poverty and trauma?
–Anne Renihan, teacher, Indiana
Politicians who say they want students to have “choice” are really saying they do not want public funds to support education for all children.
If you really care about educating American children, Ms. DeVos, you will look at what has proven to work in the many public schools that have done well, and try to replicate those policies and programs in schools and districts that are not YET doing well. Current research on vouchers and charter schools show they do not do a better job at educating our children, but they take funds away from public schools.
–Linda Fredrickson, teacher, Texas
As a paraeducator in a high school, I can tell you, Ms. DeVos, that our schools are underfunded and our students are overtested! We need to educate the whole child–not just test them! We also must help them overcome the challenges they face in their home lives so they can learn. All students deserve a great education in their neighborhood school.
–Tricia Kob, paraeducator, Colorado
I worked in private schools for five years and I am in my sixth year as a public school educator. In my experience the private schools are more concerned about keeping parents happy than educating students. The public schools I have worked in are held to a higher standard and the staff, from top to bottom, work hard to create a caring environment where all students can learn. I would not consider putting my own children into one of your for-profit schools, Ms. DeVos.
–Scott Carpenter, teacher, Wyoming
I have worked in public schools for over 30 years. During this time I have witnessed outstanding educators open their hearts and souls, not to mention their wallets, to ensure that their students succeed. When I began my career teachers generally had sufficient resources to do their job. Every time a new mandate (usually unfunded ) or budget cut came along the teacher had a little less control and a few more students. When charter schools came along and didn’t have to play by the same rules such as enrollment requirements, teacher standards, and addressing special needs, the public schools had to work even harder with fewer resources.
The results you bought in Michigan do not give better options to families and students—rather, they widen the socioeconomic gap. And now you want to bring the same abysmal system to the whole nation? God help us.
–Randy Wright, retired educator, Arizona