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What do you wish Betsy DeVos understood about public schools? Click here ›
By Amanda Litvinov
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos tried to laugh off the cold reception she’s received from many parts of the education community when she took the stage before a supportive audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this week.
But many educators, parents, students and other concerned citizens across the country don’t see the humor.
DeVos is a leader of the school privatization movement, a proponent of vouchers and unaccountable charter schools. She has no experience working in public education, and neither she nor her children ever attended a public school. Her ignorance of how schools meet students’ needs was on full display during her Senate confirmation hearing.
More than 500 public school supporters have shared their views on the Trump-DeVos agenda to defund and dismantle public education.
Here, more parents and educators share what they wish Betsy DeVos knew about public schools:
My husband and I were educated in public schools from kindergarten through graduate school, and, for my husband, medical school. My daughters have attended public schools in four states, as we’ve moved for my husband’s training. One of my daughters requires an individualized education plan (IEP). The services needed to help her be successful would not be available through many private schools. Typical public schools held to state and federal standards regarding individuals with disabilities and education standards have provided excellent opportunities for our children.There are many excellent teachers in our public schools, and they deserve the support of their Secretary of Education.
–Caroline Simons, parent, South Carolina
My public school education saved me from a life of poverty in rural upstate New York. My teachers saw my gift for mathematics and encouraged me to become a teacher. With their help–plus a strong work ethic instilled by my parents and the generosity of the taxpayers of the state of New York–I was able to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and Albany. I have been a mathematics teacher in the public schools for 27 years. Many of my students have gone on to successful careers in teaching, engineering, business, finance, banking, medicine and law. I also spent 29 years in the Navy, and I credit my public education as a major reason I achieved the rank of Captain.
Our public schools should not be dismembered through privatization schemes involving vouchers, charter schools, or tax credits. I vow to fight these misguided ideas. I am a registered Republican, but this is one area where the party is gone off course. The Secretary of Education should strengthen public education by supporting our nation’s teachers and working with other cabinet members to bring jobs to urban areas. We need ESL support in areas with high immigrant populations, clinics that provide basic dental and medical support to our most vulnerable communities, and nutrition programs so that children do not go hungry when they are not in school.
—Michael Fredette, teacher, New York
I am an immigrant who was brought to this country when I was 3 months old on a family passport, which no longer exists. I went to a free public school from the time I was 4 until I was 18, when I graduated from high school. My grades earned me scholarships, grants, and work study so that I could attend Pomona College. I worked and took out a loan, so that I could become a public school educator. I now have more than 31 years in the teaching field. Yet we have someone in charge of public education who knows nothing about it, and who may destroy the intent of our forefathers, who believed that education was a right for all.
—Rosaura Jimenez-Mireles, teacher, California
The better we educate our poverty stricken, the sooner they can better themselves, and support themselves. I know this to be true–I was a single parent with four children to raise. Thanks to the excellent education my children received in the local public schools, all four are now professionals, and never have to worry about becoming mired in poverty again.
–Cecilia Seabrook, parent, Illinois
I attribute much of my own successes, well being, and ability to participate as an active citizen to the hard work of my teachers. It was their dedication that inspired me to pursue a career in education myself. I currently work in special education with K-4 students. Each day I try my best to help prepare these young people so that they can lead fulfilling lives and help to create a better world. My school district is struggling to meet the needs of its population, which includes a large number of ELL, special education, and low-income students. The budget is constrained due to the ever-increasing number of students leaving the district to attend charter schools. I know that families want to see a deeper and broader curriculum and that this is why families with the means are opting for charter schools. However, this leaves less funding available for public schools.
The Department of Education also plays an important civil rights role. We need to make sure that all students, regardless of ability, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion, feel safe in U.S. schools and universities.
–Meghan Hall, teacher, Massachusetts
My 15-year-old daughter has only gone to public schools. She’s two years ahead in math and is taking honors Language Arts and Biology. Over the summer her and many of her friends plan to take one or two classes to get ahead. As a sophomore she’ll be taking Honors Chemistry and AP physics, along with Latin and Pre-Calculus. As a junior and senior in high school she’ll be taking COLLEGE CREDIT CLASSES. She has had nothing but a supportive, loving, and rigorous education in the public schools!
–Coco Kneisly, parent, Ohio