By Amanda Menas
It’s time to say, “Bye, bye, Betsy!” and hello to a new education secretary. As President-elect Joe Biden announces his cabinet picks and senior officials, educators are speaking out about what they want to see in DeVos’ replacement. Betsy DeVos served up a four-year nightmare for students and educators by ignoring or attacking public schools to promote private school voucher schemes that siphon money away from public schools. She also removed protections for sexual assault survivors, LGBTQ+ students and educators, and communities of color.
Educators have had enough, and helped get out the vote to elect a president who supports public schools. The Biden administration aims to ensure that all students, regardless of where they live, have access to a high quality education by supporting educators and investing in higher education.
One great step toward that goal would be the appointment of a highly qualified Secretary of Education, who has experience teaching in a public school.
Educators already have a colleague in the White House: First Lady Jill Biden, who is an NEA member. Over this past year, she has made sure educators were heard, hosting conversations around the digital divide, hybrid learning, and other challenges heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. She even plans to continue working as a community college professor while in the White House.
Joe Biden has credited his wife Jill with helping him understand the realities of the teaching profession and what public schools need to succeed.
Here are what fellow educators want a Biden-Harris Secretary of Education to know about their priorities:
- “Take care of PUBLIC schools – not charters … or vouchers. Public schools are the basis of democracy and need to be protected and nurtured.” —Jene W., Ohio
- “If the next secretary of education has public school classroom experience, then I am confident they will know the struggles that teachers face everyday.” —Kerrian T.V., California
- “Schools must be SAFE for children, teachers, and all school personnel from gun violence, cyberbullying, and any other type of violence.” —Donna S., Maryland
- “The next secretary of education needs to reconsider testing as a means of accountability and high school completion. We need to have a comprehensive literacy program begin with mandatory preschool to be sure students are reading on grade level by 3rd grade rather than worrying about standardized testing.” —Crystal B., Massachusetts
- “#1 Priority is that the person has PUBLIC education experience.” —William M., Ohio
- “All the fine and PERFORMING ARTS MUST be taught in EVERY school for EVERY year for EVERY student!!!!! The experience and education gained in the arts make well-rounded, free thinking, successful adults.” —Lynnanne J.L., Colorado
- “Just like Covid-19 has exposed the racism and the great injustices towards the poor in our health care system, so too has this period of remote learning exposed the inequities in our education system. Let’s work toward achieving more equitable access to the technology needed to make online learning possible and beneficial for more of our students.” —Ishtath A., Illinois
- “A child needs to be healthy in order to learn and needs to be well-educated to advocate for self health and well being. [The Secretary of Education needs to acknowledge] that for some kids the only healthcare they have access to is a school nurse, and support funding for a school nurse at public schools.” —Mary W., Missouri
- “Address systemic racism in public education: Enrollment policies, hiring policies, funding policies. Directly address the impact of redlining and residency baked enrollment. Place the most skilled teachers in the most divested communities.” —Michael D., California
- “Affordable preschool for all, especially low-income kids, to help set everyone up for success. Quality after-school programs, play-based learning, arts and sports.” —LI B., California
- “After having children complete their school K-12 years in public education and my experience as a public school teacher, it is important that the secretary understand the challenges to educators and students. He/she must know how important it is to increase the respect and salaries of teachers while listening to teacher input for improvement goals in our educational system.” —Nancy Y., Kentucky
- “Increased funding for school social workers and an in-depth review of the role of in-school resource officers/police.” —Garrick B., Illinois
- “Always we have said we need to pay teachers more. Through this national pandemic, we have been on the front lines many times, dual teaching those in class and those in quarantine. It has been exhausting and emotionally taxing. This time like never before, we need to look at the pay we expect them to work for the time and energy they spend teaching and adapting lessons to reach them in this horrible time.” —Debta A., Oklahoma