Education News

Here’s what educators want to see in the next Secretary of Education

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

12 responses to “Here’s what educators want to see in the next Secretary of Education

  1. There should be term limits put on how long a Superintended can serve in a public school district. There is a major cause of nepotism and cronyism and many block the employment of Black and teachers of color as well as in to leadership positions.

  2. We need to stop pretending that union leadership has been or could be effective at addressing the exploitation of our students and their families, our profession, or be willing to join us in improving the condition of our learners and the quality of their outcomes. They have become players hoping to be at the table and we are spectators paying for tickets to watch their game. Our political endorsements should go to game-changers, not pageant winners, who will fight “money=speech”, “tests=evaluation” AND “gathering asymptomatic spreaders in schools daily is what we should do during a pandemic” paradigms. With experienced educators in our leadership, it MIGHT get better, if we can get more teachers and working-class leaders elected to political office it really could.

  3. We need to enlist individuals like Lily Eskelson Garcia, immediate past president of NEA. She went from volunteer to Para, then became a trained educator. She served Utah in Congress, continued as an educator, all the way to the top! President of Union/in her state, followed by being elected to Sec. Tres. of NEA, finally elected as National President of Education for eight years! Now, this is an educator and leader!! She is fabulous.

    1. the purpose of public education is to educate children, not to provide job security for incompetent educators.
      The NEA does not understand that, has never understood that, and public education is in the toilet as a result.
      Without school choice, millions of children will be trapped in failing schools.

      1. Public education is, as you say, “in the toilet” because of poor funding and a lack of a united national education policy. Each school district is on their own, each state is on its own…we need national leadership to set standards, identify strategies for implementing those standards, and appropriate funds to support the achievement of those standards. Blaming the union may be comforting, but it’s just scapegoating. I speak from my experience as a veteran middle-school teacher in a suburban Bay Area school district, where we succeed because of a strong partnership between teachers, administrators, and parents… oh – and ample funding from those parents to supplement our meager funding from the state.

  4. We need teacher to be taught and teach with reading science explicit structured multi Sensory language instruction so all children are taught to read! Not the 47percent that can learn with leveled literacy! Illiteracy is a prison and Medicaid pipeline! If we teach them right when they are young middle school , high school and college level education is not a pipe dream!

  5. We need to dismantle the common core curriculum which is boring to teachers as well as students. Lets spark enthusiasm by having teachers teach to their passions with more time for student discussions snd lots of interaction. This used to be the educational model In The 1960s when teachers designed their own sets of lesson plans. This makes teaching much more enjoyable. Lets also teach about current history snd not just what happened in the past. They can be related with good teaching. Also get rid of the little testing programs snd dont make it a standard that kids must learn to read in first grade. Remember child development and what is appropriate. Kindergarten is for exploring and socializing. So much more needs to change to spark the interest of kids in learning and expanding their horizons.

    1. I disagree. When my children were in Middle school almost all their teachers were men who had been hired for their athletic coaching skills and did not have degrees in the academic subjects they were assigned to teach.
      No where was this more a problem than in math and history classes.
      When my oldest child graduated at the top of his high school class yet needed remedial math when he entered college, I realized I needed to pay closer attention.
      What i found was these coaches were simply babysitting their academic students. Two of my youngest child’s teachers didn’t do much of anything but watch TV. In math the kids watched basketball games, in a history class they watched soap operas.
      Allowing teachers to do whatever they wanted was disastrous.

  6. This article reaches all the point that need to be addressed as well as social workers in all schools coordinating with the community case workers.

    1. If public schools teach science, math, social studies, arts, etc. rather than promote LGBTQ, gender confusion, male castrating feminism, antifa and BLM, they will get much support.

    2. too many people think being a “friend” to public education means continuing to prop up failing schools. Without accountability too many teachers do lousy jobs.

      When you hear statistics from college deans about how 1/3 of incoming freshmen require remedial classes you realize we have two sources of difficulty: 1. high school graduation standards are not up to par and 2. college admission standards are not up to par.
      Both have been lowered in the interest of social justice, and anybody who thinks this is doing the students any favors is nuts.

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