Cathy Boote

Retired Art Teacher
Read her story

Students deserve better than an unqualified Secretary of Education who undermines their public schools, says retired art teacher Cathy Boote.

Cathy Boote is a retired art teacher and life-long Republican from Michigan. That is, until recently. Last year, she changed her political affiliation to Independent, and Betsy DeVos and her agenda have everything to do with it.

Boote spent her 37-year teaching career teaching middle school students in Holland, Michigan, to draw and paint and sculpt. She continues to live in Holland today. That also happens to be the hometown of Betsy DeVos, and that’s not all the two have in common. They belong to different branches of the same Dutch-American Protestant church and just a few blocks separate the 22,000-square-foot DeVos estate from Cathy’s two-bedroom condo.

But that’s where the similarities end. And nowhere is the difference between the two women more stark than in their views on the purpose and worth of public education.

“Betsy DeVos’ viewpoint is that there is no problem with using public dollars to fund private schools, and I don’t agree with that,” says Boote. She strongly believes that taxpayer funding is meant to support a system of schools that are open to every student from any background and governed by elected school boards.

Just look at who is going to support public schools, and support strong communities instead of dividing us. Then vote accordingly. Tweet this

She also takes issue with decisions DeVos has made to remove protections meant to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination and students of color from unfair disparities in discipline practices.

Boote, like millions of other educators nationwide, was distressed from the get-go by the nomination of Betsy DeVos—a political mega-donor with no experience in public education other than lobbying for vouchers and other privatization schemes that hurt public schools. Boote had already seen first-hand the damage the DeVos family inflicted on the public school system in Michigan, and on the Michigan Education Association and other unions in the state.

The DeVos family, with its vast wealth and political influence, helped “turn the Republican party toward a certain conservative view that paints educators and their unions as the enemy,” says Boote. Over the decades, in Michigan and nationwide, it became a basic assumption that Republicans oppose labor unions. But it wasn’t always so.

“I like to remind my more conservative friends that the 1965 law that gave Michigan educators the right to bargain was signed by Republican Gov. George Romney,” says Boote, who served as a Republican precinct delegate for 25 years. “That’s how much the world has changed.”

Boote found herself voting for Democrats in recent elections, because the moderate Republican candidates she sought were being shoved out by the kind of ultra-conservative politicians the DeVos family backs.

She holds out hope that more moderate Republicans who back an inclusive vision of public education and believe public money should stay in public schools can succeed in politics. In the meantime, she asks all educators to vote their conscience, regardless of party labels.

“Just look at who is going to support public schools, and support strong communities instead of dividing us,” Boote asks. “Then vote accordingly.”

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About This Project

We believe that opportunity begins with great public schools for every student. As the nation’s largest union, NEA created this series to highlight the issues that matter most to our members in the upcoming presidential election.

We know that opportunity for all requires a democracy that works for all, which is why we’re sharing personal stories from across the country; to demonstrate what’s at stake in this election for our students, our schools and our communities.

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