by Julia Gayduk Healey
Mayday! Children Aboard.
Picture this. You’re on a plane. An announcement is made that the pilot has no flight experience. This pilot has never flown a plane. In fact, you learn, the pilot has never been on a plane before. Does this make you nervous? It should.
Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s choice as education secretary, is unfit to lead the US Department of Education. She has never been a teacher. She has never been an administrator at a school. She has never run a school district. She did not attend public school, and neither did her four children. Meanwhile, 85 percent of our country’s children currently attend public schools. Betsy DeVos has come out against public education. Her plan is to push for the de-funding of public schools and to put that money toward for-profit charters and vouchers for private schools.
Let’s look at the record of the school reform that DeVos has pushed for in her home state of Michigan. As a result of her family’s lobbying efforts, Michigan now has the largest number of charter schools in the country. According to the New York Times article published in November, “as the state embraced and then expanded charters over the past two decades, its rank has fallen on national reading and math tests. Most charter schools perform below the state average.” Many of these schools have failed but DeVos has blocked efforts to prevent failing schools from expanding. She has pushed for decreased regulation, oversight, and transparency. The goals here are clear. It is money and profit that drive this individual, not the best interests of American children or their families.
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow met with Betsy DeVos and will be voting against her confirmation. “Our conversation reaffirmed my strong concerns about her nomination”” Stabenow said. “Betsy DeVos and her family have a long record of pushing policies that I believe have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children.”
If this confirmation goes through, it would be detrimental to the future of education in our country for all students. The students in public schools would suffer as a result of extreme funding cuts, and the students in for-profit charters would suffer because of lack of oversight which undermines the quality of education.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, expressed her outrage at this appointment, stating that this “education policy will focus on privatizing, de-funding and destroying public education in America.” The education system in this country is far from perfect. Ask any teacher, administrator, or parent, and they will admit it readily. But we need leaders who will work to fix it and to fight to meet the needs of all Americans. Betsy DeVos embodies the opposite of this. Call your representatives and make sure that this confirmation, scheduled for January 11, does not go through. This plane is loaded with all of the children of this country and we need a pilot with experience that proves their best interests are at the center to get them to where they need to go.
Julia Gayduk Healey is an educator in New York State and a parent of two young children who will be attending public school.