By Kristen Johnson
Betsy DeVos, who President-Elect Trump has tapped to lead the U.S. Department of Education, is a woefully inadequate candidate who I feel has the potential to do a lot of harm to the public school system. It’s time to call on our Senators to refuse to confirm her in this appointment.
The only thing to like about this appointment is that Donal Trump has finally gotten around to appointing women in his cabinet – but that’s the only bright spot. In this post she will lead nearly 100,000 public schools, yet she has not attended public schools nor have any of her 4 children. Instead, Ms. DeVos is an advocate of “school choice” – meaning funding for charter schools and vouchers for public money to be used for parents in private schools. The only spot of hope is that the two largest teacher’s unions have both publicly expressed dismay at this appointment. (Huffington Post).
As an educator and union member, this appointment truly terrifies me. I do not wish to see my taxpayer dollars going into charter schools (which I feel lack appropriate oversight, based on my unfortunate experience of working for one for 5 months), and in private schools (which likely have values and curriculum that are not appropriate for taxpayer dollars). And, when education dollars are spent “elsewhere” – what happens to kids in traditional public schools? They get less and less and teachers are expected to do more and more with that less and less.
I’ve done a little research on charter schools (because my experience in a charter school was admittedly bad and so I am clearly very biased against charter schools). The reviews are pretty mixed – maybe they help some, maybe they don’t. (Really, it’s the lack of oversight that concerns me the most). One study, published in 2015, showed that in aggregate, charter schools don’t outperform traditional schools. In addition, “classroom-based” charter schools outperform nontraditional charter schools such as online academies and home-school charters. (GreatSchools.org).
It’s difficult to predict Ms. DeVos’ stance on Union rights for teachers, but given her desire to basically dismantle the public education system, we can only imagine what her views on Unions are and what she will likely do to weaken them.
Do teachers and concerned parents have to blindly accept this appointment? No, we do not. We have two choices:
Write to your Senators: This appointment has to be approved by the Senate. Unfortunately, the Senate is now controlled by the Republicans, so I realize this may feel like fighting a losing battle. But, we can’t defeat something we don’t even try to fight! Write to your Senators and talk to friends and family members about doing the same.
Join Your Union in fighting against coming changes: We have teacher’s unions to protect our rights and that of the children we serve. Two of the biggest teacher’s unions have already spoken out against this appointment – contact your Union about joining in the fight. In addition, be prepared to join your fellow Union members to peacefully but loudly protest when Ms. Devos tries to dismantle your Union rights, destroy Common Core curriculum, shift funds to charter schools and provide vouchers for private schools, etc. If you don’t speak up, your voice can’t be heard!
We can work together to make the future brighter for our country’s children. The movement begins with you.
Proverbs 22:6 (NRSV): Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.
Serve all with love.
Photo courtesy of: stocksnap.io