National Education Association to Betsy DeVos on her one-year anniversary: Resign

November 28, 2017 Atlanta - U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos talks to GSU students during Georgia State University Tour and Roundtable with Students at GSU Advisement Center on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
November 28, 2017 Atlanta - U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos talks to GSU students during Georgia State University Tour and Roundtable with Students at GSU Advisement Center on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Maureen Downey

Credit: Maureen Downey

A year ago, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos took charge of the U.S. Department of Education.

Her secretary of education nomination by President Donald Trump was controversial as DeVos brought no classroom or education background to the post, but she was an ardent supporter of school choice. Her contentious confirmation hearing led to the vice president casting the first tie-breaking vote in American history to settle a cabinet appointment.

How is it going?

Well, the largest association of teachers in the country is marking her anniversary by asking DeVos to step down. This piece is by National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

By Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

Donald Trump touched a raw nerve with the American public, students, parents, and public education advocates, when he nominated the utterly unqualified and unprepared Betsy DeVos to serve as the nation’s education secretary.

Alarms went off, red flags were raised, and outcries from the public, followed her nomination. She became a punchline for late night comedians during her disastrous confirmation hearing because she simply failed to convince the American public that she was up for the job.

Last February, Americans across the nation drove a bipartisan repudiation of the Trump-DeVos agenda for students and public education.  Students, educators, parents, civil rights and special education advocates—along with millions of Americans—have been speaking out, loud and clear: We are here to stay and we will protect our students and public education. Educators across the nation spearheaded the opposition initially, but the chorus against her nomination quickly grew louder and took on a life of its own immediately following her confirmation hearing.

Educators, parents, and community members said we would watch what Betsy DeVos did and hold her accountable for the actions and decisions she made on behalf of the more than 50 million students in our nation’s public schools. Fast forward to today, a year after Vice President Mike Pence trekked to Capitol Hill to cast the historic deciding vote over her nomination. We have been watching. And she has failed.

 NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia
NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Credit: Maureen Downey

Credit: Maureen Downey

DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience. She has had zero experience in public schools, except trying to undermine and obliterate the very system that opens its doors to all, not just a few, students.

We knew she failed Michigan’s students. Now she’s failing students across the country.

Every decision she has made since being confirmed is proof that she still does not have the best interest of students at heart—that she does not understand the mission and importance of public schools or the importance of students’ civil rights in schools and on campuses. As the nation's top advocate for students, that is incredibly troubling.

Her actions during her first year in office have betrayed and undermined the fundamental mission public schools have to provide opportunity for every student who walks through the door. She doesn’t understand the concept of “public” schools—schools that are open to all students, no matter what language is spoken at home, what the family income is, what their religion or race is, what abilities or disabilities they have, whether they are gay, straight, or transgender.

  • Instead of fighting to provide equal opportunity for every kid, she openly said that more schools should have a "we're not for everyone" approach.
  • She rolled back protections for students dealing with sexual assault on campus, further reducing safeguards for students in higher education.
  • She made it harder for students with disabilities to get the support they need to succeed.
  • She led the charge to cut $9.2 billion from the Department of Education—eliminating teacher training programs and college prep courses for students in poverty.
  • Instead, she's invested her energy in voucher programs that take scarce funding away from public schools and give it to private schools that are unaccountable to the public.
  • She has failed at providing equal opportunity for all students.
  • Failed at protecting the safety of students. Failed at investing in the success of every public school student, and
  • Failed at making higher education more accessible and affordable.

The list, sadly, goes on. Simply, she has failed. To say that 2017 was a tumultuous year at the federal agency that oversees education policy is an understatement.

Over the last few weeks, more than 30,000 NEA members and activists continued to voice their objections about the numerous ways Betsy DeVos has failed students and public schools in the last year.  To put it plainly, they agree that with one year on the job, she has only confirmed what educators already knew:  She is the most unqualified education secretary the nation has ever had.  Further, in the area where it matters most, ensuring every student has an opportunity to succeed, she has failed the nation’s students at every turn.

We cannot continue with Betsy DeVos as our education secretary for another day, let alone another year. The more than three million members of the National Education Association wholeheartedly agree. In the end, our students suffer the consequences. Betsy DeVos is not qualified to be the Secretary of Education.  Betsy DeVos has failed our students. It is time for Betsy DeVos to resign.

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