DeKalb County Superintendent Steve Green said immediately after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of Education that she should join school districts in “solving the most serious problem facing public schools today.” He said there is “a real and growing need for dedicated services and programs that help address the consequences of poverty,” mentioning nutrition, health and family instability.
No other metro Atlanta school district commented on DeVos’ confirmation. Officials from Atlanta Public Schools and Cobb County Schools declined to comment about the confirmation. Clayton, Gwinnett and Fulton County school districts did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
Many educators were against DeVos becoming secretary, with many clogging lines to their elected officials to voice their displeasure for the Michigan native, a school choice advocate from a wealthy family that contributed significantly to the campaigns of many who approved her confirmation. Several teachers associations had opposed her confirmation.
Many Georgia teachers cited DeVos’ lack of experience with public schools and advocacy of for-profit charter schools in messages about her.
“While school choice may sound like a good idea to parents who are empowered to be involved, our commitment as a society is to our most vulnerable students,” said Katie Fullerton, who works at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County, by email. “Vouchers leave those students behind, and allow us to shirk our responsibility. My classes of 35 students each are filled with students whose parents don’t speak English, can’t read, or are unable to navigate the complexities of a system like the one implemented (and currently failing) in New Orleans. It is antithetical to the American dream to condemn my students to an inferior school so that a handful parents are offered a choice.”
Dana Farr, a social studies teacher in Hall County, said she called U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, as many others have, to voice her opinion on DeVos as a nominee.
“As a Georgia Studies educator, I teach my students about the power of the constituent and how our voice matters,” she said by email. “I feel like I’ve been teaching a terrible, horrible lie. The constituency was clear on their opinions — and clearly ignored.”
In contrast, Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, said she was pleased knowing DeVos would give families more rights in how their children are educated. That foundation describes itself as a nonpartisan research group based on “an understanding of sound economic principles and the core principles of our free enterprise system.”
“The vote for Betsy DeVos is a vote for America’s children,” McCutchen said in a statement. “Mrs. DeVos has exercised her constitutional right to put her money where her mouth is — into school choice — and we’re excited to see her promote her preference to give families options for their children’s education.”
Beth Stallings Odom, a retired educator from Bryan County, said in an email that she helped campaign against DeVos’ nomination. “It was not a Democratic or Republican issue, it was not a pro-Trump (versus) anti-Trump issue, but it WAS an education issue,” said Odom, who said she and her husband combined have more than 60 years in education. “(DeVos) is totally not qualified to run this department and her agenda is scary. For-profit charter schools, voucher programs, will not work.”