In a move that shocked literally no one, The U.S. Senate has confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. For the first time in U.S. history, the vote was split 50/50, and our ever-so-loving Vice President Pence, in an unprecedented vote, leaned in favor of DeVos to break the tie. Even with every Democrat in Senate against her, DeVos managed to squeak by her confirmation. In what is sure to be the grossest failure of the American education system, all but two Senate Republicans voted “yes” for DeVos.
As an adult who went through the public school system, my heart aches at the decision. I’m disappointed that the next generation’s future was sold for such a low price. I’m angry that another wealthy white person can be blatantly unqualified for a position and still be appointed anyway. But mostly, I’m terrified for parents nationwide who have to navigate their children through a world that doesn’t care about their education.
From kindergarten through my senior year, I always had new textbooks, fine literature and informative health classes. We had a free lunch program and decent food. Our teams always had fairly new uniforms and the gym classes had enough equipment for every student. My high school covered the cost for the students to take Advanced Placement tests. Our International Baccalaureate program sent students to Denmark. It was always evident that we were some of the lucky ones.
When DeVos was asked if she would pressure our public schools to privatize or if she would cut funding to public schools, she replied, “I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students.” It sounded like a vague answer from someone who is being appointed to a position she has no idea about, likely because she paid her way to get there. This is a pivot, to distract from her lack of knowledge and make the public feel confident that she’s working with us, not against us, even though she doesn’t know how to do the work itself.
DeVos’ lack of experience in public school systems directly affects how efficiently she can help the majority of our country’s education. She never went to public school and would rather see private schools prosper (with taxpayer money) – schools that do not have to abide by state regulations. Schools that can teach inaccuracies, using fear mongering and hatred. With her push for “school choice,” her attempt to strengthen the public school system is a thinly veiled ploy to indoctrinate religion into classrooms with taxpayer money. What was once a school will now become a profit center for America’s children.
I will not let this happen.
I’m a Sunday Hebrew school teacher and a child care provider. I’ve made lunches, helped with homework, crafted lesson plans, sat through hours of parent-teacher conferences, and hoped to God every day that my kids didn’t have to experience gun violence while trying to learn. I’ve loved and nurtured children who are protected by the IDEA legislation, which allows children with disabilities to receive a proper education. During DeVos’ confirmation hearing, she admitted that she may have been confused, indicating that she didn’t seem to know that IDEA was a federal law.
When it comes to gun control, DeVos also made a strong reach during that same hearing, citing an example of a school in Wyoming, where she “would imagine there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.” Trump has signaled that he thinks that some teachers can be trained to carry guns in school. DeVos supports Trump’s stance, while also exclaiming, “My heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.” In the time since this hearing, the US House of Representatives has voted to scrap a regulation intended to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, said the BBC. This decision makes gun safety less possible by adding leniency to the vetting process for gun owners.
As we’ve seen in many shootings, mental illness has become a strong defense for the perpetrators. Relaxing the laws to protect the mentally ill from harming themselves won’t help trained gun people better protect children from school shootings. This is a false dichotomy. It has the potential to cause more gun violence, and allows more access to guns, by people who are unsafe and untrained. DeVos has not taken a clear stance on whether she will stand for or against gun control in an effort to put an end to gun violence in schools.
As a former college student, I have seen schools fail young women who have reported sexual assault on their campuses. I have watched rapists graduate with zero marks on their record. I went to college during Title IX and still never felt safe. When DeVos was approached with this topic, she wasn’t even able to formulate a coherent answer. There should be no discussion over the safety of college students, but she couldn’t even confirm her support towards it. She did acknowledge that rape of any kind is wrong, but wouldn’t take a strong stance on further work to prevent rapists from assaulting people.
So, I will be watching you, Ms. DeVos. We’ve seen the buyout money, we’ve seen you make a fool of yourself in front of your peers. Your mission to “advance God’s kingdom” will end in ruining sex education and miseducating youth by being unsafe with their bodies. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped significantly in the last two decades, but does that matter to you? The vouchers you so fully support will further segregate our schools, leaving children of color and poor children at a severe disadvantage.
We know you aren’t even remotely qualified to hold this position.
This is not over. We are watching.
And to the citizens of the United States: Now is the time to make sure you vote “yes” for your school district’s budget. Attend public board meetings and find out what is going on districtwide. Invest in our future, since our government clearly has no intentions of doing so.