By Bayan Berri ’18
Recently, a wealthy patron of the Republican party with essentially no prior experience with public education became the U.S.A’s Secretary of Education. While it sounds like an Onion article headline, it is an unfortunately true statement. Although there was weeks of protests and two defections from her own party, what this country needed was a third Republican defection. Only that would have stopped said wealthy patron, Betsy DeVos, from being in charge of the nation’s hundreds of thousands of public schools.
The fateful Tuesday night ended with a 51-to-50 vote in favor of Ms. DeVos’ nomination. The tiebreaker was none other than bigoted current Vice President Mike Pence. What makes this interesting is that this was the first time a vice president was requested to be the tiebreaker for a cabinet nomination. Head of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten points out that “It’s telling that even when Trump had full control of the legislative and executive branches, he could only get DeVos confirmed by an unprecedented tie-breaking vote by his vice president.”
Republicans against Ms. DeVos emphasized her inexperience with public schools. Ms. DeVos understands very little about them, as neither she nor her children have ever attended one. Senator Al Franken of Minnesota asked the question on the minds of many: “If we cannot set aside party loyalty long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president’s nominees, what are we even doing here?”
Her inexperience also shows in her fervid support of charter schools and vouchers. Ms. Murkowski notes, “I have serious concerns about [someone] so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them,”
And if that wasn’t enough to throw people off, the schools that Ms. DeVos worked on have all been failures. Stephen Henderson writes, “In Brightmoor, the only high school left is…a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.” The rest of his report only gets more dismal as he lists all that Ms. DeVos has done to schools nationwide, as well as what she could do now with her newfound powers.
Teachers’ unions and even a handful of charter organizations rallied together in protest. Ms. Weingarten declared that the public would have to act as a “check and balance” to Ms. DeVos’ policies. One policy that she may attempt to implement is a $20 billion voucher initiative aimed at low-income children. To do so would call for the reallocation of a vast amount of federal funds, as well as a radical change in congressional priorities.
The chairman of the National Education Association, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, said that she plans to use her extensive network of supporters to keep Ms. DeVo’s in check. “As soon as she does something alarming, it will be known, it will be seen,” she said. “She won’t be able to hide.”
And to nobody’s surprise, Ms. DeVos is already off to a wild start. She recently suggested that individual states should decide whether or not to allow guns in schools, and to back up her suggestion, she cited concerns about the safety of students in Wyoming vulnerable to grizzly bear attacks. She didn’t bring up the fact that there has been over two hundred school shootings in America as of 2013.
It’s good to stay optimistic, but the future doesn’t look bright. For the sake of the millions of public school students, it is essential that people stay updated on all of Ms. DeVos’ shenanigans. It is not only an American right, but an American duty, to protect those that can not yet protect themselves. Moreover, the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. To put them in danger, is to put America’s future in danger.