On February 7, 2017, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Education. The confirmation was one of the most contested appointments in recent history, having passed by a tie vote in the Senate with the Vice President stepping in to break the tie.
Many factors make DeVos unqualified for the role, not the least of which is her lack of education experience or credentials. She has never worked in a public school, nor have her children attended one. During her confirmation hearing, she demonstrated her extreme lack of knowledge about basic education law and terminology. Her track record in Michigan is bleak at best, and her conflicts of interest are plentiful. By all accounts, she seemed to have bought her way into the position.
So, what’s next?
Knowing all of this might make you feel that our public schools are doomed. While there is clearly cause for concern and caution, there is a silver lining. This isn’t the first time politicians have been bought, nor will DeVos be the first person to make decisions about education who has no experience or credentials. In fact, Jeb Bush, who has been credited with creating most of the current misguided and inapproproate education reforms in Florida, appears to have no experience as an educator.
What’s different about this is the large number of advocates who stepped up from all walks of life and every place on the political spectrum to fight DeVos’s confirmation. Groups across the nation came together. People who have never fought for public education before joined the effort. Lily Garcia, President of the National Education Association estimates that there were “Over 1.1 million emails, 80,000+ phone calls, thunderous rallies, countless creative actions. No other nominee has garnered the level of bipartisan public opposition as Betsy DeVos.”
This kind of unprecedented advocacy is the beginning of taking back our public schools. Let’s use the momentum that was started during this campaign to continue the fight. Join together with other advocates. Take part in calls to action. Attend school board meetings. Meet individually with your legislators. Make phone calls. Send emails. Contact politicians through social media.
Click here to find a list of state resources, including contact information for the Department of Education, Board of Education and your individual legislators.
Click here to find contact information for your district Superintendent, School Board members and local advocacy groups.
This is only the beginning of making our voices heard. We can’t stop now. Our children deserve better.