Teachers Explain Exactly Why Betsy DeVos Would Be a Disaster for Our Kids


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Many of Donald Trump's cabinet picks have drawn ire from the public, but one who is under particular scrutiny from parents, teachers, and lawmakers is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire who has absolutely no experience with public education (personally or professionally). Not only did she prove she lacks knowledge of basic concepts (the difference between student growth and proficiency or the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) at her January 17 confirmation hearing -- but as a fervent school choice advocate, she helped privatize Michigan's education system so that taxpayer money can be diverted to charter and private schools, to the detriment of the public system. The results unfortunately speak for themselves (see after the jump) -- and this, among other issues, is a concern for many public school teachers across the country.

"DeVos's track record in Michigan, where she spent over a million dollars in lobbying and donations, is pretty abysmal," explains Rachel Nobel Fields, writer at the United Federation of Teachers and former New York City elementary school teacher. "Eighty-five percent of the charter schools in Detroit are run by for-profit corporations, and they are not performing well in educating kids. Meanwhile, all the competition among schools for funding is siphoning away money from public schools -- so everybody loses."

Here, public school teachers, who are also parents, tell CafeMom how DeVos and her positions would impact their students' education and their own ability to effectively teach our kids. While some teachers preferred to remain anonymous, they were all quick to provide their input. And, spoiler alert: Not one approved of her appointment.

  • Title I Districts Will Suffer the Most

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    "If funding is stripped from the public schools, Title I districts like mine will suffer a huge loss. Title I districts receive state grants and funding that provide academic support to help low-achieving districts master challenging curriculum through extra reading and math programs. This will have a great impact not just on students, but on teachers as well. Our jobs cannot be done effectively without the right tools in place." -- Name withheld, 7th and 8th grade middle school Language Arts teacher

  • Individual Needs May Be at Stake

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    "The appointment of Betsy DeVos, and the election of Donald Trump, brings into question the very nature and existence our school's educational mission. The dual immersion program's intent is to provide English language learners from native Spanish-speaking backgrounds an equitable educational opportunity. Given the current rise of ethnocentrism in the country, a public school using public funding to create proficiently bilingual students may not be a popular platform or practice.

    "The election of DeVos makes us question if our Title I funding is secured. Title funds are used to hire teachers, support staff, purchase curricula. Will the curricula and books we use suddenly come under scrutiny for not being in line with DeVos's own personal religious convictions?" -- Marilyn, 4th grade Spanish teacher at a dual immersion, Spanish-English, public school in Oregon

  • She's a Walking Disaster of Ignorance

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    "As someone who has sat on a hiring committee for director of exceptional education for my county, I can tell you this woman would have never even scored an interview. From her lack of understanding of IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] to how she has negatively impacted public schools in Michigan to her business affiliations with organizations selling unproven 'treatments' for autism, I remain flummoxed as to how Congress hasn't shown bipartisan rejection of this appointee/nominee .... From her belief that teachers are overpaid [or] aren't fired enough, and her championing of school choice at any cost, she's a walking disaster of ignorance.   

    "Her statements about believing that compliance with IDEA should be left up to the states sent a collective shudder through the special needs community. A quick study of the history of special education prior to IDEA is all the proof one needs to understand this issue cannot be left to the states -- any more than civil rights in general can be left up to states. The idea that I would need to uproot our lives to move to a state where my son's educational needs can be met is chilling .... She's saying she misunderstood the question. But her response about it being best left to states makes her confusion vs. ignorance irrelevant to our community." -- Leigh Merryday Porch, media specialist at the C.L. Overturf Jr. 6th Grade Center in Palatka, Florida

    More from CafeMomMy Daughter With Autism Relies on Public Education & I'm Terrified for the Future

  • She's Not a Champion of Public Schools

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    "I'm proud to have gone to public school and I will proudly send my son to public school. But Betsy DeVos has literally no experience and no interest in strengthening public schools. I'm concerned that as education secretary, she will not focus on policies that affect public schools because she doesn't know anything about them.

    "What's her position on the Common Core learning standards, on high-stakes testing, on career and technical education programs? The only thing she has a real position on is diverting funding away from public schools to private programs where there's no oversight over how students perform. It's disappointing that educators who work so hard to earn their positions won't have someone who champions them as their education secretary." -- Rachel Nobel Fields, writer at the United Federation of Teachers and former NYC elementary school teacher

  • Means Less When Schools Need More

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    "I think DeVos would be a disaster for public schooling. She is another Orwellian cabinet pick by Trump -- someone touted to head a department that they seem to have spent a lifetime trying to dismantle or outright destroy. She did that in Detroit, which did not improve the school system at all. The movement by her and others to gut public school funding and shift it to charter schools or even parochial and private schools isn't right ....

    "If she is confirmed, public schools are going to lose a lot of funding. That means fewer teachers being hired to teach in a classroom or lend support in a classroom, less attention to the needs of students with learning disabilities or second language learners, less supplies in the classroom, less art and music programs, less after school programs, less physical education programs, etc. That is a lot of 'less' when schools scream for 'more.'

    "Her comments about religion also have me worried that prayer in public schools could be on the table which blurs the line between church and state .... Her failure to say that guns shouldn't be allowed in schools also frightens the hell out of me." -- John Roukis, public high school English Language Arts and AP Literature and Composition teacher in Manhattan

  • Threatens Budget Cuts That Will Hurt

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    "I don't anticipate that the changes would be immediately felt by the students on a day-to-day basis; however, over time the districts would feel it, and it would trickle down to the students. There would be budget cuts to areas that need it, such as special education and the arts. The idea of taking money away from the schools to give vouchers for charter schools (which are not held to the same accountability as a public school) is a disservice to those students and teachers in the public schools.

    "That bothers me as both an educator and as a parent. My children go to public school. My tax dollars pay for the public schools. I don't think it even makes any sense that my tax dollars will pay for schools in which students and staff are not held to the same standard or requirements of public school students and teachers. If they are considered 'better' than the public school, then they should be held to a higher standard, not a lesser one (or none at all for that matter)." -- Name withheld, 5th grade teacher in New Jersey

    More from CafeMom: 34 Photos From the Women's Marches That Prove Equality Is a Family Affair

  • She Wants to Rip the System to Shreds

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    "The fact that [Betsy DeVos] has no experience with the [public school] system as a student or a parent, compounded with her support of for-profit education and school choice, should raise your suspicions. It is akin to appointing an atheist and agnostic in charge of a church. When I heard her completely inept responses to questions about IDEA during her confirmation hearing on January 17, it became crystal clear that not only does she not support the system, she doesn't understand it at all. Confirming her appointment to this cabinet position is like leaving children with a babysitter who never lets her own children out of her house.

    "My education is my greatest asset. The opportunity to obtain it was a gift that I now share with others every day. As a parent, I am an active participant in my children's education and I know that my contributions make the system better for everyone involved. Don't put the public education system in the hands of someone who doesn't understand it and wants to rip it to shreds." -- Beatriz Pelaez-Martinez, 9th and 12th grade teacher

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