***Update: At the time this letter was read at Monday’s board meeting, the hearing regarding Betsy DeVos’ nomination as the secretary of education was still scheduled for Wednesday, January 11. Later that evening, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions postponed the hearing until January 17 at 5:00 PM.
This is a letter to the editor that I will submit for the January 12 edition of the Belleville-Area Independent.
To the Editor:
This week marks a defining moment for public education in the United States. On Wednesday, January 11, a hearing will have taken place regarding Betsy DeVos’ nomination as the secretary of education.
During the past few board meetings, I have expressed my concerns publicly about Mrs. DeVos’ appointment to the top education post, and I reiterate those same concerns here. I have contacted Senator Stabenow and Peter’s offices, and they both have now expressed their concerns regarding this appointment and have vowed to vote against her nomination. I commend this move from our senators on behalf of the students in Michigan’s public schools.
In Michigan, DeVos has been an outspoken advocate for charter schools. As Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press has written, she and other family members have given over $2 million to GLEP, the Great Lakes Education Project, a political action committee that promotes “school choice.” She is a member of the American Federation for Children as well as other organizations that encourage “choice” and “parental empowerment.” While these phrases sound good, they all operate under the guise of improving academic outcomes but are supported by incredibly troublesome records of achievement.
I encourage anyone wishing to learn more about Michigan’s lackluster results with charter schools to read “Michigan spends $1B on charterschools but fails to hold them accountable” from the Free Press.
I am deeply troubled over the possibility of her appointment to this post for a myriad of reasons, including: her utter lack of experience in public schools, as she did not attend a public school, did not send her children to public schools, and has never worked in a public school; the DeVos family’s contributions to undermine increased charter school oversight, including lifting the cap on the number of charter schools in Michigan; and her involvement in the 2000 campaign to amend Michigan’s constitution to allow school vouchers, which is currently prevented by the Blaine amendment.
At the time this letter was submitted, the Office of Government Ethics, the department responsible for vetting cabinet nominees, has expressed concerns about DeVos and the seemingly rushed nomination process as well, noting that her ethics review was still incomplete.
I believe that the secretary of education should put research first, and he or she should represent the best interests of our public schools and not work to undermine them.
Trustee, VBPS Board of Education
Resident, Sumpter Township