Educators “Devastated” by Education Secretary DeVos

There has been country-wide controversy, particularly here at Timber Creek, about President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education pick.

On Feb. 7, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the Secretary of Education by the Senate by a 50-51 tie broken by Vice President Mike Pence. It is very rare for the vice president to make a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. After weeks of Senate Republicans being flooded with calls from dismayed teachers and parents, only two Republican states, Maine and Alaska, switched their votes to go against DeVos. Only one more Republican state was needed to break the tie in favor of the Democrats, but this did not occur.

DeVos grew up in a very wealthy home, with her father being a millionaire entrepreneur. DeVos and her husband, Richard DeVos, are said to have assets from $583 million to $1 billion. They are known to give generously to the Republican party and the Trump campaign and many speculate that the donations were the reason she was nominated for Secretary of Education. DeVos is known for her controversial opinions on public education versus private education.

Many teachers at Timber Creek were opposed to the nomination of DeVos, while others remain hopeful that she will be a change that education needs.

AP World History Teacher, Melissa West is “devastated” about the Secretary of Education pick.

In regards to the government aspect, Michael Otto said,  “[A Vice President tie-breaker] has actually never happened in a cabinet position before, it’s rare to happen at all. The government teacher side of me liked it, because I then got to refer to it in class. Every other part of me found it irritating.”

Erin Burkamp, an English teacher, said, “I was extremely disappointed because first and foremost, she has never served a day in public education. She does not have a public education degree, she has never been a teacher, she has never served on a public education board of any kind. So her advocacy in Michigan has largely been about school choice and charter schools, which is in no way shape or form resembles what we do in public education. While I appreciate her efforts in school choice, it is an ill informed position to take.”

Burkamp was especially vocal on Twitter calling on our representatives to vote no, and she like many other upset teachers, parents and students called her representatives.

“I called Senator John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both their mailboxes were full, but I called them every day for a week and left them voicemails,” said Burkamp.

This upset her along with AP U.S. History teacher, Coleman Roach.

“I don’t think that many Republicans who voted ‘yes’ to Betsy DeVos think that she is the most qualified candidate for that position. But as Republicans, it is also their responsibility to in some ways, acquiesce to the leader of their party, and the leader of their party is unequivocally the President of the United States right now,” said Roach.  “So even if they disagree with their President, most politicians are going to fall in line with the leader of the party, unless it costs them at home with their electorate or if they have a serious conscious issue.”

Public school education is a problem in the U.S. This is a known fact to many educators and administrators. The U.S. in comparison to other countries education lags behind. Scores vary in many different states and some schools are lower than others. The education standards vary for every school in the U.S. and it is a challenge to try to fix these issues. Those that would argue for DeVos make the claim that she is a new set of eyes and a new perspective to look at a problem that has not been fixed for years throughout different administration.

“People interview poorly, don’t get me wrong. George Bush was a terrible public speaker in some ways, but a very good physical communicator. He did a lot of things physically how he set himself up in a room with leaders of other countries, that made him in a position of power to where they had to turn to talk to him,” said Paul Raska, in regards to her Senate hearings that gained publicity. “So it’s hard to judge my opinion on her, until I see her work, because I like to give people the benefit of doubt. While she knows very little, she can learn and she might make good choices, and she will bring a new perspective.”

DeVos’ main stance on education is that the private sector of education will get more funding, taking away the money from the public school sector. Many public school teachers, such as the ones at Timber Creek, are concerned about the possible defunding of public schools.

Ben Metcalf, who has worked in both private school and public school, said, “There are very few charter schools that you could go to, using just the vouchers. Vouchers are money that pays toward tuition, 2,000 dollars, 5,000 dollars, whatever it is. Having taught in a private school where tuition was 14,000 dollars a year,  that 2,000 dollar [voucher] wouldn’t be enough, that 5,000 dollars wouldn’t be enough. Taking money away from public schools to give kids a chance at private schools, that are already making a profit. It staggers me.”

In regards to what action she has taken, so far nothing has been implemented from her confirmation in the Secretary of Education position. Teachers, such as the ones at Timber Creek, and students will see in the coming years how her administration effects the education system.

“I went back to public schools for a reason. These are the kids I grew up with. I got back to public education, because I want to help those kids achieve more. A lot of the private school kids have a leg up they were born with a silver spoon, or with privileges poorer kids don’t have. I was very much a poor kid, we were a food stamp family. My dad was a teacher, and we had a single income, my mom watched the three boys. He was raising a family of five on a teacher’s salary, back in the 1970s, we were on food stamps, we were on government assistance, because we were poor,” said Metcalf. “Those are the people that make America, in my opinion. Those are the people that do the hard work, those are the blue collar, those are the people that need public school education, because they can’t afford private school. With DeVos as our new [Secretary of Education], I don’t believe that she will be looking out for my people, those people, the central part of the United States the poor kid, because she’s never experienced that.”

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