DSC Urges Senate HELP Committee to Oppose Nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education

17 Jan in
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New York- Today, the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), a national coalition of students, parents, educators and advocates across 27 states and Washington D.C., stands together in defense of our students’ human right to education and urges the Senate to reject President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

Our public education system is a bedrock of our democracy and fundamental to the fulfillment of basic human rights. An essential qualification for our nation’s Secretary of Education is his or her commitment to a robust system of public education, in which all young people attend schools where they have access to a quality education and where their civil rights are protected.

As the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) holds its nomination hearing for Betsy DeVos, we want to express our view that Ms. DeVos is unqualified to serve as the Secretary of Education. Her support for initiatives that re-allocate public school funding for charter schools and private schools, including through vouchers, has diverted public funds to private interests without adequate oversight or protections for students’ fundamental rights. Ms. DeVos supported a ballot initiative in Michigan to change the state constitution to allow taxpayer money to follow students to private schools and is on the board of organizations that support private school vouchers and expansion of charter schools.(i)  

These positions are especially troubling given that the increasing diversion of public funds to private school voucher programs and privately-run charter schools has exacerbated the re-segregation of under-resourced schools in predominantly African American and Latino communities. Most of Michigan’s charter schools reported reading and math scores below the state average.(ii)  Two of these charters ranked at “…the absolute bottom for academic performance.(iii)

“Our communities must have access to the resources and services necessary to improve our neighborhood public schools-- thereby strengthening communities, cities, and our society as a whole. Betsy DeVos’ record demonstrates she will continue to reinforce current inequities while continuing to create miseducated second class citizens.”
-- Marlyn Tillman of Gwinnett SToPP in Georgia and the Dignity in Schools Campaign

Our students need and deserve a Secretary of Education who not only supports public school funding, but also fosters schools that treat all youth and their parents with respect, dignity, and equity regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, disability, religion or class. The Secretary of Education must work to reduce exclusionary discipline and other harmful policies and practices that disproportionately impact students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students(iv) and must work to improve access to educational opportunities for those students. Yet Ms. DeVos has funded an effort to end affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan(v) and has supported organizations that attempt to undermine the rights of the LGBTQ community.(vi)

The Secretary of Education must be well equipped at this important moment to monitor the federal obligations of states for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the fair and efficient distribution of Title 1 funds, which are intended to provide critical resources to poor and historically disadvantaged students. It is critical that the Senate confirm a candidate with a proven track record of protecting the rights of all students.
 
We therefore urge the Senate to reject the nomination of Ms. DeVos as our next Secretary of Education and to ensure that the Department of Education continues to protect students’ and parents’ civil rights.

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Endnotes:

(i)  NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos: What You Need to Know, 11/23/2016, available at http://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/secretary-education-nominee-betsy-devos-what-you-need-know-0

(ii)  Valerie Strauss, A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan — and what she might do as secretary of education, Washington Post, 12/8/2017, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/12/08/a-sobering-look-at-what-betsy-devos-did-to-education-in-michigan-and-what-she-might-do-as-secretary-of-education/?utm_term=.ead76f7b0e74

(iii)  Stephen Henderson, Betsy DeVos and the twilight of public education, Detroit Free Press,12/3/2016, available at http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/stephen-henderson/2016/12/03/betsy-devos-education-donald-trump/94728574/

(iv) U.S. Department of Education, First Look Report, Civil Rights Data Collection, Updated 10/28/16, available at https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/2013-14-first-look.pdf.

(v)  NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos: What You Need to Know, 11/23/2016, available at http://www.naacpldf.org/press-release/secretary-education-nominee-betsy-devos-what-you-need-know-0.

(vi)  Benjamin Wermund and Kimberly Hefling, Trump’s education secretary pick supported anti-gay causes, Politico, 11/25/2016, available at http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/betsy-devos-education-secretary-civil-rights-gay-transgender-students-231837