Public News Service
Nationally, education advocates say even though Betsy DeVos was approved by a narrow margin on Tuesday February 7th, the fight has galvanized support for public education. As expected, Vice President Mike Pence had to make history by casting the deciding vote to confirm President Trump’s pick.
Massachusetts Teacher’s Association President Barbara Madeloni, says even though they could not come up with the 51st vote to deny Betsy DeVos the nomination, she believes the debate energized the nation.
“The millions of people who sent messages to say, ‘Don’t go ahead with this confirmation,’ I think there is a message in there that is so powerful: the American people value public education, and they want to protect it,” she said.
Madeloni says the same kind of determination was expressed last fall when Commonwealth voters soundly rejected a ballot measure that would have lifted the cap on charter schools. During the confirmation process, DeVos spoke in favor of expanding alternatives to traditional public schools, including charter schools and private school vouchers.
Madeloni says DeVos will be the first Education Secretary ever to have zero experience in the public schools and, during the confirmation process, demonstrated little knowledge about key issues, like how to meet the needs of students with disabilities in public schools.
“Her motives are to undermine it and to privatize it, so she doesn’t need that information,” she continued. “If you watched her hearing, it didn’t seem to bother her that she didn’t have that information, because it wasn’t going to be a part of her playbook.”
Madeloni says people came out to oppose DeVos who have never been involved in public education issues before. She believes they are now energized and will stay involved.
“Let’s broaden that conversation,” she added. “Let’s not just protect it from Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration, but let’s actually go back inside and say, ‘What do we want for our public schools?'”