EMERGENCY: HEARING FOR BETSY DEVOS FOR EDUCATION SET FOR JANUARY 11: ACTION # 2

Betsy DeVos is not a champion of public school education. Based on her own statements documented in many sources she does not support Common Core but does support both vouchers and charter schools. [Vouchers, charters, and Common Core are all explained below as well as citations for this information and DeVos’s statements.]  Senator Michael Bennet (D) representing CO is on this committee. 

If you agree that Betsy DeVos is not suited to be Secretary of the Department of Education call or email your Senators and ask them to vote against her in their advice and consent procedure. Here is a list of Senators on the US Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee

 

Member Washington Phone Additional Phone Numbers
Chairman

Senator Lamar Alexander

(Republican – TN)

P: (202) 224-4944 (423) 752-5337

(731) 664-0289

(901) 544-4224

Ranking Member

Senator Patty Murray

(Democratic – WA)

P: (202) 224-2621 (425) 259-6515

(360) 696-7797

Senator Michael B. Enzi

(Republican – WY)

P: (202) 224-3424 (307) 261-6572

(307) 772-2477

Senator Richard Burr

(Republican – NC)

P: (202) 224-3154 (828) 350-2437

(336) 631-5125

Senator Bernie Sanders

(Democratic – VT)

P: (202) 224-5141 (802) 862-0697

(802) 748-9269

Johnny Isakson

(Republican – GA)

P: (202) 224-3643 (770) 661-0999
Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr

(Democratic – PA)

              P: (202) 224-6324 (215) 405-9660

(570) 941-0930

Senator Rand Paul

(Republican – KY)

P: 202-224-4343 (270)-782-8303

(859)-426-0165

Senator Al Franken

(Democratic – MN)

P: (202) 224-5641 (218) 722-2390

(218) 284-8721

Senator Susan Collins

(Republican – ME)

P: (202)224-2523 (207) 622-8414

(207) 945-0417

Senator Michael F. Bennett

(Democratic – CO)

P: 202-224-5852 303-455-7600

719-542-7550

Senator Lisa Murkowski

(Republican – AK)

P: (202)-224-6665 (907) 456-0233

(907) 271-3735

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

(Democratic – RI)

P: (202) 224-2921 (401) 453-5294
Senator Mark Kirk

(Republican – IL)

P: 202-224-2854 (312)-886-3506

(217)-492-5089

Senator Tammy Baldwin

 

(Democratic – WI)

P: (202) 224-5653 (715) 832-8424

(920) 498-2668

Senator Tim Scott

(Republican – SC)

P: (202) 224-6121,

Toll Free: (855) 425-6324

(803) 771-6112
Senator Christopher S. Murphy

(Democratic – CT)

P: (202) 224-4041 (864) 233-5366
Senator Orrin Hatch

(Republican – UT)

P: (202) 224-5251 (435) 586-8435
Senator Elizabeth Warren

(Democratic – MA)

P: (202) 224-4543 (617) 565-3170

(413) 788-2690

Senator Pat Roberts

(Republican – KS)

P: 202-224-4774 (620) 227-2244

(785) 295-2745

Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D.

(Republican – LA)

P: (202) 224-5824 (318) 448-7176

(225) 929-7711

Betsy DeVos has been head of the pro-charter and pro-school-voucher nonprofit American Federation for Children. She is a billionaire and, granted, a Washington outsider, but a strong advocate for privatizing public education. I am strongly in favor of free public school education, which does include charter schools, which are often carefully structured for specific needs in certain communities, which need adequate, but not suffocating, oversight. However approximately 13% of charter schools are for profit. DeVos has specifically lobbied in Michigan for less oversight for charter schools.

Betsy DeVos’s husband started a private charter school, Western Michigan Aviation Academy. Her children attended private, Christian schools. She has NO experience in public school education except peripherally with this charter school, which is very specialized.

It is critical that we strengthen our public schools, start paying our teachers for the real hours they work, which are considerably longer than school hours, and make parents accountable for their children’s behavior. Taking money away from them is NOT the answer, but that is exactly what DeVos is in favor of when it comes to vouchers. Why should taxpayer money go to private, often for-profit schools?

Elementary school teacher and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said DeVos’s work “has done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers—which take away funding and local control from our public schools—to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps.” The NEA (National Education Association) is a labor union for teachers and educational support personnel. http://educationvotes.nea.org/2016/11/30/5-reasons-trump-pick-betsy-devos-wrong-secretary-education/

It’s important to understand the difference between vouchers and charter schools. Vouchers are public school tax funds given to parents to use at whatever school they want, e.g., private, church, and/or for-profit schools. They are the equivalent amount that would go to the child’s free public school. As such they drain money away from the public education system. Most schools for which vouchers are used do not have the oversight that free public schools have, or even that charter schools have. As well, they can cherry-pick their students. Today they are licensed by states, and not all states allow them. This appears to be a relatively unbiased description of the voucher system: http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/school-vouchers/

Charter schools can be started by anyone, but go through a rigorous application process. Usually they are created to address a specific need for a way to do something differently than the local public school. They vary considerably in how well they meet required educational goals. Again, they use funds that would normally go to free public schools, but they are part of the free public school system. There are clearly situations in which a specific charter school may meet an important educational need. Here’s a site that explains them in more detail by a parent and education specialist: https://wehavekids.com/education/Charter-Schools-vs-Public-Schools

What is Common Core? It is a series of English language arts and mathematics standards that have been developed using best practices from this country and internationally. States do NOT have to follow them, although it would make sense for them to do so from an educational and financial perspective, as although they are NOT mandated by the federal government, federal funds are not provided if Common Core is not included. They are not a set curriculum, nor do they have the same type of unending standardized tests that were used in the No Child Left Behind initiative, which many administrators, teachers, students, and parents hated. Common Core is quite different and focused on critical thinking, analytical skills, problem-solving, and applying knowledge to real-life situations. Development of Common Core was initiated by the states in 2009. See www.corestandards.org/ for detailed information.

Because of the way education is divided up, each public school has their local school district curriculum to follow, as well as their state curriculum. And this varies considerably from district to district and state to state. Awareness of the differences and the specialized needs of specific areas is critical for a person overseeing the U.S. Department of Education. It must be a person with public school experience, and that person is NOT Betsy DeVos.

Here are some citations for DeVos’s opinions and statements: http://www.newsweek.com/seven-things-know-about-education-pick-betsy-devos-525945; http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/11/5-things-to-know-about-betsy-devos-trumps-pick-for-education-secretary/508661/.

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