Resign, Betsy DeVos!
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Dear Betsy DeVos, we call on you to resign from your current role as Secretary of the United States Department of Education.
As public school students, teachers, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, staff, administrators, and supporters of public education as the bedrock of American society, we do not believe you are qualified to hold this all-important position.
We call on you to immediately resign from your post, to be replaced by a more qualified candidate with a track record of steadfast commitment to funding and expanding access to high-quality publicly-funded public education for the roughly 50,400,000 students who attend public elementary and secondary schools in the USA.
Here are a few of our reasons for this demand:
(1) You have spoken openly and honestly for "radical reforms" against quality, publicly-funded, public education for all.
In a 2013 interview with Philanthropy magazine, you said:
In fact, let’s be clear, in many cases, they are failing. That’s helped people become more open to what were once considered really radical reforms—reforms like vouchers, tax credits, and education savings accounts.
John Austin, a member of Michigan’s Education Board, has said:
"If [the DeVoses] do nationally what they did here, they'll literally be putting a financial gun to the heads of Republicans to go along with expansion of for-profit and private schools and voucher-type systems, irrespective of educational benefits. That's what they've done here, to ensure that the legislature supports [their goals]: They've threatened to primary, they've rewarded those who go along with their expansion without quality control on cyber [schools] and charters. That's how they use their money."
(2) The policies you have advocated for extensively in your home state of Michigan have wreaked absolute havoc on Detroit public schools.
A majority of Detroit schoolchildren go to charter schools. The majority of these schools are for-profit. Meanwhile, public schools slowly crumble and become infested with mushrooms, black mold, fecal matter, and dead rodents.
While public schools in Detroit and other Michigan urban centers decayed, your Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation extensively funded private Christian schools ($8.6 million) and charter schools ($5.2 million), according to your Wikipedia entry. Professor of Economics at Tulane University, Douglas N. Harris, wrote in a 2016 New York Times op-ed 'Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools' that you were partly responsible for "what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country."
(3) Even many of the country's most prominent charter school advocates have opposed your radical policies like school vouchers.
Eli Broad, Fortune 500 executive and founder of The Broad Foundation that invests heaviliy in charter schools, wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) asking them to vote ‘no’ on your confirmation, calling you "unprepared" and "unqualified" for the position.
Broad wrote “We must have a Secretary of Education who believes in public education and the need to keep public schools public.”
(4) You will not commit to equal accountability for "any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter, or private."
When asked this question in your confirmation hearing, you gave neither a "yes" nor a "no" answer.
(5) You will not commit to funding public education and keeping public schools public.
In your confirmation hearings, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) asked, "Can you commit to us tonight that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public education?"
Your response was:
"I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students. We acknowledge today that not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them. I'm hopeful that we can work together to find common ground and ways that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them."
Se. Murray responded: "I take that as not being willing to commit to not privatizing public schools or cutting money from education."
Your response: "I guess I wouldn't characterize it in that way"
(6) You have spoken in favor of guns in schools.
Cosmopolitan Magazine reported during your confirmation hearings:
Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut, questioned DeVos about her views on whether guns should be allowed in schools. Murphy was a senator during the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and has forcefully advocated for gun-control laws.
DeVos responded that states should decide school gun policies. Citing Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, DeVos said, "I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies."
(7) You have shown disregard for the fundamental American principle of Separation of Church and State
In a 2001 interview for The Gathering, according to Mother Jones, you said:
"There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education...Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God's kingdom."
(8) Your history of extensive political contributions presents tremendous potential conflicts of interest.
During your confirmation hearing, you did not deny that you and your family had personally given over $200 million in political contributions. When asked whether you would still have been chosen for this position had you not made those contributions, you indicated that you would have.
This figure includes nearly $1,000,000 in contributions from you and your family, since 1980, to the same sitting Republican senators who confirmed your appointment.
When asked once if you felt that your contributions were problematic, you responded, "I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point."
For all of these reasons and more we demand that you resign from your position immediately as Secretary of the US DOE so that a more suitable replacement may be found. In doing so, you will be helping to heal the deep divisions created by your appointment and spare the country months of protest and stalemating during a critical moment for the renewal of US public education.
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