Petition to Susan Collins, Steven W Abbott, Phillips HH Hinch, Cameron C O'Brien, Catherine M Brown, David S Lieberman, Betsy McDonnell, Annie Clark
University of Maine Community to Susan Collins: Vote Against Betsy DeVos
We call upon Maine Senator Susan Collins to vote against the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. As members of the extended community of the University of Maine system — which includes students, alumni, faculty, business leaders, and citizens in Augusta, Farmington, Fort Kent, Lewiston-Auburn, Machias, Orono, Portland/Gorham, and Presque Isle — we believe that Ms. DeVos's values are fundamentally misaligned with the position. We believe that Ms. DeVos lacks the proper K-12 and higher education experience for the job, and her interests are demonstrably opposed to a comprehensive public education system that provides opportunity for immigrants, working- and middle-class people, students of varying faiths, the LGBTQ community, and people of color. If Senator Collins votes to approve Ms. DeVos, we demand that she not be invited to speak at University of Maine commencements, functions, or events. Should she be invited to speak, we declare our intention to silently walk out of her speech in protest. ***After signing, call Susan Collins's office at 207-622-8414 asking her to vote NO on Betsy DeVos.*** This petition will be presented at the UMS Board of Trustees meeting at USM – Portland on Monday, January 30.
Petition to U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate
Protect Foreign Language Programs In Our Schools
Please sign and share this petition to tell the U.S. Congress to reject the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts that would eliminate major funding for international education and foreign language programs. This legislation would directly impact our students’ academic performance, the American economy, and our country’s capacity to interact and compete with other nations. Language study is vital for facilitating intercultural communication and cooperation. The merit of foreign language programs lies in the exposure of students to the vast world beyond their respective communities. Languages are the bridge by which the United States can interact with other nations, and they are universally applicable to all fields of study. American companies lose an estimated $2 billion a year due to inadequate cross-cultural guidance for their employees in multicultural situations (Committee for Economic Development, 2006). Our students go on to work in jobs that require interactions with different countries and cultures, and foreign language skills are critical in these professional endeavors that contribute to economical growth. Students who completed at least four years of foreign-language study scored over 120 points higher on each section of the SAT than students who took a half year or less (College Board, 2016). Extensive research shows that the process itself of learning another language supports academic achievements and cognitive benefits. Thus, even for students who do not directly use a foreign language beyond formal education, their language classes nevertheless make a valuable contribution to their future. The Trump administration’s rationale for the proposed budget cuts is that international education and foreign language programs "suppor[t] activities that are better advanced by other agencies whose primary mission is national security." Diplomacy is the first step in national security before putting our troops in danger unless absolutely necessary. Retired U.S. military officers recently wrote a letter urging Congress to fully fund diplomacy in recognition of the fact that "many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone.” Not every student will go on to become an official diplomat, but our nation certainly stands to gain from diplomatic citizens who are culturally aware and appreciate global diversity as a result of foreign language classes. International education and foreign language programs foster the skills and values essential to cultivating the compassionate global citizens that will comprise our country's next generation of leaders. Put America first by protecting these programs in our schools. Help ensure that our next generation is equipped to actively engage with the diverse cultures of our world.
Petition to Pat Toomey
Ask Senator Pat Toomey to hold an in-person town hall in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania voters have been attempting to contact Pat Toomey at his various offices in Pennsylvania and in Washington DC in response to Donald Trump's cabinet picks, among other issues. Toomey has not held an in-person town hall in Pennsylvania since 2013. Because voters are no longer convinced that Senator Toomey is listening to the messages left with his office, on social media, or via fax (when it is possible to get through) we demand that he speak to us directly. Update: You can now put up a poster reminding Senator Toomey that there are 10k signatures on this petition. The more visibility, the better. Link: https://www.docdroid.net/Bn5gXqv/toomey.pdf.html
Petition to Patty Murray, Jerry Moran, richard durbin, Thad Cochran, Jack Reed, Richard Shelby, Barbara Mikulski, Lamar Alexander, Jeanne Shaheen, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Merkley, Mark Kirk, Brian Schatz, Bill Cassidy, Tammy Baldwin, Shelley Capito, James Lankford, U.S. Senate
Confirm Betsy DeVos as Education secretary.
Here are seven things you need to know about DeVos. 1. DeVos is a supporter of school choice. "I'm most focused on educational choice," DeVos told Philanthropy Roundtable in 2013, per USA Today. "But, thinking more broadly, what we are trying to do is tear down the mindset that assigns students to a school based solely on the ZIP Code of their family’s home. We advocate instead for as much freedom as possible." The editors at National Review, who ardently support DeVos, document some of her efforts in fighting for school choice: A decades-long education reformer, DeVos has worked quietly behind the scenes to create opportunities for every student to flourish, regardless of zip code. Those efforts started in her home state of Michigan, where in 1993 she and her husband (who, among other philanthropic roles, is on the board of the National Review Institute) helped enact the state’s charter-school law. That was a springboard for a nationwide strategy that backs legislators, candidates, and initiatives that aim to increase school choice, through the organization DeVos founded in 2010, the American Federation for Children. It is arguably the most effective education-reform organization in the country. Candidates whom DeVos has backed include former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, who established a statewide voucher program that his successor, Mike Pence, expanded. This year, AFC and its state-affiliated PACs were involved in 121 state-level and local races in twelve states and won 89 percent of them, everywhere from Georgia to Nevada. In Florida, the state’s teachers’ union spent $2.7 million on legislative races, about twice as much as its opponents — and pro-school-choice candidates still won 20 out of 21 state-level races.DeVos also co-founded the West Michigan Aviation Academy–a charter school–with her husband, Richard DeVos, Jr. DeVos opposed a 2003 Michigan initiative that would have overturned affirmative action. American Civil Rights Coalition chairman Ward Connerly put forward the initiative to counteract the Supreme Court's decision to uphold affirmative action. Per National Review: “I fear this ballot initiative would openly serve to further divide people along racial lines, which would be entirely counterproductive,” said GOP party chair Betsy DeVos. Worse still, the loss of Republican support also means the loss of access to the DeVos family fortune (her husband is the founder of Amway). DeVos has long been one of the biggest bankrollers of conservative causes in the state — including 2000′s nationally watched campaign for Michigan school vouchers. Without their financial muscle, Connerly supporters concede, the campaign will need to turn to out-of-state-money sources, providing ammunition to opponents who are already declaring Connerly a carpetbagger who should “go home” to California.It's only fitting that Trump would pick a cabinet member who had opposed an initiative to overturn affirmative action, as he once called the late Justice Antonin Scalia a racist for opposing affirmative action. DeVos is despised by teacher's unions. Despite the concerns with DeVos, she does rile up teacher's unions, per USA Today: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Wednesday called DeVos' pick "the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education." Weingarten added, “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America. DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation."That is perhaps DeVos's best endorsement.
Petition to Betsy DeVos
Ask Betsy DeVos NOT to fund unaccredited private schools.
The biggest complaint against school vouchers is the lack of accountability. Well, we're asking for accountability. Betsy DeVos has spent her whole life trying to make charter schools and school vouchers a national reality, and now as the Secretary of Education, head of the Department of Education (DoE), she has the power to make it a reality. I am a public school teacher. Our public schools are not perfect and neither are our private schools. Mrs. DeVos believes that every child deserves a chance to go to a good school like she did, which is admirable. Yet without accountability, her plan will only send funds to schools that may or may not be of a good quality. That's why it is important now, early in her tenure as Secretary, to tell her how important accreditation is. According to dictionary.com, accreditation is "to certify (a school, college, or the like) as meeting all formal official requirements of academic excellence, curriculum, facilities, etc." Accreditation is already familiar at the college level. The DoE does not directly accredit schools; instead, it keeps a list of trusted accreditors and allows public funding to go to all institutions accredited by them. We are asking for the same for our K-12 schools. In fact, there are already a lot of accrediting agencies for primary schools, both public and private, and many of the agencies are linked to the collegiate accreditors the DoE already trusts. Consider this list of accreditors: Middle States Association Commission on Elementary Schools (MES-CES) Middle States Association Commission on Secondary Schools (MES-CSS) Middle States Association Commission on Institution-Wide Accreditation (MES-CIWA) New England Association Commission on American and International Schools Abroad (NEASC-CAISA) New England Association Commission on Independent Schools (NEASC-CIS) New England Association Commission on Public Elementary and Middle Schools (NEASC-CPEMS) New England Association Commission on Public Secondary Schools (NEASC-CPSS) North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCACASI) Northwest Association of Accredited Schools (NAAS) Southern Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACSCASI) Western Association Accrediting Commission for Schools (ACSWASC) Commission on International and Transregional Accreditation (CITA) National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA) There is already a strong tradition of accreditation of K-12 schools in this country. It would be an easy thing to require that voucher funds only go to accredited schools. Without this, parents can't be informed about which schools are actually good schools and must rely on gut feelings and other subjective criteria. Furthermore, the government may be sending taxpayer dollars from one failing school to another. Without accreditation, we may see the rise of the high school equivalent of "diploma mills." As an educator, I care about the quality of all our schools and the public's esteem of the teaching profession. At this time, when the public's trust of teachers is waning, we do not need another excuse to think that teachers are doing slipshod work or that students are receiving bad diplomas. And if you're a taxpayer who doesn't have kids or doesn't qualify, you can rest assured that other parents won't be allowed to use federal funds -- your taxpayer dollars -- on failing schools. Every student has the right to a quality education. Every parent has the right to choose a quality school for their children. All we ask is for a clear definition of quality. "Dear Mrs. DeVos, We ask that as you unfold your plan to provide the nation's poorest families access to quality education, that only accredited K-12 schools will receive public funding for vouchers. The DoE already keeps a list of trusted accreditors for colleges and universities, and only allows public funding to go to schools accredited by those trusted entities. We petition that you set up a similar system for which schools are eligible to receive vouchers, both public and private. Please set up a trusted list of private accreditors who accredit K-12 schools for the disbursement of federal funds. Thank you for considering our petition. Sincerely,The Undersigned." *The question of religious education is also important when it comes to private schools. Religion is obviously a charged issue, but all this petition asks is that every school, religiously-affiliated or not, be accredited to be eligible for federal voucher funding. We are not asking states to violate their Blaine Amendments.