Education

Students, Teachers Turn Out to Say ‘No’ to DeVos

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – More than 80 educators, students and members of the community turned out at Youngstown State University’s Beeghly College of Education Tuesday to say “No” to President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos.

The rally, coordinated by HaSheen Wilson on behalf of the Ohio Education Association and Progress Mahoning Valley, urged the audience to contact U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and tell him to vote against DeVos’ confirmation.

Wilson, a network administrator at YSU, criticized DeVos’ record of supporting charter schools at the expense of public education and called her unqualified for the post. He pointed to the poor performance of charter schools in the city of Youngstown as an example of how funneling money from public education into for-profit schools has hurt communities.

“We must take action, because we don’t want to see what’s happening here happen throughout our country,” Wilson said.

Public education, Wilson stressed, is an important component of American society. Investing more money in charter schools siphons resources from public schools. “We’ve got to do whatever we can to make Senator Portman vote no for DeVos,” he stated, followed by the crowd chanting, “No for DeVos.”

Ohio’s other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, has already said he would vote against confirming DeVos.

The four Democrats in Ohio delegation to the House of Representatives have shared their concerns about the secretary-designate. On Monday, Tim Ryan, Marcy Kaptur, Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty called on DeVos to pay the $5.3 million fine owed to the state of Ohio by her political action committee, All Children Matter, for violating state election laws.

“The Department of Education needs a leader who believes that public education is a universal right regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation,” Ryan said. “Betsy DeVos is not that leader.”

The group was given instructional cards on how to shoot a 30-second video, post it on Facebook and tag Portman with an explanation as to why DeVos should not be confirmed. Wilson said constituents could also call his office, or use other forms of social media to voice their concerns.

Also speaking at the rally were Mary Janek, a former teacher in Campbell City Schools, Marissa Gray, a YSU student, and Christopher Anderson, a graduate student at YSU.

DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, is a strong advocate of the school voucher system in that state, Jannic said. “They’re unregulated by the state, but charter schools still receive state and federal funds,” she said. “Those are our tax dollars.”

In Ohio, there are 407 charter schools over 611 school districts, Janek said. “Under DeVos, you can bet that that number of unregulated schools will grow,” she declared. “That’s Betsy DeVos’ agenda – taxpayer’s money in the pockets of the charter school corporate owners.”

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions cleared DeVos Tuesday for a full floor vote in the Senate.

Gray emphasized that DeVos has demonstrated an utter disregard for Title IX, which protects the rights of students – especially women and minorities. The law allows schools and the state to assist victims of sexual assault, including counseling.

“It’s imperative that survivors have this infrastructure to address things like PTSD [post-traumatic stress syndrome],” she said, so students can continue their education.

Anderson said he values public education and is the first member of his family to graduate from a four-year university. He questioned DeVos’ acumen regarding higher education, reminding the audience that in her confirmation hearings she knew little about federal programs such as Pell Grants or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

“In a time when 80% of students need some form of aid, isn’t it important that we at least have a secretary of education that knows what a FAFSA looks like?” he asked.

Maria Pappas, a former principal at Paul C. Bunn School in Youngstown, said that she attended the rally because she believes that charter schools have failed and the community needs to rally and support the changes underway in the Youngstown school system.

“[Charter schools are] an experiment that’s gone bad,” she said. As for DeVos, Pappas said, “She is so blatantly unqualified for the job.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.