Resisting Betsy DeVos and Advancing Equity

When I served our community as a 2nd- and 3rd- grade ELA teacher, I went to work every day ready to empower my students’ limitless curiosity and capacity to thrive. My students, and thousands like them all over the country, are now some of the most vulnerable to destructive federal policies which are blind to their humanity and complicit in the abandonment of the promise of an equitable public education.

It is clear Betsy DeVos serves the interests of private companies like for-profit colleges and over the interests of students and families. Now, she is coming to Denver to speak to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that she has also privately funded to dominate state legislatures.

If she were to step into my classroom, Secretary DeVos would not only notice rigorous instruction, she would also hear brilliant students asking each other critical questions. Our classroom theme was “education and resistance,” and my students learned about our history with thematic literacy units that explored the accomplishments of teacher-organizer Dolores Huerta and civil rights leader Rosa Parks.

Images from author’s former classroom in Denver Public Schools

Keeping with my classroom theme, I have an important question for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos: Why are you actively removing protections for the most vulnerable students? Whose interests are you really serving?

From the moment of her appointment, Betsy DeVos has failed to protect students with the highest needs: students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and students from low-income backgrounds. When asked, “Should all schools that receive taxpayer funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?” DeVos answered, “I think that is a matter that’s best left to the states.” When asked whether there was any situation in which she would overrule a school requesting federal voucher money ― if the school discriminated against students based on sexual orientation, race or special needs. Again, she deferred that power unto the states. Students from low-income backgrounds that often fall prey to for-profit colleges and universities can’t count on DeVos to protect their futures either. In the last month she has loosened regulations for for-profit colleges; many of whom operate as glorified payday lenders.

Civil rights are both a moral imperative and federal protection that we work to uphold in Denver. My former students learned about the courage and challenges it took to pave the road for civil rights in our democracy, and we must honor their legacy today. The Denver community is committed to working towards an equitable public education system. All students have a right to an excellent public school education where their identities and needs are served with dignity and respect.

I am running for Denver Public School Board of Education to ensure that students’ best interests are at the center of every decision we make, leveraging parents and school communities are valuable partners. Together, we can fulfill the promise we make to students in Denver, one in which “every child succeeds.”

Angela Cobián is running for the District 2 seat on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. The views expressed here are her own and do not represent the beliefs of any organization.