Why I’m voting against Betsy DeVos

The concerns are real. We must listen to them.

Kirsten Gillibrand
Feb 3, 2017 · 4 min read
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I am opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

I have never heard so many concerns from my constituents about someone so ill prepared for the position they were nominated for. I am not convinced that Betsy DeVos would use her position to fight for the 2.6 million students and 200,000 teachers in the public school system in my state.

She refused to commit to protecting the federal funding that goes to our Title I schools, which serve students from low-income families. She refused to commit to upholding critical federal laws, like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, in schools that receive federal funding. She refused to commit to upholding Title IX guidance from the Department of Education, which has played a pivotal role in addressing the problem of sexual assault in schools across the country. She even wavered on whether guns have any place in and around our schools, and said she would oppose gun-free school zones.

She doesn’t have any experience working as a teacher or a school administrator at any point in her career. Instead, she has spent decades advocating for education policies that would fundamentally undermine our public school system.

What kind of message does this send to our students and their families and their teachers, if we put public education in the hands of a person who has worked so tirelessly to weaken public schools?

I am astonished by how little she seems to understand the needs of New York’s schools, students, and teachers. And I am disturbed by how out of touch her statements are with New York values.

In New York, we have over 2.6 million students who attend public school, including 450,000 students with disabilities. We have over 200,000 public school teachers. 90 percent of all students in our country go to public school.

Betsy DeVos has vilified public schools. But public schools serve all kids — they feed them when they show up hungry. They teach all kids with disabilities, and don’t send them somewhere else. They help all of our students reach their potential. And public schools are held accountable for meeting the requirements of our federal education laws and essential civil rights protections.

Teachers and students around the country have raised their voices about Betsy DeVos and have made their positions very clear. They do not want us to confirm her to lead the Department of Education, because she will not be an Education Secretary for all of America’s children.

I’ve heard from tens of thousands of New Yorkers. This letter is from one of my constituents:

“I am a school social worker in a middle school, hired to help under-served children develop effective executive functioning skills and survive their day-to-day lives. My students are resilient, intelligent, loving young women and men, and they face indescribable hardships that no child should have to experience. The ideologies and policies represented by Betsy DeVos and the Trump Administration put my students’ futures on the line. PLEASE continue to represent and fight for my students by denying the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.”

Here’s another letter from another New Yorker. She wrote:

“While I teach in a private school setting, my sixth grade daughter attends a New York City public middle school, and my second grade son attends a funded special education school to address his speech and language delays. We rely on the excellent public schools in our community to support the learning needs of our children, as do hundreds of thousands of other families in New York City, and millions of families across the nation.”

A teacher in one of the poorest school districts in my state wrote:

“I not only teach the state-mandated curriculum — we offer elite educational programming to all those who reside in our district. I am honored on a daily basis to know that I have been able to level the playing field for many of my students by offering them the keys to success through their education. Students who come to us homeless, underfed, victims of poverty and trauma are given the same access to success as those more fortunate.Because of our public school system, they have been able to achieve the American Dream and achieve all their dreams.”

These concerns are real. We must listen to them.

We need to listen to the teachers in our states, who work so hard to make sure that our children are educated, and have every opportunity to succeed.

We need to listen to our families and our students, who have expressed very real fears that this nominee will cause real damage to our schools.

I will think about the students and teachers in their states who desperately need good leadership from our Education Department. And I will not support the confirmation of someone who is such a threat to our public school system.

If you agree, join me in opposing Betsy DeVos’s nomination and send the message that our schools deserve better.

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