Last week, Change.org sat down with Casey Rogers, who started a petition calling on the U.S. Senate to vote against Betsy DeVos, then a nominee for Secretary of Education. Casey’s petition garnered more than 425,000 signatures, and she was able to mobilize her supporters to call their senators to ask them to vote ‘no’ on DeVos. Her campaign was covered in outlets like the Washington Post, USA Today, The Blaze, and more.
To Casey’s and her supporters’ disappointment on Tuesday, the Senate confirmed DeVos 51–50 as the new education secretary, with Vice President Mike Pence voting for DeVos to break a tie.
After the decision, Casey made the following statement:
“I am so grateful to the many people who supported the movement to block the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, both by signing this petition and by calling, emailing, and otherwise reaching out to their Senators. For many, this was their first time contacting their elected officials. It is so wonderful to see people engage in the democratic process. While the results of today’s vote are disappointing, it is important to remember that our voice is still important. I intend to continue to work with those who supported this effort to monitor the Department of Education’s actions and to hold Betsy DeVos accountable.”
Check out our interview with Casey below, and stay tuned to see what steps she takes with her supporters from here.
Q: Tell us about what led you to start the petition. What moved you to launch it?
A: I had been paying attention to the hearings. I have a child with special needs, so that was of particular interest to me. So fighting for her education now with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in place is often a challenge, so I wanted to see what the new Secretary of Education would do to make life a bit easier for parents like me — or to at least uphold it.
As I was watching the hearings, and as questions started going forward from the senators, I thought her responses were very weak. She seemed like she wasn’t prepared. That was very troubling. As the hearing progressed and the questions started getting more specific, she didn’t have data, the facts, or a track record of success, and when they got around to students with disabilities, she seemed to have no knowledge of IDEA. She didn’t seem to sort of comprehend the importance of IDEA. The thing that really struck me was that she didn’t seem interested in it.
After the hearing was over, I happened to be on Facebook talking with my cousin, who is a school teacher in Massachusetts. The conversation with her was almost despairing. And I started noticing a lot of comments on Facebook from a lot of other people that sounded the same way, and I just said, “You know what, I’m going to do something.” So I went on Change.org, and I started typing. I was really trying to give voice to the people who sounded as if something had to be done, even if they didn’t know exactly what to do.
Q: Yesterday, two Republican senators said they plan to vote against DeVos, putting her confirmation on thin ice. How are you feeling about things as they stand?
A: It certainly shows that there has been some headway. I think it gives some support to the movement against her confirmation; however, no other senators have followed suit yet, and that’s a little bit troubling. I was actually expecting by now that someone else would have come forward and say that they were not planning to support her. I’m cautiously optimistic in hearing that news, but I don’t think the fight is not over yet, and my focus now send is getting the word out to people — to ask them to please call their senators to keep putting the pressure on them to change their vote.
Q: Should the Senate not vote the way you and your supporters might hope, do you have a sense of your next steps?
A: I’ve been talking with some advocacy groups about that in Colorado. Locally, I mean I think that my first goal is to continue to keep focused on the Department of Education. From learning anything from the way that this administration is operating, things are happening at the national level very quickly. It seems like rapid fire to the point where there’s a feeling of chaos. I think it’s really important for people to champion one thing and stay focused on it. My plan is to stay focused on education and try to keep the word out. Because it’s so distracting when there’s another story everyday or multiple ones everyday. I want to focus on what types of changes — if any — she’ll be making to the current education system, and staying in touch with those already involved. Generally, I plan to react to whatever surprises come out.
Q: What have you learned about online organizing in this process?
A: I learned that it’s very powerful. I actually was quite surprised with how many people that the petition reached, and the type of overwhelming support said it. I also learned that it takes a tremendous amount of effort to get the word out, so one has to be dedicated to it. I learned in the process that it’s great to have support for a petition, but a learning curve was involved with the petition delivery — figuring out the logistics, and the challenge of who to talk to and who to deal with. That was an interesting process, and I’m really grateful for the experience, and I really appreciated the support that Change.org gave along the way. There would’ve been no way to figure all of that out.