Education

The Department of Education Is Locking Out Betsy DeVos' Most Vocal Critics

The Trump appointee has drawn the ire of parents and teachers alike.

Betsy DeVos
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Teachers' groups, parents, and students were barred from entering the Department of Education on Thursday, the anniversary of Betsy DeVos's confirmation as Education Secretary, to present her with a "Failing" report card alongside tens of thousands of comments from teachers who disapprove of her performance leading the nation's public education system.

After assembling protesters who wanted to express dissatisfaction over DeVos's record on protecting civil rights and supporting funding for low-income schools, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association head Lily Eskelsen García found the doors to the Department locked.

"This is a remarkable moment," Ms. Weingarten said to the demonstrators. "They knew that teachers and parents and students from all over the country have actually taken their time to say what is going on in their schools. And here on Betsy DeVos's anniversary, this is the first time that I have ever been to this building where we were not let in."

In categories including protection of civil rights and equality in schools and ensuring funding for low-income students and children of color DeVos received "F" grades across the board.

The grades were given out after a year in which DeVos rolled back Obama-era guidance protecting students on college campuses from sexual assault and ordering schools to allow students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, and made it more difficult for students who had been defrauded by for-profit schools to receive loan forgiveness.

DeVos's attempts to secure more federal funding for charter schools and vouchers have so far stalled in Congress, but a document outlining the DOE's priorities have made clear that school privatization is a top priority for the secretary.

"It's her actions that speak louder than any talking points she may have," Eskelsen García told the New York Times. "People are universally appalled, universally aghast by a year of failures."

By refusing to hear from the teachers who had assembled at the DOE, Weingarten said, DeVos "chose once again to reject and ignore the voices of those who educate in, learn in and send their kids to public schools—the schools that 90 percent of America’s children attend.”

The 80,000 comments brought by the teachers' groups were written by teachers from across the country.

"We need adequate, equitable, and sustainable school funding," wrote one educator from Pennsylvania. "We need integrated schools. We need protection from corporate charters and voucher vampires who steal our funding and give it to wealthy donors."

"Stop siphoning money to student debt collection companies and stop putting sham for-profit colleges ahead of student needs for quality education," wrote another.

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.