MEA, AFT Michigan leaders decry decision – and praise activism that opposed it
Today, the US Senate approved the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Two Republican Senators broke ranks with their party and joined with the entire Democratic caucus to vote against DeVos’ confirmation, resulting in a 50-50 tie, requiring Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as President of the US Senate, to cast the tie-breaking vote.
A cabinet confirmation vote this close is unprecedented, and is a direct result of the public outcry, resulting in millions of emails, phone calls, and public demonstrations against DeVos’ appointment.
Betsy DeVos, a billionaire who has never attended a public school or sent her children to a public school, has no experience or qualifications to serve as the top education officer in the country.
“Once again, conservative elected officials have sided with one of their biggest billionaire donors rather than the children of this country,” said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan. “Senators were inundated with calls, emails, and letters from Michigan and all over the country calling on them to oppose Betsy DeVos’ nomination and still, they chose a major Republican donor over students.”
For decades in Michigan, DeVos has pushed test-and-punish policies, unaccountable for-profit charter schools, and defunding our public schools. AFT Michigan and Michigan Education Association members have worked for months to communicate the disastrous experience Michigan schools, educators, students, and parents have had with Betsy DeVos.
“Throughout this entire process, Betsy DeVos has shown that she is unqualified for the position, but that didn’t seem to matter to most Republicans because they and their party have benefitted from the huge campaign contributions signed by the DeVos family,” said MEA President Steve Cook. “Instead of having a champion for public education as our nation’s top education officer, we now have someone whose life’s work is undermining our neighborhood schools through for-profit charter and voucher gimmicks.”
While unsurprised that Republican senators gave in to the demands of a major billionaire benefactor, the public’s fervent opposition to DeVos’ nomination clearly repudiates the Trump-DeVos agenda.
“This unprecedented level of activism in defense of public education is only the beginning. Our organizations and our members are committed to strengthening our coalitions with the community to oppose the DeVos-backed hostile takeover of our public schools,” Hecker continued.
On behalf of their members and the students they serve, Cook and Hecker thanked Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters for their strong opposition to DeVos’ confirmation.
“We’re lucky to have Senators from Michigan who were willing to be leading voices in this fight,” Cook said. “And we know they’ll continue to stand with us. Because students, teachers, education professionals, parents, civil rights activists, and special education advocates are speaking loud and clear: We are here to stay and we will protect public education.”
MEA and AFT Michigan remain committed to fighting for the rights of students, teachers, and parents in Michigan’s public schools and creating a public education system where every student has an opportunity to grow, learn, and thrive.
Contact: David Hecker, AFT Michigan President, (313) 204-6115, firstname.lastname@example.org
Doug Pratt, MEA Director of Public Affairs, (517) 337-5508, email@example.com