Back to school: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a threat to our children

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a threat to our children

As summer winds down and back-to-school season hits full swing, kids, young adults and people of all ages are heading back to schools, universities and colleges across the country.

However, this fall is very different than years past: Betsy DeVos, the anti-public school billionaire bigot, is the secretary of education – the most influential person overseeing public education policy in the country.

But an expert in public education she is not. DeVos is grossly incompetent, has no relevant experience as an educator and did not attend or send her children to public school. She was appointed because she’s a major Republican donor, not because she knows anything about public education in the United States.

DeVos is a right-wing voucher and charter school activist whose numerous projects include the disastrous effort to spread charters in Detroit, which failed to increase student achievement while allowing charters to operate with little accountability or oversight. She is looking to gut Obama administration guidance on how the DOE should use Title IX, which mandates gender equality in education, to protect survivors of campus sexual assault.

Her comments in front of Congress earlier this year indicating schools should have flexibility to discriminate against LGBTQ students prove she is a clear threat to children, especially transgender students, who face prejudice, harassment and bullying in schools and suffer from higher rates of depression and suicide than non-LGBTQ classmates.

We at CREDO understand that having an anti-public school bigot running the Department of Education not only sends a terrible message to our children, but poses a threat to their education and well-being. That’s why, earlier this year, CREDO, along with our allies in the progressive community, led the resistance to DeVos’s nomination.

In January, we launched a petition demanding that senators “block and resist Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as secretary of education.” The petition went wildly viral, garnering more than 1.5 million signatures. To our knowledge, this was the largest petition in U.S. history in opposition to a cabinet nominee.

Building on the incredible momentum fueled by CREDO activists, we ramped up calls to key Republican senators leading up to the floor vote. Altogether, CREDO members made more than 93,000 calls to key Republicans and another 8,700 calls to Democrats on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

We organized petition deliveries at the local offices of Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski the Monday before the committee vote to help generate local media coverage in Maine and Alaska. Both Collins and Murkowski ultimately voted against confirmation.

In the end, however, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote in the Senate — but that doesn’t mean our work to hold this billionaire bigot accountable is over.

The incredible activism by CREDO members and our allies across the country exposed DeVos as a unqualified fraud who has absolutely no business overseeing an agency whose primary job is to make sure our children have access to exceptional primary and higher education. It weakened her credibility and ultimately her ability to be as effective and dangerous as she could have been immediately out of her confirmation hearing.

Since her confirmation, we’ve been committed to holding DeVos accountable for her rhetoric and threats to students, teachers and the public education system. We’ve called on CREDO members to demand she protect survivors of sexual assault and released viral videos that have accumulated millions of views and tens of thousands of shares.

As long as Betsy DeVos remains the head of the education department, CREDO and our members will continue to resist in no uncertain terms her bigoted and dangerous actions that would harm the very children she is charged with educating and protecting.