School Board Opposes DeVos Vote

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Editor’s Note: Betsy DeVos was confirmed as education secretary on Tuesday, Feb. 7, following a full Senate vote, which resulted in a 50-50 tie. Vice President Mike Pence administered the tie-breaking vote in DeVos’s favor, the first time in history that a vice president has had to do so for a Cabinet nomination. Democrats held the floor for 24 hours preceding the final vote in an attempt to sway Republican senators to vote against Devos’s confirmation, but were ultimately unsuccessful. Senators voted along party lines, with the exception of Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who opposed her nomination. The story below went to press on Monday, Feb. 6.

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Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial nominatee for Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial nominatee for Secretary of Education

As she clears hurdle after hurdle in pursuit of the nomination for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos faces sharp criticism from school boards across Long Island—including from the Plainview-Old Bethpage Board of Education.

Plainview’s board listed an array of concerns against President Donald Trump’s pick for the country’s top education spot, including her lack of appropriate qualifications, insufficient knowledge of basic education laws, support for privatization and poor track record.

“Ms. DeVos has never worked in a public school, has never attended a public school and has never sent her children to a public school,” the board said in a statement. “With the vast majority of the nation’s students enrolled in public schools, we believe it is vitally important that the secretary truly understand the needs and challenges of those who attend and work in the public school system.”

The board also said that during a section of her confirmation hearing, DeVos—whose family donated upwards of $200 million to Trump’s election campaign—lacked insight regarding the basic tenets of educational laws and issues.

“Specifically,” the board stated, “those designed to protect our most vulnerable students. She also has no experience in higher education and limited understanding of the growing problem of student debt.”

In supporting privatization, the board believes DeVos will be particularly reckless for public schools.

New York State Senator Chuck Schumer has been an outspoken opponent of DeVos’s impending confirmation.
New York State Senator Chuck Schumer has been an outspoken opponent of DeVos’s impending confirmation.

“We strongly believe that charter schools and voucher programs are damaging to public schools, as they drain the vital resources needed to sustain programs that ensure a rich and well-rounded education,” said the board. “Ms. DeVos has long demonstrated support for for-profit education models, and has referred to the public school system as a “dead-end.”

And the school board cited DeVos’ own work in the Michigan school system with Alliance School Choice and other organizations as clear red flags that she is woefully unqualified to lead the nation’s educational system.

“After aggressive charter school growth championed by Ms. DeVos, Michigan students are no better off today,” they said. “In spite of nearly two decades of her advocacy and influence, Michigan still ranks near the bottom in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math on certain standardized tests, with the state’s charter schools scoring worse than their public school counterparts.”

According to the Plainview school district, the Secretary of Education must be committed to providing adequate federal funding for public schools and to ensuring that charters or any other schools that receive federal monies be held to the same accountability standards that public schools face.

“The for-profit school choice system that Ms. DeVos envisions will be detrimental to public school students across the country,” said the board.

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Steve Mosco is editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, editor of Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald and a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections.

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