I rise today to address the potential confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I rise today not just as a Senator from Montana. I am a former public school teacher, a former public school school board member. I have a mother that was a teacher, an aunt that was a teacher. I have a daughter that’s a teacher. I have a sister-in-law who is a teacher. They all have either taught at or currently teach at public schools.
Our public education system is — and this can’t be argued — the foundation of our democracy. We’ve had a democracy in this country for nearly 250 years because of the success of our public education system. What is troubling about the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary is that she wants to privatize this public education system we have. And if we do that, I am here to tell the people of the Senate today, we will destroy the foundation of this country, and we will destroy — it may take a few years — but we will destroy our democracy.
There are one million people who live in Montana. Over 3,000 people have contacted me opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos. I have had 20 contact me who support her. The phones are ringing off the hook. In fact, the phones are ringing to the tune of 1,200 to 1,500 calls a day. There are some Senators who aren’t even answering their phone because they don’t want to hear it. But the truth is public education is important in this country, and people know what’s at risk here.
Here a few comments from folks in my great state who have sent me e-mails and letters about Betsy DeVos:
Mrs. DeVos does not have the most basic experience to do this job well. Our students, our teachers, & parents deserve an excellent candidate. She is not it.
Kelley (Laurel), Sandy (Billings) & Kim (Kalispell)
Kelley from Laurel: I’m the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, the thought of this woman in charge of our nation’s school system scares me.
Sandy from Billings: It would be nice to have an Education Secretary who has actually worked, and I say WORKED, in education instead of some rich woman who has never spent a day in public schools.
Kim from Kalispell: We need an Education Secretary who knows what the IDEA Act actually is and the needs of rural school districts. We can do better and our kids deserve better.
After marrying my husband, a local farmer, in August of 2010, I put down my roots with plans to spend my entire teaching career in Froid, Montana. With Mrs. DeVos pushing for private school funding, our small school will be one of the first to suffer. Having two small boys that will be soon entering into their school years, they will be 3rd generation to walk the halls of Froid Public School. I want them to be able to spend all 13 of their public school years in the same school. As an educator, I have seen what a small rural school can do for a student. While we may not get the same opportunities as large schools, when the opportunities knock on our door, we have a large percentage of students take advantage. They have pride in their school and their community. Montana is currently suffering from a teacher shortage. With a lack of funding, this shortage will only get worse. I am currently in the process of earning my Masters degree in Educational Leadership. With this degree, I have been given the opportunity to become the principal of our small school. A school my family attends, my roots are dug, and I do not want a woman like Betsy DeVos having control over our school. So please vote no. A vote for Betsy is a vote for private control. A vote for Betsy is a vote against the community of Froid. A vote for Betsy is a vote against Froid Public School. A vote for Betsy is a vote against public school teachers across this country and across this great state you represent. A vote for Betsy is a vote against my family. And a vote for Betsy is a vote against me.
Mary (Red Lodge)
As a 32-year veteran educator in a rural public school, I am deeply concerned about the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. I’m inclined to say that her loyalty and financial backing of Mr. Trump were the reasons for her misguided appointment and not her experience and knowledge in education issues. To be in such an esteemed position as Education Secretary, one would expect years of experience and an advanced degree to understand the ongoing issues we face in U.S. education.
As a first grade teacher in a low-income school, I believe wholeheartedly in Montana’s public schools. Betsy DeVos believes in school privatization and vouchers. She has worked to undermine efforts to regulate Michigan charters, even when they clearly fail. The marketplace solution of DeVos will destroy our democratically governed community schools. Her hostility towards public schools disqualifies her. She will not work to provide a free and fair education to my students who struggle daily with hunger, homelessness, and more. I am asking you to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos.