These Teachers Are Not Here for Betsy DeVos But If Confirmed, They Want Her to Listen

Feb 3, 2017 12:00:00 AM


Educators for Excellence does not endorse or oppose candidates for elected or appointed office, but we do amplify the positions of our members.
More than 91 percent of Educators for Excellence (E4E) members oppose Betsy DeVos’ nomination for U.S. Secretary of Education, based on a post-confirmation hearing survey of 743 E4E educators. These responses from E4E members—teachers across the country calling for and leading local reform efforts in their schools, districts, and states—indicate broad opposition to the nomination from educators. If confirmed, DeVos faces an uphill climb to earn the trust of the professionals who will lead the implementation of the nation’s education policies in our classrooms. Following a contentious election season that exposed deep divides along race, class, education and political ideology, we find ourselves in a time of deep uncertainty. At E4E, our compass will remain, as always, educational excellence and equity for our students, the voices of our members and our Declaration of Teachers’ Principles and Beliefs. It was this compass that motivated us to  gather hundreds of questions from E4E members for Betsy DeVos when she was nominated to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. We wanted to ensure that the voices of classroom teachers—the professionals closest to our students and most profoundly impacted by changes to education policies—were heard in the confirmation hearings. E4E members focused on these critical themes:
  • DeVos’ background, qualifications and motivations to take on this critical role;
  • How DeVos would preserve the U.S. Department of Education’s vital role of ensuring that all students, especially those who have been historically underserved, receive a high-quality education;
  • A desire to understand DeVos’ views regarding how best to serve unique student populations such as English-language learners and students with disabilities;
  • An interest in how DeVos would approach elevating the teaching profession, meaningfully evaluating teachers, and reducing teacher turnover; and
  • Questions about how DeVos would enact school choice policies while ensuring that all students have access to high-quality schools, and how to hold all schools that receive public dollars accountable for the success of all of their students.
Unfortunately, DeVos’ confirmation hearing and subsequent written responses did not answer many of these questions, and the areas where we did gain more insight only furthered our concerns about DeVos’ positions and experience. After the confirmation hearing, we asked E4E members across the country for their perspectives on DeVos’ nomination. We found that more than 91 percent of the 743 educators sampled opposed her nomination, with only two percent supporting her, and the remainder expressing concerns or asking for more information. These responses indicate broad opposition from teachers across the country who are calling for and leading on local education reform efforts. DeVos and those who support her will need to consider the reasons for such overwhelming opposition among educators, and explore if and how it can be addressed. poll At E4E, we endorse policies and practices, not politicians, and we stand behind positions that will increase educational equity and excellence for students, lift up communities and elevate the teaching profession. We are committed to locking arms with like-minded advocates in opposition to any measures that threaten our values, principles and beliefs, and to doing so with the full weight and might of our membership of nearly 25,000 public school educators. We are also an organization that believes that a diversity of background, experience and perspective produces stronger solutions, and we are committed to building bridges, not walls. In that vein, we will always be open and willing to have a conversation about how E4E teachers’ ideas, voices and advocacy can join forces with others to build a more just and equitable education system for all students. DeVos was nominated by a divisive, controversial president, whose language has attacked communities and whose actions have spread fear, but if confirmed, she would occupy an office that represents all students and families, including those who did not support her appointment and did not vote for the president. This is why [pullquote position="right"]DeVos must commit to engaging with and listening to her principled critics[/pullquote], including teachers and other stalwarts of equity. The voices of those most concerned about her nomination can help her understand the challenges facing our education system, as well as her responsibility to represent and fight for all students. Our goal in sharing the perspectives of E4E members is to provide a nuanced understanding of our teachers’ opposition to, and specific concerns with, DeVos’ nomination. If confirmed, we strongly encourage her to launch an authentic dialogue with educators and other advocates of equity in our public schools to help ensure that the best interests of students and educators are placed at the forefront of U.S. Department of Education policymaking.
An original version of this post appeared on E4E's blog as Elevating Educators’ Opposition and Concerns About the Nomination of Betsy DeVos.

Evan Stone

Evan Stone is co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Educators for Excellence. Previously, Evan taught sixth grade in the Bronx, New York, while earning his master's degree in teaching from Pace University. While teaching, Evan helped co-found E4E with colleague, Sydney Morris.

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