Why we’re protesting Betsy DeVos in Bellevue on Friday | Guest Column

On Friday, Oct. 13, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will be speaking to the Washington Policy Center in Bellevue. As advocates for an equitable and thriving education system, we, the Equity in Education Coalition, along with over 30 organizations, stand united for public education and against DeVos’ priority of profit over students.

Betsy DeVos has no experience in public education. She has never been a teacher, school administrator or principal. She has never attended a public school or taken out a student loan, and neither have her kids. Instead, she and her family have donated millions to the Republican Party and zealously pushed for privatizing public schools every step of the way. DeVos is obviously unqualified to make decisions affecting 100,000 public schools, $1 trillion student loan bank and 50 million American students.

In her Senate confirmation hearing, DeVos struggled to show basic understanding of fundamental education concepts. She was unfamiliar with a long-standing debate in the education community of measuring students by either growth or proficiency. She was also unaware that federal law requires schools to provide free and appropriate education to students with disabilities. She could not even support keeping guns out of schools.

Betsy DeVos only has experience in making educating our kids a big business. She has spent her career lobbying on behalf of private schools, for-profit charter schools, and voucher programs, using funds inherited from her billionaire family to make her and her friends money at the expense of students.

In Michigan, the DeVos family bankrolled unregulated and for-profit charter expansion for 20 years with little success to show. In the span of two months, the DeVos family showered Michigan Republican candidates and organizations with $1.45 million to prevent common sense oversight for Detroit’s charter schools, including those operating for-profit. With help from DeVos, Michigan leads the nation in unchecked for-profit schools, essentially allowing these companies to make money by promising, and not necessarily delivering, academic success to students and parents.

As education secretary, DeVos has taken concrete actions that choose profits over students. She appointed the former dean of a for-profit university convicted of defrauding students to head the Education Department’s anti-fraud task force. She has claimed that students just have to “raise his or her hand” to qualify for loan forgiveness, and then dismantled programs that help students defend themselves against the predatory practices of for-profit schools.

It is clear to us that Betsy DeVos is not working for American students but for powerful, private education industries that make her and her family money.

On top of all of this, DeVos has continuously threatened the rights and safety of American students. In the last eight months, DeVos has:

• Praised the elimination of after school programs that serve 1.6 million children primarily from low-income neighborhoods.

• Praised Trump’s budget which eliminates loan forgiveness for public servants.

• Would not commit to withholding federal funding from private schools that discriminate against students.

• Supported Trump rolling back federal protections for transgender students.

• Rapidly closed civil rights complaints and narrowed the Education Department’s focus in civil rights investigations.

• Defended meeting with “men’s rights” activists, college attorneys, and students who claim they were wrongly accused of sexual assault

• Considered not publishing a list of colleges and universities under investigation for mishandling sexual assault claims.

We believe that an equitable and thriving education system is within Washington’s reach, and DeVos’ crusade to destroy public education is the last thing we need right now. On Friday, Oct. 13, DeVos will be zealously praising private vouchers and for-profit schools to Washington state elected officials and industry heads at the Washington Policy Center annual dinner. At the same time, we will be rallying in the streets of Bellevue with thousands of students, teachers and public education advocates, reminding our decision makers to keep public education public.

The Equity in Education Coalition (EEC) was founded in August 2012 out of a community wide, deeply felt concern that the recent Washington State Supreme Court ruling, McLeary v State of Washington would justify even deeper cuts to the state’s safety net, housing, healthcare, early learning and higher education. As Washington’s largest coalition of stakeholders from communities of color, EEC is dedicated to changing the way decision makers on a local and state level view education funding and the opportunity/achievement gap.