DeVos’ Push to Privatize Public Schools Could Kill The Melting Pot of American Democracy

Diann Woodard, President of the American Federation of School Administrators, released a statement today condemning Betsy DeVos’ nomination to head the Department of Education, declaring that Mrs. DeVos’ push to privatize public schools “could kill the melting pot of American democracy.”

“For well over a century, the nation’s public schools have been the melting pot of American democracy.  Through interaction education in our public schools, children from all religious, races and ethnic cultures were instrumental in helping our nation overcome divisions that have ripped other countries apart.

The appointment of billionaire Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education, a relentless advocate of funding for-profit private schools with taxpayers’ money not only promises to further starve education-for-all of needed resources, it threatens to cast fuel on the fires of racial and religious division that have reignited in recent months and years.

Mrs. DeVos complete lack of teaching or administrative experience in education is the last of her shortcomings.  Her profit-driven motives for funding charter schools with taxpayers’ money or voucher systems is bound to increase the number of schools organized on the basis of religion and ethnicity.

Even the taxpayers of her home state of Michigan have roundly rejected her demands for privatizing public schools in a failed ballot initiative in 2000 that sought to amend the state constitution to allow students to use taxpayer dollars to attend nonpublic schools.

Nor is there anything in her life experience to suggest an understanding of the workings, let alone the value, of public education as the melting pot of democracy. DeVos attended a private high school in Holland, Mich. and a private Christian college in Grand Rapids.

And none of her four children attended public schools, denying her any firsthand experience with the challenges to collaboration among public school educators and parents, especially in communities challenged by poverty.

Her leadership role in the American Federation for Children, the umbrella organization for two nonprofits that have been at the center of the pro-privatization movement for over a decade, ensures that the voices of public educators will lent a deaf ear on federal education policy.

It is incumbent upon school leaders, therefore, to call upon members of Congress to reject the nomination of a person who has done little to empower public education for all, and much to undermine it.”