Time to Organize: Woodard Concerned Over Exclusion of Principals from DeVos Meeting

AFSA President Diann Woodard has expressed great concern over the exclusion of principals and public educators from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ first official meeting with President Trump, a gathering heavily weighted with advocates for privatizing the nation’s public schools. She strongly urged that the secretary convene a meeting with the major organizations representing school leaders.

Despite the fact that 80 percent of the nation’s children attend public schools, the overwhelming majority of the 10 people invited to participate in the meeting are involved in private, charter, parochial or home schooling, while only one public school teacher was invited.

“Devos’ decision to dominate the meeting with privatization advocates largely to the exclusion of educators currently serving the needs of the vast majority of the nation’s schoolchildren strongly suggests that DeVos is already pursuing an agenda devoted to increasing support for charters and private schools, as she did in our home state of Michigan, an approach that was shamefully devoid of accountability despite resulting in disastrous school performance at considerable cost to taxpayers,” said Woodard.

Woodard said the makeup of the meeting with Trump made it abundantly clear that DeVos’ 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, ethnicity and income, all of which would undermine the democratizing role of public education.

“The effect of her crusade for largely unregulated, for-profit charter schools in Michigan, where we both live, has already proved disastrous,” Woodard said.

Woodard stated what was most troubling was the inclusion of only one school leader in the presidential meeting, which she said strongly implied the likelihood that DeVos may cut back on funding for principals’ training authorized last year by Congress in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“These training resources are crucial to the improved performance of public schools for the children they serve,” Woodard said, “the central charge of your office and the centerpiece of your professed desire to serve as secretary of education. Therefore, as the president of the nation’s largest union of school administrators, I call on you to refrain from cutting any of these training funds whatsoever in the president’s upcoming budget.”

Woodard strongly urged DeVos to meet with the leaders of organizations representing school representatives to “learn of our ideas for improving school performance, including representatives of my union, the American Federation of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals.”

”No action would do more to dispel the troubling implication that her first action as secretary of the Department of Education has been…allying herself and the president solely with advocates of privatizing the nation’s public schools,” Woodard said.

Woodard said, “our members can’t afford to be silenced—and won’t be. Our representatives in Washington will continue to demand that we be given a voice, and that the resources for principal training passed last year as part of the new ESSA law not be used to finance vouchers and privatization schemes.”

Woodard urges AFSA members to contact their members of Congress and demand that public funds not be squandered on privatization schemes that yield, at best, mixed results and little or no accountability. Although AFSA opposed her nomination, the union will seek to build a positive relationship with DeVos.

This article was featured in the Volume 88, Winter/Spring 2017 issue of AFSA’s newsletter, The Leader. To read the newsletter in its entirety visit: http://bit.ly/2nJdsIN