Defenders of public education have a few questions they want to ask Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial pick to lead the Department of Education, when she appears at her senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
With a new campaign targeting members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as well as its members and supporters, are sharing questions they’d like to see answered by the billionaire Amway heiress and notorious critic of public schools.
“DeVos has no relevant experience in public education, but as a billionaire with an agenda she’s promoted disastrous ideology and pushed destructive policies across her home state of Michigan—working to undermine, defund and privatize public schools, expand for-profit charters without accountability, and push unconstitutional private school vouchers,” Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, wrote in an email to supporters on Monday.
“We need a secretary of education who would strengthen and improve public schools, not one who is out to destroy them,” Weingarten added. “We need our questions answered before she gets anywhere near our children’s futures.”
The million member-strong trade union offered up some of its own #Questions4Betsy, inspiring others to do the same.
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“Ninety percent of kids attend public school, an area you have no experience in,” AFT observed. “What qualifications do you have for the job?”
Other questions followed:
And pointing to the DeVos’s record as “a hardened anti-LGBTQ crusader,” as Huffington Post‘s Queer Voices editor Michelangelo Signorile put it, AFT also wants to know: “As secretary of education, what is the Department’s role in protecting #LGBT students?”
Taking up AFT’s call, public school advocates promptly took to Twitter to share some of the union’s questions and pose some of their own:
Last week the HELP committee was forced to delay DeVos’ hearing, initially scheduled for Jan. 11, due to concerns over her “extensive financial entanglements and potential conflicts of interest,” as Politico reported at the time.
What’s more, a separate Politico investigation published Monday highlighted how the DeVos family used its massive wealth to advance a staunch Christian conservative agenda in Michigan and beyond.
Responding to the Politico reporting, Diane Ravitch wrote on her blog Monday, “if Betsy DeVos is confirmed, which is likely, we will have a major battle on our hands to protect public education and to maintain a separation of church and state.”
“She is not a normal candidate for secretary of education,” warned the public education advocate and former assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush. “She is a religious zealot and a radical extremist. She will speak of her admiration for all successful schools, including public schools, but don’t believe it. She is a determined foe of public education.”