After the DeVos Vote: the Fight for Public Education Continues

Yesterday the Senate voted 50-50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, to confirm Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as the 11th U.S. Secretary of Education. The vote—which followed an overnight session of protest and some support of DeVos—marked the first time in history a vice president has been called upon to break a tie on a presidential nomination. The historic vote also followed a widely publicized groundswell of grassroots opposition to the nomination, citing among other issues, DeVos’s lack of experience, support of privatization and unfamiliarity with education policy and practice.

At the Schott Foundation we were clear that DeVos is dangerously unqualified for such an important position governing our nation’s public schools.

Following yesterday’s confirmation, our grantees and allies in education justice are speaking loud and clear: the fight for public education and equity in opportunity for all students continues.

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, of which Schott is a member, released a call to join the resistance:

Starting today, the resistance must dig in and expand.

We will not let this Administration continue to fail public schools—particularly in Black and Brown communities—by starving them of the resources they need to be successful.

We will not allow this Administration to divert public dollars to charters and private schools, defunding the public schools that majorities of children rely on.

We will not allow students to be attacked, bullied, or targeted in any way for the color of their skin or their country of origin. We will resist practices that push children out of schools and in to the criminal justice system.

“Betsy DeVos is a disastrous choice that spurred massive public resistance to her nomination. In New York State it is time for resistance to focus on Governor Cuomo who, like DeVos and Trump, is proposing massive attacks on public education. Just like DeVos and Trump, Governor Cuomo wants to cut funding commitments for our neediest students and to privatize schools”

We are united as students, educators, parents and communities. We will be ready to resist, when President Trump and Betsy DeVos try to take away our schools.

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New York-based Alliance for Quality Education made it clear it would not allow Governor Cuomo to join DeVos in attacking public schools:

“Betsy DeVos is a disastrous choice that spurred massive public resistance to her nomination. In New York State it is time for resistance to focus on Governor Cuomo who, like DeVos and Trump, is proposing massive attacks on public education. Just like DeVos and Trump, Governor Cuomo wants to cut funding commitments for our neediest students and to privatize schools,” said Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

“Governor Cuomo wants to repeal the state’s $4.3 billion commitment to increase funding for schools that are filled with black and brown students and students in poverty. This funding is owed as a result of the landmark Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit. Just as New Yorkers have been leaders in the fight to resist Trump and dump DeVos, we will now fight back against Cuomo and his attacks on public education.”

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The Dignity in Schools Campaign vowed to continue organizing with its coalition members:

Yesterday, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, was confirmed by 50 Senators and Vice President Mike Pence. As a national coalition of over 100 organizations from across the country and Washington DC, the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) stands in unity with education justice stakeholders to continue fighting to ensure equity and human rights in public education.


DSC will continue to support and work with students, parents, educators and communities from across this nation to:
  • Ensure that children and young people have access to quality public education that will support them in reaching their full potential.
  • End punitive disciplinary practices and create safe and positive school climates using restorative practices to support the whole child.
  • Ensure that the federal government continues to hold states, districts, and schools accountable for upholding their federal civil rights obligations, especially by protecting students of color, LGBTQ students,  students with disabilities, and immigrant students from discrimination.
  • Ensure that funding for public schools is protected and not diverted to private interests through vouchers to private schools or expansion of charter schools.

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The Annenberg Institute for School Reform collected advice and inspiration from education experts and organizers:

In response to the Senate vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, we wanted to share some words of wisdom from the interviews in our special post-election issue of Voices in Urban Education (VUE): “Educational Justice in the Next Four Years.” When we spoke with these leaders in the weeks after the election, we didn’t know what the new administration would actually do in the realm of public education, but it seemed clear that a vision of equitable, well-supported public schools for all students would be at risk.

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In an email to supporters, the Advancement Project recommitted to the fight for education justice:

Despite our best efforts to support powerful, community-led opposition, earlier today Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote and broke the tie in the United States Senate to confirm Betsy DeVos, a billionaire lobbyist and staunch advocate for school privatization, to serve as U.S. Secretary of education.

As a wholly unqualified candidate, her confirmation jeopardizes the fundamental concept of education as a public good and endangers the success of an entire generation of children and youth.

In her confirmation hearing we saw DeVos demonstrate her fundamental ignorance of federal laws that exist to protect vulnerable students. We heard her refusal to commit to equal accountability for private charter schools. And we witnessed her silence when it comes to civil rights.

Our children will not be safe under Betsy DeVos – unless we fight like hell.

Every day of Betsy DeVos’ tenure as Secretary of Education, Advancement Project will speak out, fight, and work to ensure bright futures for all students of color.

The Network for Public Education congratulated their supporters and encouraged them to keep fighting:

Your opposition to what DeVos stands for was nothing short of remarkable.

Because of you, NPE generated a half million emails to senators. Over 100,000 also accessed our Toolkit and HELP committee lists—making phone calls, sending faxes, and visiting offices. You contacted our office by mail and by phone asking, “What more can I do?”

Where do we go from here?

As our President, Diane Ravitch, recently told me, NPE was born for this moment. Diane understood the forces trying to privatize our schools. She recognized the agenda of DeVos and those like her, long before most of us did, and thus the Network for Public Education was born to fight against the destruction of our public schools.

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Our friends and allies also continue to plan their work at the state and local levels, while seeking opportunities to impact federal policy. Our mission at Schott is constant and our work remains as a funder and advocate to support the systemic changes needed to address the opportunity gaps faced by poor children and children of color in our public education system. The massive mobilization, awareness raised over legitimate concerns about this nominee, and ultimately bipartisan agreement over those concerns are a testament to the tireless efforts of the education justice community. Many of the gains we’ve made in public education have come through such organizing, and our vigilance and continued boots on the ground are needed as ever.