Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visits Dallas school for photo op

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has come under fire, deservedly, for her lack of interest in seeing what’s really being done at struggling campuses to improve educational opportunities and achievement. Now it seems she’s trying to cultivate the appearance of caring, without investing the time to learn much. This public-relations exercise took her briefly yesterday to a middle school in Dallas ISD, where she was greeted by protesters who didn’t appreciate having their community campus used as a backdrop for the secretary’s effort to rehabilitate her image.

Texas AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Montserrat Garibay, a veteran teacher and Texas AFT activist/leader, assessed the DeVos photo op in this opinion piece published today by the Dallas Morning News:

Betsy DeVos made a surprise visit to Dallas on Thursday. Why?

She didn’t sit down with teachers and union leaders to talk about improving pay or tackling classroom issues. She didn’t meet with legislators to discuss better funding. She didn’t even meet with education officials — the Dallas ISD superintendent and board of trustees only learned she was coming late the day before her visit.

She didn’t come for our sake. She came for a photo op.

If DeVos had any interest in strengthening public schools, she would have sat down with us and heard what teachers and students are facing on the ground.

As a former pre-K teacher, I would have been happy to tell her that our schools need more funding to replace outdated textbooks and crumbling infrastructure. I would’ve proudly echoed the voices of our teachers who are demanding to be heard and respected by the nation’s top education official. I would’ve shared the hopes of our students who deserve safer, more nurturing learning spaces. And I would’ve reminded her that above all, the Department of Education’s mission is to guarantee every child a quality public education.

Yet, in her nearly 14 months on the job, DeVos has done just the opposite. She has actively sought to undermine our public schools. She appears fully prepared to abandon public education in America, calling it a “dead end.” But we won’t let her.

DeVos has twice advocated for federal budgets that would slash billions in education funding, gutting essential programs like teacher training and after-school care for needy children, while funneling money to private-school voucher programs that only benefit the wealthy.

Instead of fighting for teachers and ensuring that we have a say in the future of education, DeVos has tried to sideline us completely. In fact, 86 percent of public school teachers say they feel they are not respected by her​.

DeVos should be fighting for the dignity and rights of students throughout their education. Yet in the case of racial discrimination, campus sexual assault and students with disabilities, she has decided to roll back key protections.

Her disastrous recent interview on 60 Minutes confirmed what we already knew. DeVos has no interest in what’s best for teachers and students. Her loyalty has always been to private schools and big-moneyed donors, and Thursday’s trip does nothing to change that.

The students of Billy Dade Middle School deserve to be treated as more than props for a billionaire’s image management. Texas working families deserve serious investments in our communities and dedicated public servants in Washington. We certainly deserve better than Betsy DeVos.