The following account is excerpted from a report by AFT President Randi Weingarten concerning what happened when educators, parents, and students tried to deliver a message to the U.S. secretary of education Thursday afternoon:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spends a lot of time listening to pollsters trying to “soften” her image and to K-12 and higher education privateers who want to divert money from already underfunded public schools and make a profit off of kids, but today, when she had a chance to listen to parents, students, and educators, she opted to lock us out.
A small group of us went to the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., this afternoon, and we went with one purpose — to give DeVos feedback on the first anniversary of her tenure as secretary. We wanted to show her the great things happening in our schools and what is needed to strengthen and improve them.
We went to the Department of Education today to deliver 80,000 comments from proud public school parents, students, and educators about what is happening in their schools and what they need from the secretary of education to strengthen their schools. Weeks before, we asked her to meet with us. We advised her staff what we were doing. And yet, they locked us out.
She locked out the people who teach in, attend and send their kids to public schools — the schools that educate 90 percent of America’s children, and the schools she’s supposed to support as secretary.
It’s DeVos’ one-year anniversary. And just as we all get evaluated in our schools and workplaces, we thought it was time to give her some comments about how she’s doing on the job. And since she rarely visits public schools (she went to 18 last year, including three with me), we knew we needed to bring public schools to her.
We told DeVos we were coming. We even asked for an appointment.
As a small delegation of us made our way to the doors of the Education Department, something happened that has never happened to us before.
The doors were locked. Thinking we must have gone to the wrong entrance, we tried another set of doors, but we were turned away again.
Is Betsy DeVos afraid of hearing from parents, teachers, and kids? To show this kind of contempt to people who work hard every day teaching students or raising children, and to the students themselves, is appalling — and it frankly reaffirms why so many of us opposed her nomination.
Across the country, 80,000 people asked DeVos to listen to them, to read their feedback, to respond. She refused.
We know there are many ways to hold people accountable. One is through elections. But right now, it’s time for DeVos to actually do her job.