Betsy DeVos does not understand what it is like to teach in any school let alone poor public schools. She does not understand what the lives of real teachers and students are like.
She does not understand the problems facing many of America’s children. These problems won’t be solved with a voucher. They also won’t be fixed by substandard charter schools run by those who know little about children.
I do not believe she should be barred from public schools. Public schools are supposed to be open to everyone.
I think she should face parents and teachers who disagree with her platform within those schools–not sit and politely talk with those who agree with her at a photo op with President Trump. Neither one of them know anything about public schools.
Betsy DeVos should spend time with the many moms of students with disabilities who homeschool not because they want to, but because schools have cut special education services partly due to the message that Individual Education Plans are less important than Common Core State Standards.
This is a post I wrote about Bill and Melinda Gates, but it is just as significant for Betsy DeVos or any other billionaire who thinks they understand school reform and the problems found in our public schools. I changed the words a bit.
Here’s what’s hard. I have added a few new points:
- Watching your school district throw money at unproven technology when basic needs are your students not met.
- Being dismissed as a teacher, when you are the only professional in the room who understands children and how they learn.
- Being dismissed as a parent, when you understand your child best.
- Being an over tested kindergartner, not getting any recess, and being made to feel you are a failure before you get started in your schooling.
- Coming to school hungry and/or sick, or having an untreated toothache.
- Sending your child to a school that has no school nurse.
- Working on a day-to-day basis with students who come from abject poverty, who face all the terrible problems that come with that.
- Not having a home.
- Being a child with disabilities and being afraid of a high-stakes test (or several) you don’t understand and feeling like a failure!
- Having such a large class with so many diverse students you know it will be difficult to teach.
- Not having enough resources and materials to teach effectively.
- Being a parent of a child with disabilities and fearing the loss of school services.
- Being made to read before you are ready by the controversial close reading that might make you hate reading!
- Having a difficult time learning to read and getting little help in school for such difficulties.
- Being five and carrying the weight of the economy on your back.
- Failing third grade based on one test. DeVos should step away from Jeb Bush and talk to Florida parents who are sick of the reforms there–including retention.
- Being a high school student who has to focus on test-taking and not given ample time to explore real career options.
- Being poor and working only in math and reading with little opportunity to participate in music or art classes.
- Not having access to a whole curriculum.
- Being in high school and having little hope for job after graduation.
- Deciding if you can afford to leave teaching because you hate the changes that negatively impact children, including high-stakes testing, Common Core, PARCC, Smarter Balance etc.
- Knowing you have to teach to pay the bills but understanding why parents dislike you for being forced to implement harsh reforms.
- Being told you will have to reapply for the job you need, the career you hold dear, which helps you to feed your family, because your school has been changed to a charter school.
- Being a high school student, who wants to be a real career teacher, but can’t find a quality College of Education program because so many of them have been corrupted.
- Working with overcrowded class sizes because some reformer doesn’t know better and thinks class size doesn’t matter. That person should read the Tennessee STAR Study.
- Being pushed to teach small children about Mesopotamia which you know is developmentally inappropriate.
- Not being able to get to all your students because your paraprofessional has been let go. Knowing you might be on your way out of your job teaching too.
- Not being paid for a Master’s Degree that you spent time and money on to better yourself professionally.
- Needing to take antibiotics because you aren’t able to pee when you need to because your paraprofessional has been let go.
- Working in a crummy school building while a brand new charter school is built down the street.
- Getting judged for your teaching by someone else’s test results.
- Filling out mounds of time-consuming paperwork to keep your school afloat.
- Being forced to focus more on data instead of children.
- Being ignored as a teacher, even pushed out of your job, by a principal from Teach for America or New Leaders.
- Going on a hunger strike for 34 days to save the public school you love.
- Continuously hearing how you fail as a teacher when you’re the only one doing the heavy lifting.
- Having your local school board ignore your pleas to keep your public school open.
- Watching your young students fail the tests because they can’t type on the computer fast enough.
- Knowing how much time you spent learning to be a teacher and watching fast-trackers online course takers take over.
- Being forced to put away your developmentally appropriate student play kitchens, puppets and costumes in kindergarten.
- Working in a school or being a parent who recognizes there is no librarian or media specialist.
- Not having enough guidance counselors to work with you when your student has mental health issues.
- Not having any special education services to offer parents who want them.
- Watching Colleges of Education die when you know they could have been improved.
- Being a student in one of those Uncommon charter schools and knowing if you blink when you are supposed to stare (SLANT) means you will be punished.
- Knowing your democratic public schools are being stolen so others can make a profit and there is little you can do to stop this.
- Learning to speak and understand English should be a joyful event for ELL children, but instead they are pushed to learn quickly in remedial classes forfeiting better experiences for language acquisition.
I could go on with this list. A lot of children and their teachers are being mistreated in a country that should honor both.
I do not understand why America would let a rich individual take over the public schools that should be owned by the people.
So at least I can make this request of Betsy DeVos. Learn about the school issues you are now responsible for, and see what it is really like to face hardship in school.
America and God are grading you now.
As a parent of two boys with dyslexia, I understand your concerns and appreciate you insight into the problems within the public school system. Like many parents who have had to navigate SPED, it was very disappointing to learn that Ms. DeVos did not know what IDEA was. I fully expect that she will learn and that parents will continue to speak out on behalf of their children who benefit from its protections. What I do not appreciate, however, is your focus on what you believe Ms. DeVos is “not”. It is far more constructive to focus on solutions to obvious problems than criticizing a person who has barely begun her new job. Her wealth should not disqualify her from trying to improve public education in America. I assume she does not need this difficult position, but took it because her heart is in the right place. Give her a chance and continue to offer solutions over criticism. People are sick and tired of constant criticism and will eventually just tune it out.
Nancy Bailey says
Betsy DeVos believes public schools fail. The President does as well. He made the ridiculous comment that they are “flush with cash” when we know that they have been terribly, and I might add purposely, defunded for years. Their assumptions are unfair when they don’t address the problems, like those I listed.
I suggest you read her history when it comes to intentionally going after public education in the State of Michigan and beyond.
Many, myself included, wonder if they really care about the real problems in our schools, or if they are just out to privatize schooling. Actually, many of us believe the latter.
And I also think I am being far more kind than most. There are many who do not think she should set foot in a public school! I was criticized this past weekend on Facebook for saying we shouldn’t yell at her and keep her from entering the school!
But she is not qualified and has demonstrated not only her ignorance and inexperience, but a past contempt for public education. I am being kinder than most. But I don’t like her.
Jim Katakowski says
This is a reply to Elizabeth and her comment. And a follow-up comment from Nancy that I thought was very generous. I would take exception to Elizabeth and Betsy that her wealth should not disqualify for the position she literally paid for. Are you serious how did she get nominated it was only due to all the money she donated to the GOP. Ignorance and incompetence should never be overlooked as it was in her getting the position of Sec. of Education. I am insulted by those that voted for her. Someone could have made a difference and being nice now will not get what she doesn’t bring to the table. I only ask for representation. Public education needs support not charters and privatization that will only own more money for Betsy. Business as usual is unacceptable.
ciedie aech says
Thanks for the very inclusive list. I reacted to each item, but most specifically to: “Being ignored as a teacher, even pushed out of your job, by a principal from Teach for America or New Leaders.” My own most painful frustration/humiliation was being FORCED to take a back seat to inexperience and egotistical belligerence.
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks, Ciedie. I understand. It is very sad.