Well over two hundred national, state, and local groups working in education have signed a letter urging U.S. senators to reject Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which previously announced its grave concerns about DeVos, issued the letter Monday, one day before the scheduled Senate education committee vote on DeVos’ nomination.
The American Federation of Teachers, the Children’s Defense Fund, GLSEN (which advocates on behalf of LGBT students), the NAACP, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals are among nationwide groups to register their official opposition to DeVos. State and local groups to weigh in against DeVos include the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Florida Association of School Social Workers, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, and the Urban League of Greater Atlanta.
“She has never been an educator or worked directly with children and families in public schools. She has never led a school, district, or state agency tasked with educating students. She has never been a public school parent or a public school student,” reads a portion of the letter, which was issued Monday. “This lack of experience makes her uniquely unfamiliar with the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s students, families, educators, and schools.”
In a statement accompanying the letter, the Leadership Conference President Wade Henderson said, “Betsy DeVos has failed to demonstrate that she is qualified to do that job or that she understands what the job requires.”
DeVos is the former leader of the American Federation for Children, which backs vouchers and other forms of school choice. During her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing, DeVos denied any prior support for (and says she does not currently support) “conversion therapy” for gays, and stressed that she wanted all children to go to school in a safe, bullying-free environment.
As we wrote earlier today, the odds appear to favor DeVos, because Trump’s fellow Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate, compared to just 48 for Democrats. The GOP also holds the edge in committee seats by a count of 12 to 11.
However, DeVos has plenty of friends as well.
In a Jan. 17 letter, 150 state-level leaders, including state legislators, weighed in to support DeVos. In addition to several school choice groups, 20 Republican governors recently signed a letter saying they would look forward to having DeVos as education secretary. Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut introduced DeVos at her hearing, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who carries a big megaphone in state education policy debates, has also backed DeVos.
Read the full letter signed by the 248 groups below:
UPDATE: CREDO action, a social change network, said Monday that nearly 1.5 million people have signed an online petition calling on senators to “block and resist Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as secretary of education.”
The petition was delivered to the two moderate Republican senators on the education committee considered most likely to vote against DeVos, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Both hail from rural states that aren’t likely to embrace DeVos’ push for expanding school choice. But both had positive exchanges with DeVos during her confirmation hearing