Guest post by Cheryl D. Mayes, former chairwoman of the Nashville School Board and the 2016 recipient of the Council of Urban Boards of Education’s prestigious Benjamin Elijah Mays Lifetime Achievement Award for stellar leadership and tireless advocacy on behalf of children in Nashville, TN.
Who’s Minding The Education of Our Children?
After watching the Senate confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, the nominee for the office of U.S. Secretary of Education, I was irritated, disappointed and downright furious at how the committee conducted the hearings. So much so, that I had to watch it again to be sure that I heard what I thought I heard. Having said that, here are a few takeaways for me. Keeping in mind that the following thoughts are my opinion and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of anyone other than myself.
It is absolutely important to mention that Mrs. DeVos, by her own admission, stated that neither she nor any of her children attended a public school, and that Mrs. DeVos has only “mentored” at one high school. I have mentored over 500 students over the last few years, however that doesn’t qualify me to be a teacher or most especially to lead the office of the Secretary of Education! Further, Mrs. DeVos would not commit to NOT cutting funding to public education. Her words, “I guess I wouldn’t characterize it in that way.”
Several members of the committee expressed concerns that they would not be granted additional time to ask questions of this nominee, who if confirmed, could lead one of the most (if not the most) important offices in our federal government!
My concerns grew from the clear lack of responses on several questions to what seemed should have been simple yes or no responses from Mrs. Devos, yet she seemed more comfortable quoting statistics and evading, than actually responding to the questions that were asked of her.
DeVos Flakes On Our Most Vulnerable
One of the most concerning “non-responses” came when Mrs. DeVos was asked to state her opinion on school vouchers and how they relate to special needs students. In Tennessee, a bill was introduced (HB1049) as recently as Feb, 2016 that failed to garner the support needed to pass. This was good news for families of children with disabilities because, if passed, it would deny a quality education for these students simply because the voucher schools would be obligated to offer the needed services for these students. Basically, if the services do not already exist, no services would be offered.
Mrs. DeVos also failed to respond to questions related to existing legislation and laws that already exist regarding oversight and enforcement of colleges that do not provide an adequate education and/or opportunity for graduates to actually work in their chosen careers despite the amount of student loans that have been used to gain an education.
And Grizzly Bears
Another big issue for me, was Mrs. DeVos’ lack of commitment to the guns in school’s question! Her response, “My heart bleeds for those families who have lost children due to gun violence.” What????
Heaven Help Us
While I fully support school choice, I absolutely do not support the bleeding of public education to make it happen! Quality education should be built first and foremost on providing a quality educational experience for all children, regardless of income or abilities. It should never be based on a “cash cow” mentality.
With all that being said, I would hope that the confirmation committee would seriously consider an additional round of publicly televised questions of this nominee that would allow all committee members an opportunity to do a deeper dive of this nominee. As it stands, it appears that this confirmation is being rushed and hushed to the benefit of the new administration. I pray for our children!