News & Event
A Statement on the DeVos Confirmation
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. Below is a statement from NEA Rhode Island (NEARI) President Larry Purtill:
"Betsy DeVos is the most exceptionally unqualified cabinet nominee in history with zero experience in public education, administration or even as a parent of a public school student. Unfortunately, the Senate chose to ignore the thousands of voices from across the country who joined together to clog phone lines and flood inboxes in opposition to her and the Trump-DeVos agenda.
"The DeVos confirmation does not magically silence our voices. The massive nationwide public outcry by educators, administrators, parents, students, civil rights groups, special education advocates and others is just the beginning. The level of activism we have seen is incredibly encouraging and we will continue to resist policies detrimental to public education and work together to protect our students and educators.
"On behalf of our 12,000 members, I’d like to thank Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline who, with their Democratic colleagues, fought tooth and nail to quash this nomination.
"They never gave up and neither will we."
WASHINGTON - On November 23, 2016, the Trump administration announced its plan to nominate Betsy DeVos, best known for her anti-public education campaigns, for the position of Secretary of Education. The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:
January 27, 2017 - Today Senator Jack Reed released a statement in opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. Senator Whitehouse yesterday announced his opposition to DeVos. Reed's statement follows:
“Ms. DeVos flunked her confirmation hearing and is not the right person for the job.
“Our Secretary of Education should be a champion for all children – not someone like Ms. DeVos who suggested that a landmark civil rights law should be left up to states.
“As a lobbyist, Ms. DeVos helped reduce school oversight and accountability in Michigan and promoted the diversion of taxpayer dollars toward private schools.
“Given her ties to for-profit education companies that will be directly impacted by Department of Education decisions, it is hard to fathom how she could fully untangle herself from a thick web of conflicts.
“Neither her background, nor her testimony before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee inspire confidence that she has the experience or vision necessary to oversee national education policy, including higher education and the management of a $1 trillion student loan portfolio.
“When our students have access to good schools, quality teachers, and high quality college and career education opportunities, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
“But if Ms. DeVos is confirmed, I fear she will take resources away from public school students and direct them to for-profit schools and institutions that share her views. I don’t think that is fair to students and I don’t think Ms. DeVos should be confirmed to lead the U.S. Department of Education. I will vote no.”
February 23, 2017 - National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) President Larry Purtill today released the following statement with regard to President Trump’s revocation of guidance for public schools allowing transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity put in place by former President Obama:
“We’ve been told since the election that the LGBTQ community had nothing to worry about with a President Trump. Yet at his first opportunity he chooses to attack LGBTQ youth. It’s offensive and disgraceful.
It is important to note that Rhode Island state law bans discrimination with regard to public accommodations – including public schools – based on gender identity or expression. Transgender students are today and should always be protected and NEARI will aggressively fight any efforts to roll back policies that keep all children safe from intimidation and harm.
Rescinding federal guidance does not undo legal protections for transgender students. Transgender students are protected by the Constitution and Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes when using restrooms and other school facilities.
We will do everything possible to protect, welcome and embrace our transgender students. Every, and I mean every, student deserves that and I will be asking RIDE to take this opportunity to recommit to the existing state law and guidance already in place.
We will not turn our backs on these students. In fact, we’ve got their backs! Politics among adults is one thing, but not protecting every student is outrageous and will not be tolerated.
All students yearn to feel comfortable in their skin and find their place in this world. This holds especially true for LGBTQ youth. It’s easy sometimes when using acronyms to really remember their meaning. The “T” stands for transgender and today and every day we will stand with our transgender students.”
If educators, administrators, parents and students see any act of discrimination or witness bullying or threatening behavior, please report it immediately to your local officials, NEARI (401-463-9630) or GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders (GLAD: 617-426-1350).
January 27, 2017 - Yesterday Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, released a statement opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education:
“Every Rhode Island student deserves the chance to learn and gain the skills they need to get ahead. The mission of the U.S. Department of Education is to give them that chance. Promoting quality education for children no matter where they live requires a firm grasp of education policy and experience confronting complex issues. It requires an understanding that programs like Pell Grants, established by Rhode Island’s legendary Senator Claiborne Pell, often make higher education possible for aspiring college students. The Secretary of Education needs to understand what the Department can do to help make schools safe for all kids and how vital federal laws support children with special needs. Our Education Secretary must have this baseline knowledge and background. Mrs. DeVos’s record and testimony before the Committee show that she does not.
“Moreover, the brand of ideologically driven education reform Mrs. DeVos has championed is not what Rhode Islanders want. I have received thousands of letters, calls, and emails in opposition to her nomination, many of them citing the school voucher and privatization agenda Mrs. DeVos and her allies imposed in Michigan. Rhode Island parents, teachers, and students have seen the poor results of that agenda and do not want it in our schools.
“I am also deeply concerned with this nominee’s potential conflicts of interest and lack of transparency. Mrs. DeVos has failed to address these issues, despite numerous requests for information from me and other members of the Committee. We still do not know the extent of her ties to shadowy organizations designed to shield special interests from public scrutiny or whether she has disentangled herself fully from knotty investments. She needed to put these concerns to rest with thorough disclosures to us, but she hasn’t come close.
“This is why Mrs. DeVos is wholly unqualified for this role and I cannot support her nomination.”
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