Cincinnati teachers rally against Betsy DeVos' nomination for education secretary

Billionaire not fit to lead, they say
Posted at 6:14 PM, Jan 19, 2017

CINCINNATI - Just a day before Donald Trump's inauguration,  local teachers, board members  and students protested the president-elect's pick for Secretary of Education, saying billionaire Betsy DeVos is not fit to lead.

The teachers union and the Cincinnati Educators Justice Coalition held a rally Thursday night with more than a 100 teachers, students and local leaders. They claim DeVos' lack of experience may hurt underprivileged students and threatens the progress that public schools have made.

"She  wants to do expansions of vouchers, expansions of charters, and that was her agenda for the last 30 years," said Julie Sellers, president of Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

The one-time Michigan Republican committeewoman is known in that state's education network for supporting school choice and voucher programs that provide alternatives to public schools. 

"Charters and vouchers have not worked in this city," Sellers said. "We have a different vision of education in this city. We want it to include all children."

DeVos faced tough questioning at Tuesday's confirmation hearing.

Sen. Christopher Murray (D-Conn.) asked if she'd commit to not cut funding to public schools.

Murray: "I take that as not being able to commit to not privatizing schools or not cutting money for education."

DeVos: "Well, I guess I wouldn't characterize it as that."

Others worry about her qualifications.

"She's never worked in public education. She's never run a school district," Sellers said.

Under questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), DeVos testified that she has never taken out a student loan for herself or her children much less overseen a trillion-dollar loan program.

Murray asked if she could say unequivocally that guns don't belong in schools.

She dodged the question by referring to a previous comment by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) about grizzly bears in his state.

"Well, I will refer back to Sen. Enzi with the school that he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine there was probably a gun to protect against potential grizzlies," DeVos said.

But Trump says she's more than qualified. DeVos helped craft Detroit's charter school system. And she has received support from Jeb Bush. 

Michigan public school officials say she deserves a chance.

"She's a friend of kids and a friend of families and better outcomes for kids and people who work in schools," said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

There were organized protests against DeVos in more than 200 cities Thursday night.