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Dozens march downtown near Sen. Portman's office, protest Betsy DeVos for education secretary

Posted at 5:33 PM, Feb 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 07:54:15-05

CINCINNATI -- “Do the right thing!” “No to DeVos!” 

Dozens marched and shouted those words near Senator Rob Portman’s downtown office Monday, urging him not to vote for Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

Monday’s demonstration mirrored the march in Terrace Park Saturday, where hundreds chanted and carried signs near Portman’s neighborhood.

In a statement Thursday, Portman wrote that he supported Devos "because during the confirmation process she committed to strongly support public education and because of her support for local control, instead of having the federal government dictate education policy at the state and local level."

Dozens marched near Senator Rob Portman’s downtown office Monday, urging him not to vote for Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. Photo by Terry Helmer, WCPO.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Vice President Mike Pence said he is “very confident” DeVos will be confirmed as education secretary when the Senate votes Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Patricia Rohrer, of Blue Ash, echoed the same sentiment many demonstrators have had; she feels DeVos is not qualified for the position.

Rohrer’s 13-year-old son attends school in the Sycamore Community School District, and she is concerned DeVos would devote more focus and funding toward private schools.

“I care very much about our education,” Rohrer said. “I have a lot of educators in my family and in my friends circle, and I want to see it improved and not destroyed.”

Rohrer said she’s not sure if the demonstration will help sway Portman’s vote, but that hasn’t discouraged her from trying.

“We do what we can. We come everyday -- we rally, we call, we email,” Rohrer said. “Hopefully he’ll see sense … this is a democracy; hopefully he’ll hear our voice.”

Monday's march was the third time Shandra Shirk has protested President Trump's nominee. 

“Ms. DeVos has never spent a minute in a public school room, she’s not a teacher, she’s not an administrator, none of her children went to public schools, so she has no experience or qualifications for the position to which she’s been nominated," Shirk said. 

Shirk said she was surprised Portman announced he would vote for DeVos.

“I’ve been down here three times now, I know that all of his offices across the state of Ohio have been inundated with calls and letters, and it’s shocking to me that he could ignore his constituents in that way.”

Jocelyn Burlew, a fifth grade teacher at Mason Intermediate School, is worried DeVos will not improve the public school system.

"My biggest concern is again having someone at the highest level making or helping to shape policy without having the knowledge or the fundamental understanding of how public education runs,” Burlew said.

But Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou said DeVos represents change for education in America.

"We think she's an outstanding choice,”  Triantafilou said. “When the people elected Donald Trump as president … they were electing for change.

“They were electing for radical change in many respects, and here's an individual who's spent a career advocating for kids, not for teacher unions, not for any particular structure, but for kids."

He said DeVos’ $51,000 donation to Portman’s campaign will not determine the senator’s vote.

"I know for a fact that this has nothing, nothing to do with Rob Portman's support of that individual,” Triantafilou said.