Op-ed: Betsy DeVos is a bad choice for secretary of education

'She has a lot to learn about my students'
Op-ed: Betsy DeVos is a bad choice for secretary of education
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-24 08:00:39-05

Milbeth Allen is an intervention specialist at John P. Parker Elementary School in Madisonville.

Those of us who work with children, teach them and help them learn and grow in classrooms from coast to coast knew early on that Betsy DeVos was a bad pick to be our nation's next secretary of education. Those concerns and fears were -- unfortunately, for our children -- confirmed during her Senate confirmation hearing.

We knew that DeVos has spent her life working to dismantle the public education system we fight so hard to hold strong. She's pushed the weight of her family's money around to expand poor-performing charter schools and increase vouchers to suck public dollars out of our neighborhood public schools in order to pay for tuition at private schools.

Milbeth Allen

It was alarming to realize that beyond her anti-public education bent, she quite simply does not understand public education. She has no knowledge of how public education works to help students succeed.

Most alarming to me as an intervention specialist was that she displayed a complete lack of knowledge or understanding of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This federal law requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities. DeVos said she'd rather let states decide how to enforce the federal law. When pushed, then made aware that federal law must be followed where federal dollars are provided, she waffled and said she was confused.

I am proud to be a veteran educator working in a high-poverty school in Cincinnati. I love these children and want with all my heart to help open their eyes and their minds to opportunities available to them in their own neighborhoods and beyond.

As an intervention specialist, I understand that many of my students face unique challenges. IDEA and Title 1 programs exist to help meet their needs and remove obstacles to success. These critical programs should be expanded, not reduced.

DeVos has a lot to learn about my students, their needs and their rights.

Several other gaffes during the hearing exposed DeVos's lack of knowledge about basic educational policy. With regard to testing, she did not understand that student growth and proficiency are not the same. She refused to say whether all schools that receive federal dollars should be held to the same standards.

I suppose her lack of knowledge about such basic pieces of information should not have surprised me. DeVos has zero experience in public education. She has never worked in a public school. She sent her children to private schools. DeVos has spent her career privatizing public education.

Our children need a secretary of education who will focus on promoting children's well-being, supporting powerful learning, building teacher capacity and fostering cultures of collaboration.

Betsy DeVos is not that person.