NC Policy Watch friend and occasional contributor, Forsyth County public schoolteacher Stuart Egan, has authored another one of his fine open letters to a powerful politician about our public schools. The latest is a passionate plea directed to Senator Richard Burr regarding Donald Trump’s troubling plan to nominate Michigan Amway queen Betsy Devos as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
As the senior senator of our state embarking on your third term in office, your voice in the national arena carries both weight and experienced perspective. And while you and I share many differing opinions on issues that affect our country, I do believe that we share a passion to make sure that all students have access to a great public education.
In preparing to cast my vote this past election, I did review your website to glean your perspective on some issues that seemed to become lost in the national debate with what might be one of the more bombastic presidential elections in history. On your www.burrforsenate.com website, you posted on op-ed you wrote for the Fayetteville Observer entitled “Giving our children a better future.”
In it you made statements such as:
“Our children are the future of North Carolina, and they represent the best of us. I am proud to be an avid defender of North Carolina students in the Senate.”
“As a part of my commitment to defending North Carolina students, I was proud to offer an amendment to fix a long-standing inequality in education funding that has shortchanged North Carolina’s teachers, schools and low-income students for over 15 years.”
“My amendment makes sure that federal education funding meant for schools that serve kids from low-income families actually goes to those very schools.”
“This means that with more education dollars coming to North Carolina, we will have more teachers in North Carolina helping our students get a great education.”
“We have made great strides this Congress to deliver control of K-12 education back to local communities, while making sure limited federal education funding is going to the communities that need it the most. But making sure that our children are getting the best education possible is going to be an ongoing fight for North Carolina families in Washington. I’m pledging to continue fighting for North Carolina’s schools, teachers and students, because a brighter future for North Carolina students means a brighter future for North Carolina.”
What I sense in these words is a commitment to our public schools.
In fact, you are the son of a former public school teacher and a graduate of R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem. I teach at another school in Reynolds’s district, West Forsyth High School, and am proud to report that Reynolds still holds an incredible reputation as a historically effective institution and I know many of the fantastic teachers who work there.
However, we are experiencing in North Carolina a decline in teacher candidates. Why? Because public education is under attack. And when public education is under attack by “re-forming” efforts like vouchers and unregulated charter school growth then communities suffer. Your wife is a leading realtor in the Triad area. I feel very confident that she could tell you the effect that the public school system has on the “value” of property in our communities.
I say all of this because President-elect Trump has appointed a candidate to lead the nation’s public schools who very well may be the most unqualified individual to ever be considered for the position.
And you have the power to help keep that from happening.
When you ran for reelection, you touted your experience. Experience in certain fields seems to be an important factor when running for leadership positions.
Betsy DeVos has none whatsoever. In fact, when searching her background of ill-fated credentials, I found that:
- Betsy DeVos has no degree in education — meaning she is not even educated in how to educate.
- Betsy DeVos has no teaching experience.
- Betsy DeVos never attended a public school or state supported university. None of her children have either.
- Betsy DeVos’ monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations have been conservatively estimated at $200 million.
- Betsy DeVos is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much.
- Betsy DeVos supports vouchers.
The idea of a privileged billionaire “privatizer” leading the nation’s public schools is more than contradictory or antithetical; it’s diametrically repugnant.
So, I ask that you do not confirm her as our Secretary of Education.
Senator, your election is over. You can now fully attend the business of our country while focusing on how our state can be best represented. If any of the words in the aforementioned op-ed you wrote still have weight, then Betsy DeVos cannot become our schools’ leader.
You said on your website , “My mother was an elementary school teacher who understood the value of education and its power to lift people out of poverty.”
Betsy DeVos does not have that understanding.
Public School Teacher
Parent of Two Children in Public Schools