Betsy DeVos is now the U.S. Secretary of Education — despite the best efforts of parents, teachers, activists, Democratic senators, and the very constituency DeVos is meant to champion: children.
The vote was a total 50-50 tie in the Senate that was ultimately broken by Vice President Mike Pence. Those opposing DeVos had many reasons: She has zero experience with (attending, working with, sending her kids to, or apparently even just plain walking around and/or acknowledging the existence of) public schools. She wants to use taxpayer dollars to send kids to for-profit schools. She thinks those schools could allow guns in order to protect kids from bears (?!). She seemingly has no idea what special education even is. And as for whether she'll uphold essential Title IX advancements that protect students from discrimination and rape...it's truly anyone's guess.
Those who voted in favor of DeVos had, it seems, one apparent reason: Her family has donated $8.3 million to the Republican party.
Two Republican senators did join the Democrats in voting against DeVos yesterday, but it wasn't enough. Her appointment is, pure and simple, the outcome of a government that is so broken, it puts profit before the well-being of the country's kids. And the real tragedy is that so many of those kids — especially those who will be stranded in a public education system that's now run by someone who is actively trying to dismantle it — won't grow up having known any other reality.
When my son was born a year ago, his president was Black. His mom's right to decide not to have any more children — and to choose to access abortion services — was protected. His parents, both successful graduates of the U.S. public school system, were determined to send him on the same path (see photographic evidence below; my son is the two-week-old blob sticking out of my coat).
For me, the decision to send my kid to public school has always seemed like a no-brainer. Even after leaving NYC — my birthplace as well as my son's — and moving to the south. Even when so many (liberal, nervous) friends asked me about my "new" plans for my son, now that we're in an area that's not known for its great public schools. Still, I stick to my guns: Yes, he will go to public school; yes, even here.
My reasoning has always been that I'm not going to send my kid to a fancier school just because I could maybe, someday, afford to. Because the answer to improving our country's flawed public education system is diverting funds to it, not taking them away. It's bringing in involved and dedicated parents, recruiting talented and progressive teachers, paying them well, and in turn inspiring their well-educated, passionate students to think, Hey, that seems like a pretty great way to make a living. I think I'll be a teacher when I grow up.
Of course, DeVos lacks any experience remotely relevant to running — no, rebuilding — our nation's public school system. But voting vastly inexperienced people into positions of tremendous power seems to be America's thing these days. The problem isn't just the horrible example this sets for our kids (If you're rich enough, you can do whatever you want! Destroy some schools, grab some pussies!). The bigger tragedy of DeVos' confirmation is the fact that half of the Senate voted against her complete lack of qualifications, while half voted for her status as a billionaire. It was the presidential election (and democracy's dauntless but fruitless hope for faithless electors) repeating itself, except this time, only kids will suffer the consequences. DeVos' appointment is a reflection of our country's arbitrary, dangerous divide — the two-party system that is ultimately destroying America.
"If we cannot set aside party loyalty long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president’s nominees, what are we even doing here?” Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, asked The New York Times. Put another way: If party lines are so important that voters, electors, and senators alike will simply vote with their party regardless of how unqualified, inappropriate, or criminal the appointee (or how vulnerable the children at risk)...what, indeed, are we even doing here?
I, for one, refuse to sit down and shut up and accept the swan song of public education in the United States. Because as much as the Trump administration would love to essentially reverse-Robin-Hood the system by robbing public education to feed for-profit schools, what these cowardly politicians underestimate are the very kids, parents, and teachers they're trying to silence. Because you do not mess with our children's education, folks. Because we will fucking fight. Because all of the recent protests, letters, and flooded phone lines are just the beginning. Because this generation of kids is already growing up with so much to fight against — but even more to fight for.