As the Betsy DeVos era in the U.S. Department of Education is coming to an end, she has made one final plea to Congress to resist Biden’s common-sense education policies and uphold the destructive policies she enacted. Policies which pad the pockets of her fellow “one-percenters” who own for-profit schools at the expense of public-school students. In doing so, she had one final farewell message: I drove the car off the cliff, but please don’t fix the car.

Secretary DeVos has branded herself as an “advocate for children and students.” Here in Michigan, we know better.  Actions speak louder than words, and in her home state, DeVos’s lobbying efforts and strong financial support of for-profit education legislators has proven lucrative for education profiteers. We have seen endless legislation providing paths for the wealthy to profit off of our kids, and little results for our students as our test scores remain stagnant and we face a grueling teacher shortage.

Since being appointed and receiving a confirmation only made possible by a tie-breaking vote, the DeVos has enacted a variety of policies that are the furthest thing from “students first.” She violated students’ rights by rolling back Title IX protections for transgender students and students of color. She proposed massive cuts in federal education spending. She revised Title IX protections for student survivors of sexual assault by strengthening protections for the accused. She blocked legislative and judicial attempts to fix her policies that denied 99% of teachers who applied for Federal Loan forgiveness and more recently, she attempted to use CARES Act funding designated for low-income students for private school students who are receiving private tutoring, an action that a judge later ruled, “was outside of her authority.”

Actions speak louder than words.

As an educator turned legislator, I have enjoyed a unique firsthand insight into her impact on our classrooms and legislative process, and I fail to see how anyone can consider her educational agenda to be acceptable.  I spent over a decade in the classroom to ensure a bright future for my students every single day.  My working conditions were their learning conditions, and I came to Lansing to continue that fight, but during the DeVos era I’ve seen us consistently take steps backward. Under her tenure, our country has failed to protect our students from declining literacy rates, failed to follow expert guidelines on how to properly fund our schools and address the poverty gap in education, watched our special needs children be left behind and simply ignored a global pandemic and its impacts on our kids’ education, as well as their physical and mental health.

Actions speak louder than words, and our students deserve better.

Betsy Devos recently stated that we are facing a ‘student achievement crisis’ – so we do at least agree on one thing. However, DeVos’ policies and influence has only exacerbated this problem. The car may have gone off the cliff, but educators across our state are answering the call to get us back on the road to success again.  2018 saw a record number of teachers across the country run for public office, educators went on strike in states from coast to coast to fight for better classrooms and learning environments. In 2019 and 2020, they have stepped up in once unimaginable ways to engage in a new virtual setting during the most difficult time in our nation’s recent history. Instead of looking for ways to pad the pocketbooks of for-profit education management organizations, testing companies and those pushing disproven educational theories, the Biden administration will move with a student-first agenda that leans on educators, instead of villainizing us, to help lift our next generation.  My fellow educators and I look forward to being a part of the repair team and putting this car back on the road to a brighter future, and call on the US Congress and State Legislatures across the nation to join us.