January 17, 2017

Senators, do not vote to confirm Betsy DeVos

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (l) and Martin Heinrich (r)

This was sent as a letter to U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. It is a joint letter from AFT NM President Stephanie Ly and NEA-NM President Betty Patterson.

Senators Udall and Heinrich:

We write to you on behalf of tens of thousands of New Mexico’s public educators to urge careful consideration of the nomination of Ms. Betsy DeVos for the position of Secretary of Education by President-elect Donald Trump.

It is our strong belief that a successful confirmation of Ms. DeVos would not be in the best interest of public education in the United States, nor in our State of New Mexico.

Ms. DeVos has a long and well-documented history of opposing a robust system of public education in her home state of Michigan in favor of increased charter, private, and religious schools. In fact, Ms. DeVos’ advocacy extends beyond just support for private schools; she actively opposes reasonable transparency for private schools, while championing decreased governmental oversight for private schools.

While we do not oppose the existence of private schools, their success must not come at the expense of America’s strong tradition of public education.

We are greatly concerned that under Ms. DeVos, we will continue to see the effects of a philosophy which believes that privatization of our schools will lead to improvement. We know the opposite to be true, and studies show that increased school choice is not implemented uniformly, or equitably across all segments of our society. We only need to look at the proliferation of private schools in Detroit – which was spearheaded by Ms. DeVos – to see the results of this type of philosophy: poorer performance in reading and math, drastic reduction of funds for public school students, and a system of education which is prone to underserving our students.

Charter, private, and religious schools are not required to accept all students who apply, which in reality, often means that students of color, those with different learning abilities, or those from lower economic means are not accepted. Furthermore, private schools often are not subject to the same transparency requirements that are applied to our public schools, which further exacerbates the imbalance between public and private schools. Furthermore, there is not conclusive proof that private schools outperform America’s public schools as a rule, and often the coupling of reduced oversight, poor financial accountability, and little transparency damages student learning in favor of higher profits.

Coupled with her support of voucher programs and charter schools is her open hostility towards unionized public educators. As recently as 2015, Ms. DeVos cited unions as an impediment to improving our country’s system of public education. Obviously, we oppose this assessment of our efforts in support of quality public education nationally, and in New Mexico. Instead, we would assert that the collective voices of our members have been the only consistent firewall against the dismantling of America’s public schools.

On a more local note, Ms. DeVos is not an educator. She has held no position in a public school, nor classroom, and we have seen first-hand the disastrous effects in New Mexico of a non-educator at the helm of our education. No one would accept a nominee for US Surgeon General who is not a licensed medical professional, and we believe the same criteria ought to be applied to this office as well.

We strongly urge you to vote against the confirmation of Ms. DeVos as US Secretary of Education.

Should you require more information or discuss the contents of this letter in further detail, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We sincerely appreciate your continued efforts of behalf of the citizens of New Mexico and look forward to a continued positive working relationship with each of you and your staff.