With dozens of protesters standing at the front of Jefferson Academy in Washington, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tried to enter a side door of the school but was blocked Friday by a few people who held signs and shouted, “Shame, shame.”
Along with the protesters outside, some staff members at Jefferson were none too happy about the DeVos visit, wearing black in protest and saying they didn’t want their students used as a photo opportunity for the controversial secretary.
DeVos was confirmed Tuesday in the Senate after Mike Pence became the first vice president ever to break a tie for a Cabinet nominee. She is the most polarizing education secretary in history because of the deep divide in philosophy about public education between her supporters and her critics. Her backers see her as a champion of school choice and alternatives to traditional public schools, while opponents say her decades of advocacy work show that she wants to privatize the public education system.
After her entrance to Jefferson was blocked — she did eventually make it in another way — some public figures who have been among her biggest critics urged that she be let into public schools. Why? Because they say DeVos needs to see how they work.
Former education secretary Arne Duncan, who tweeted thanks to two Republican senators who split with their party to vote against DeVos’s confirmation, tweeted this Friday:
Agree or disagree w @BetsyDeVos on any issue, but let’s all agree she really needs to be in public schools. Please let her in.
— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) February 10, 2017
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who has called DeVos “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee” ever, praised the protesters but also tweeted:
And Diane Ravitch, the education historian and public schools advocate who years ago became the titular leader of the anti-corporate school reform movement, and who recently wrote that DeVos is an education “extremist” who is “hostile” to public schools, wrote this on her blog:
Protestors blocked Betsy DeVos from entering a public middle school in DC.
I have mixed feelings about this.
On one hand, I was thinking of planning a “Betsy, bar the door” campaign, because of her well-documented contempt for public schools.
But I had breakfast on Tuesday with Cindy Marten, the dynamic superintendent of the San Diego public schools, and she told me about the wonderful accomplishments and spirit of teachers, principals, and students serving a very diverse enrollment. I told her she should invite DeVos to see the schools, see how they address the needs of English language learners and kids with disabilities.
Which is best?
How could she not be impressed by public schools that enroll all children? How could she not see that the district’[s] charter schools are draining resources, not improving the public schools?
Doors open to all. Even DeVos.
Here’s the video showing what happened:
— ABC 7 News – WJLA (@ABC7News) February 10, 2017