Donald Trump Is "an Existential Threat to Public Schools"
How teachers' unions are fighting his education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos.
On the day President-elect Donald Trump announced Michigan billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos as his pick for education secretary, the heads of the country's two largest teachers unions jumped to condemn the choice. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten called DeVos "the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education." National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen García noted the administration's choice "demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators, and communities."
Educators have worried that DeVos, a prominent Republican fundraiser, and her support for "school choice" and the use of vouchers would endanger public education. With the billionaire's confirmation hearing slated for Wednesday, the nation's two biggest teachers' unions have gone on the offensive with grassroots campaigns to challenge DeVos' nomination.
Neither group anticipated Donald Trump to win the election. "We did everything in our power to get Hillary Clinton elected. We didn't have a plan B," Weingarten says. "We always thought Donald Trump would be as dangerous as he's showing he is." But both unions say they were unsurprised by Trump's selection of DeVos, whose past work in Michigan align with the president-elect's proposals to direct federal dollars toward private and charter schools. "We have many, many years of experience with her and her undermining of the public education system in Michigan. We have frontline stories about what her agenda and the Trump agenda has meant to communities and to students," says Mary Kusler, senior director of the NEA Center for Advocacy. "She was not somebody who was plucked out of thin air for us."
Education historian Diane Ravitch, who founded the advocacy group Network for Public Education in 2013, described unions as "shocked and worried" by the DeVos selection in an email to Mother Jones. "The previous Republican administrations did not threaten the very existence of public education and teachers unions," she added. "This coming four years is an existential threat to a basic Democratic Donald Trump Is "an Existential Threat to Public Schools" | Mother Jones: