A few months ago, I didn’t think I could be more afraid of someone holding political power in this country as I am of Donald Trump. I was wrong. Turns out, Trump is just the lion of the metaphorical Chimera leading our country – and Betsy DeVos is the snake.
Betsy DeVos scares the piss out of me.
It started while I was watching her Senate confirmation hearing, my gut sinking a little more each time she evaded answering a question. The future secretary of education, talking circles around every question, to keep people from noticing just how uninformed she really is about issues faced by educators and policy makers. Since then, the more I learn about her past and plans for the future, the more nervous I become.
It isn’t her lack of experience with public education that scares me most, or her billionaire status, or even her sketchy family members. Anyone lacking experience can prove themselves worthy of a role by learning quickly and trying their hardest; and there’s no rule saying all billionaires have to be self-absorbed A-holes. And hey, every family tree has a few rotten apples mixed in.
The thing that really scares me though, is her strong support of expanding school choice. She thinks public education in our country is about as bad as it can get, and wants to shift away from “throwing money” at the public education system and invest instead in public charter schools and government vouchers for private schools.
For someone like me who has a very close relationship with public education, this way of thinking is more than just a little terrifying. Plus, it hits very close to home.
To me, it’s personal.
It’s personal partly because my daughter is about to start kindergarten. She is about to be directly affected by the changes Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have planned for public education in this country.
And it’s personal because I am the daughter, granddaughter and niece of women who’ve dedicated their lives to public education.
Women who frequently use their own money to buy needed school supplies. Women who have spent countless hours in their classrooms, both before and after their students have come and gone. Hours spent grading, planning lessons, or simply being there for a kid needing a kind ear to listen.
Not a one of them has ever gotten paid what their dedication was worth. Of course, few public educators are. Yet they do it anyway. As a single parent, my mom always had at least one other job, sometimes two; from the time I was about ten. There were often days when she spent more time with her students than she got to spend with her own children.
People who become teachers are a special breed in that way – they go into it happily, even knowing full well it will be a lot of long hours with relatively little pay.
It’s clear I’m not the only person afraid of Betsy DeVos. Her cabinet nomination was one of the most contested in history, requiring for the first time ever the vice president to break the tie in the vote and confirm her. She has been protested more than once in the last couple months. So much so that she now requires added security by the US Marshal Service, something unprecedented for a secretary of education, and security that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
So apparently, Betsy DeVos is scared too. Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel any better though.