If America had a billboard, the fact that anyone can play a part in government, whether at the local, state or federal level, would be one of the main slogans.
As a nation born from a desperate need to break away from centuries of monarchs, the majority of Americans, including Tennessee’s elected officials, seem to be straying away from one of the main the principles of democracy: checks and balances.
Promptly after Donald J. Trump was elected president, he announced his cabinet nominees. Among them was Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, who is overwhelmingly unqualified for the position, yet has a little over half of the U.S. Senate’s support.
I’m the daughter of two public school teachers, so I immediately received angry text messages from my mother after the announcement that said something along the lines of, “She’s a horrible choice. Your Dad and I are in trouble.”
After researching DeVos, I agree with Mom: Public school education is in jeopardy.
DeVos doesn’t have any experience with public schools other than her knowledge of and opposition to Common Core. As a private school raised-Michigan native billionaire with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and political science, she’s dedicated her life to various business and political ventures, including funding charter schools and advocating for school voucher programs.
While DeVos is a devout supporter of charter schools, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes disagrees. The center’s 26 school-five year study concluded that two-thirds of charter school students are performing at the same level as public school children or worse.
There’s also the issue that she is a dedicated financial supporter of the Republican Party. DeVos confirmed to Sen. Bernie Sanders at her confirmation hearing on Jan. 17 that “it is possible” she and her family have donated over $200 million to the Republican Party.
The public outcry– from Democrats and Republicans– to deny DeVos’ appointment has been astounding. Americans were especially distraught after witnessing the train wreck that was DeVos’ confirmation hearing, where she proved to be uninformed on many issues and policies including disability, Title IX and the differences between proficiency and growth.
Last week, Sen. Bob Corker’s office received over 10,000 phone calls begging the senator to vote against DeVos. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s Facebook page is filled with anti-DeVos comments from constituents. One comment among the thousands read: “Sen. Alexander, I’ve been a fan since the beginning of your political career. I’ve always voted for you and I respect you, but please do not vote for Betsy DeVos.”
Alexander responded in a lengthy Facebook post where he said this about DeVos: “Few Americans have done as much to help low-income students have a choice of better schools.”
Alexander’s steadfast dedication to DeVos has shocked many considering his parents were public school teachers and he served as Secretary of Education from 1991-1993.
It is unclear if Alexander will run for re-election in 2018, but many are urging him to be more mindful of his constituent’s wishes considering he lost Blount County, his hometown where there is a parkway named in his honor, in the U.S. Senate primaries in 2014.
Even with the overwhelming amount of phone calls, letters, emails and protests, Alexander and Corker still plan to vote to confirm DeVos as secretary of education which poses the question: Is it more important to be in the president’s back pocket, or do your civic duty?
While DeVos has donated a lot of money to child welfare organizations and served on many boards concerning the welfare and education of children, that doesn’t make her a sensible choice for secretary of education. Therefore, Alexander and Corker’s should vote against her.
It is a shame Tennessee’s elected officials are more worried about party loyalty than serving their constituents and keeping the tradition of checks and balances in line.