I write to you as a fourth grade teacher in Urbana, Illinois, and as a future administrator of a public school somewhere in our state. By way of biographical background, I am a registered Republican election judge and have cast my ballot for members of that party more often than I have cast ballots for members of your own party. I share my political views because I think it is important for you to know that many of your constituents, regardless of political affiliation, are alarmed by the prospect of President-Elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, being confirmed by the United States Senate.
Mrs. DeVos has made her name in education by funneling vast sums of money into campaigns and initiatives that have promoted charter schools in her home state of Michigan. I am not opposed to charter schools; in fact, I believe they have a place in our nation's public school system to promote innovation and to serve as laboratories for testing and implementing research-based practices. However, I do not believe Mrs. DeVos is right for this job. The Unites States Secretary of Education is an individual who should have experience at multiple levels of education, from the classroom to administration. He or she should have advanced degrees in education, including a doctoral degree in education policy and/or organizational leadership, which would show others that the candidate knows and understands education research, knows how to conduct that research, and knows how to connect research to practice.
Additionally, the Secretary of Education ought to be willing to lead the Department in becoming a clearinghouse of resources for states, districts, schools, and individual teachers, at all levels from early childhood through college and adult learning, to access when they are looking to improve their teaching practices and policies. The department should be funding research and innovation. This is especially true for charter schools, that have become something much different than what they were originally intended. (Charters were meant to be a way for a district to try out an innovative model and, if it was successful, expand it. Instead, they have become public-private schools with little to no accountability.)
For the next four years, I want a Department of Education that will either slow the pace or halt the release of new initiatives so that the ones currently in place across the nation can be implemented with fidelity. This includes the Common Core State Standards (not federal policy, but influenced by federal decisions), #GoOpen and #FutureReady (two major technology initiatives), and ESSA. I also want the department to come up with real, practicable solutions to the student loan debt crisis that we are facing, whether that is by creating an expanded path to loan forgiveness, lowered interest rates, or incentives for universities to provide more access to scholarships. I don't know the solution, but I do know that there needs to be a real discussion about that. Ultimately, I am looking for a Secretary of Education who will set aside ego and lead the Department in doing what is actually best for the children of this nation. I believe there are many men and women in this nation who can fill this role; I do not believe Mrs. Betsy DeVos is such a person and thus I ask that you vote against her confirmation.