Dear Senator Portman,
I recognise that I am not a constituent of yours. I have never lived in Ohio and the likelihood of that ever happening is slim. However, I have been a great admirer of yours ever since your friend, and the man I supported in the Republican presidential campaign from Day One, Gov. John Kasich, stood by you. I have spent considerable energy learning more about you, examining your positions on the issues that matter most to me, and believe I would have voted for you if given the chance.
It is with this in mind that I reach out to you, not as a constituent, nor as a donor, but as an American citizen, a conservative, a Republican, and, perhaps most importantly in this matter, as an educator.
I believe in public education. I have taught in public schools in east central Illinois for nine years. I am the product of public schools. I value the experiences I received from them and would not trade them for anything in the world. However, I was also fortunate to attend schools in a strong middle-class community. Poverty was not an issue for us and our schools were strong. I know many who were not so fortunate. As an educator, I have watched the rise of charter schools and the school choice movement grow and I have not been opposed. There are many great charter schools in our nation that work side by side the public schools in their communities to provide students greater choice and greater access to the type of education that is best for them. While I have disagreed with some of their decisions, I have watched as experts in education leadership have guided the growth of charter schools. One such expert is former D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. If she had been nominated for the position of Secretary of Education, I would have gladly stood with her.
I am gravely concerned, however, by the notion that Mrs. Betsy DeVos, someone who has never attended public schools, who has never worked in public schools, and has never been a part of school leadership should be considered qualified to lead our nation's top education policymaking department. Senator Portman, Betsy DeVos may want more local control for schools, which is admirable, but she is not qualified to lead the Department of Education. I am begging you, imploring you, to back away from your decision to vote to confirm her for this position that will impact the lives of over 67 million children and young adults in our nation's public K-12 and higher education institutions.
Senator Portman, you have made a name for yourself as being a man of integrity. The time to do what is right is always now. Please do what is best for education and tell President Trump to send the Senate a nominee who can lead the Department of Education with knowledge, experience, and expertise.
Yours most sincerely,
~Alexander T. Valencic
Fourth Grade Teacher
Wiley Elementary School
Urbana School District #116
Urbana, Champaign, Illinois