What To Expect For Our Education System, From The Perspective Of 5 Educators

What To Expect For Our Education System, From The Perspective Of 5 Educators

5 educators from different backgrounds share their views on Betsy DeVos, education policy, and what's next for the American education system.
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On Tuesday, February 7, 2017 Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the next United States Secretary of Education.

As a billionaire donor with no previous experience in public education or any education degree, DeVos' nomination was embroiled in controversy from its inception. She fumbled through her Senate confirmation meeting and was subsequently met with a strong backlash from public school supporters and teachers unions. Senate Democrats debated long into the night and early Tuesday morning; the vote eventually came to a historic 50-50 split down party lines, apart from two Republican Senators who voted against DeVos, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Vice President Mike Pence was called in to cast his vote and break the tie, making history as the first time that a vice president has been summoned to break a tie on a cabinet nomination.

Since then, educators around the country have voiced their outrage. In a press release, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, said "DeVos shows an antipathy for public schools; a full-throttled embrace of private, for-profit alternatives; and a lack of basic understanding of what children need to succeed in school."

To get a better understanding of how those who worked in the education sector felt about the new Secretary of Education, I spoke to five local educators about their views on Betsy DeVos and the potential implications of her confirmation on the future of education in America.*

**Melissa is an administrator in upstate New York, with 20 years of experience in education. She has attended a public school, worked in a public school, and sent her children to public schools. She described the school she currently works for as having average needs.

Amanda is a 5th grade teacher at a charter school in upstate New York, with 5 years of education experience. She has attended a public school, and worked at a public school for 4 years. She described the school she currently works for as having low needs.

Pamela is a chemistry teacher at a public high school in upstate New York, with 18 years of experience in education. She has experience teaching in public schools, and she described the school she currently works for as having high needs.

Vicki is the Director of Curriculum at a private school for children with learning disabilities in New York City. She has 17 years of education experience, has attended a public high school, earned her undergraduate degree at a SUNY school, and earned her graduate degree at a CUNY school. She described the school she currently works for as having low needs.

Kristin is a teacher at a private Catholic school in upstate New York, with 20 years in if experience in education. She attended public school, and she described the school she currently works for as having high needs.

Compared to many other states, New York has high education standards for both educators and students. Betsy DeVos has proposed that we leave education "up to the states." As an educator in New York State, what are your thoughts on leaving these decisions to individual states?

Melissa: "I am supportive [of leaving education up to the states]. It allows for more localized control."

Amanda: "I think that for states that have high standards, it works. For states that don't, there is no accountability. Also, if a student moves [to a different] state, there will be no continuity of standards or curriculum."

Pamela: "New York has had standards and cumulative state assessments since before I started teaching. Massachusetts and California also had similar tests and standards. All three states also required a high level of proficiency and education of their teachers. Because of this, these three states have always had the best education systems in the country. If it was "left to the states," we would be okay. However, I am concerned about other states. With some sort of national standards and benchmarks, other states have been required to hit at least minimal standards for their students. I am afraid that these states will slide backwards without national guidance. I am particularly worried about science education in states that will allow religious groups influence what is taught in science classrooms."

Vicki: "I believe there is a minimal standard of quality we need to establish nationally and a minimum budget that needs to be established so that we do not have grossly underfunded schools in our country."

Kristin: "There needs to be cohesiveness among the states. Children don't generally stay in one area of the country. They need to be prepared to join the work force in any part of the country."


DeVos is a strong proponent of expanding charter schools, school choice, and for-profit education. What are your views on this?

Melissa: "I am strongly opposed. Charters and for-profit [schools] play by their own rules and use public funds to push their agendas. These schools can choose their students while siphoning funds from public schools."

Amanda: "I believe that every parent should have the right to send their child to the best school possible. I don't think that their ability to do so should be dependent on their socioeconomic status, their address, or intelligence. That being said, I don't believe for-profit education is the best way to achieve that."

Pamela: "I am against this. Charter schools, school choice, and for-profit education leach money from public schools, especially in areas that can ill-afford to lose funding. School choice/vouchers tend to benefit white, upper middle class children, and help to re-segregate schools. Moving towards charter schools, school choice, and for profit education will destroy the public education."

Vicki: "I believe those are increasingly important options for families, but [they are] a direct result of poor budgeting, mismanaged educational standards, and [there is] too broad of a focus on an inclusion model for special education, which I oppose."

Kristin: "I haven't listened too much because there was no mention of private or parochial schools."


In her Senate confirmation meeting, DeVos refused to agree with Senator Tim Kaine that all schools receiving federal funding (either public schools, public charter schools, or private schools receiving voucher money), should be held accountable to the same standards. What is your response to this?

Melissa: "They should absolutely be held to the same standards. If you want the funds, play by the rules."

Amanda: "If they are receiving federal funding, [all schools] should absolutely be accountable to the same standards. DeVos refusal to answer [Senator Kaine's question] makes me believe that she will arbitrarily impose these standards to make it difficult for some schools to continue to receive that aid."

Pamela: "I am angry. This is a means of gutting public education, because schools will be compared on different scales. The charter school advocates will then point to data that is not measured on the same scale [as public schools]."

Vicki: "I think we need accountability for all schools receiving public funds, but I am not convinced that the [current] "standards", if we are referring to the Common Core standards, are the correct metric."

Kristin: "Absolutely all schools should have the same accountability [standards], regardless of receiving funding get or not."


People have argued that Trump’s administration can’t cause significant damage if he is only in office for the next four years. What is your response to this?

Melissa: "I feel like things have already changed. I hope we continue to have an appropriate balance of power."

Amanda: "It only takes one bad piece of legislation, one year of minimal funding, or one year of chaos in schools to permanently affect a child's education and future."

Pamela: "Of course he can. Four years can dismantle the Department of Education, which will be impossible to reassemble afterwards. It can also gut federal funding for public schools, which will cause public schools to close."

Vicki: "When a child's quality of education is on the line (4 years is one third of their educational experience), it is a very long time for them."

Kristin: "Four years is one third of a child's education. There is never any time to waste!"


Finally, what would you say to those who are worried about or most affected by these proposed policy changes?

Melissa: "Poor students need a champion and so do public schools. I'm deeply disheartened."

Amanda: "Advocate, advocate, advocate. It is not simply enough to complain or share articles; we must make our voices heard. We have immense power if we use it correctly. With many officials up for reelection next year, it is imperative that we advocate for what is right."

Pamela: "I would say that teachers will fight anything that will impact our students in a negative way. We have been rolling with changes for years, and we have spoken up about the harm we have seen. We are not quiet, and we will not let our students suffer."

Vicki: "Get involved in your child's education. Pay attention at IEP meetings, get a second opinion, listen carefully to your child's teacher, and read to your child every night. Parents of special needs children, protect your child like a mama bear."

Kristin: Harass your representative to make sure your voice is heard.***


* Some answers have been edited or condensed for clarity

** For privacy purposes, some details regarding the names and workplaces of those who were interviewed have been changed or excluded.

*** To contact your local representative, call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred.

Cover Image Credit: Reuters/ Jonathan Ernst

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To The Boy Who Will Love Me Next

If you can't understand these few things, leave before things get too involved
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To the boy that will love me next, I need you to know and understand things about me and my past. The things I have been though not only have shaped the person I’ve become, but also sometimes controls my life. In the past I’ve been used, abused, and taken for granted, and I want something real this time. The guys before you were just boys; they didn’t know how to treat me until it was too late. They didn’t understand how to love me, until I broke my own heart. Before you truly decide to love me I want you to understand these things.

When I tell you something, please listen.

I’m my own person, I want to be loved a certain way. If I ask you to come over and watch movies with me please do it, if I ask for you to leave me alone for a few hours because it’s a girl’s night please do it. I don’t just say things to hear my own voice, I say things to you because it’s important to my life and the way I want to be loved. I’m not a needy person when it comes to being loved and cared for, but I do ask for you to do the small things that I am say.

Forgive my past.

My past is not a pretty brick road, it is a highway that has a bunch of potholes and cracks in it. I have a lot of baggage, and most of it you won’t understand. But don’t let my past decided whether you want to love me or not. My past has helped form who I am today, but it does not define who I am. My past experiences might try and make an appearance every once in a while, but I will not go back to that person I once was, I will not return to all that hurt I once went though. When I say those things, I’m telling the complete and honest truth. I relive my past every day, somethings haunt me and somethings are good reminds. But for you to love me, I need you to accept my past, present and future.

I’m just another bro to the other guys.

I have always hung out with boys, I don’t fit in with the girl groups. I have 10 close girlfriends, but the majority of my friends are guy, but don’t let this scare you. If I wanted to be with one of my guy friends I would already be with him, and if you haven’t noticed I don’t want them because I’m with you. I will not lose my friendships with all my guy friends to be able to stay with you. I will not cut off ties because you don’t like my guy friends. I have lost too many buddies because of my ex-boyfriends and I promised myself I wouldn’t do that again. If you don’t like how many guy friends I have you can leave now. Don’t bother trying to date me if you can accept the fact I’m just another bro.

I might be a badass, but I actually have a big heart.

To a lot of people I come off to be a very crazy and wild girl. I will agree I can be crazy and wild, but I’m more than that. I’m independent, caring, responsible, understanding, forgiving, and so such more type of woman. Many people think that I’m a badass because I don’t take any negatively from anyone. Just like we learned when we were younger, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” Most people can’t do that in today’s world, so I stick up for myself and my friends. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, or their option on how I live my life. The only thing I care about is being able to make myself happy. Even though I’m an independent woman, understand that I do have a big heart. Honesty when I truly care for someone I will do just about anything they ask, but don’t take advantage of this. Once you take advantage of this part of me, all respect will be lost for you.

I’m hard to love.

Sometimes I want to be cuddle and get attention, and sometimes I don’t want you to talk to me for a couple hours. Sometimes I want you to take me out for a nice meal, but sometimes I want a home cooked meal. Every day is different for me, sometimes I change my mind every hour. My mood swings are terrible on certain days, and on those days you should probably just ignore me. I’m not easy to love, so you’ll either be willing to find a way to love me, or you’ll walk out like so many others have.

I’m scared.

I’m scared to love someone again. I’ve been hurt, heartbroken, and beat to the ground in my past relationships. I want to believe you are different, I want to hope things will truly work out, but every relationship has always ended up the same way. I’m scared to trust someone, put my whole heart into them, just to be left and heartbroken again. I sick and tired of putting my whole body and soul into someone for them to just leave when it is convenient for them. If you want to love me, understand it won’t be easy for me to love you back.

When “I’m done.”

When I say “I’m done” I honestly don’t mean that I’m done. When I say that it means I need and want you to fight for me, show me why you want to be with me. I need you to prove that I’m worth it and there’s no one else but me. If I was truly done, I would just walk away, and not come back. So if I ever tell you, “I’m done,” tell me all the reasons why I’m truly not done.

For the boy who will love me next, the work is cut out for you, you just have to be willing to do it. I’m not like other girls, I am my own person, and I will need to be treated as such. For the boy that will love me next, don’t bother with me unless you really want to be with me. I don’t have time to waste on you if you aren’t going to try and make something out of us. To the boy who will love me next, the last thing I would like to say is good luck, I have faith in you.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Balint

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I'm A 20-Year-Old, Pro-Life Woman Saying 'To Hell With Alabama's Abortion Law!'

Alabama passed one of the most controversial abortion laws in the country.

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I am 20-year-old woman saying "to Hell with Alabama banning abortions!" Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the state law that makes any case of abortion a felony.

Now, I am a huge believer in having abortion banned, but not in all cases.

For instance, I truly believe that if a woman was raped she should be able to get an abortion. That woman, who is a victim of an unlawful and sinful act should not have to be reminded of the terror of her rape for the nine months to follow to bring her rapist's child into the world.

To make a victim of rape carry that child to term and then go through the pain of childbirth is unethical.

Now, I do agree with this law when it comes to having an abortion be lawful when the mother's well-being is at stake. However, I do not see how we can live in a country where we are given so many freedoms but yet are told and forced by the government to tell us when we can or cannot abort.

In many cases, women get abortions because it's an unexpected pregnancy, but if that woman is not a victim of a crime and of the legal age to make her own decisions then I personally feel like putting that child up for adoption is the brighter alternative. Although there is an abundance of children in foster homes and put up for adoption each year, by putting that child up for adoption you are allowing that child to potentially have a better life than they would if you simply killed them before they even had the chance to come into this world. By aborting that human being, you are not simply ending that potential life, but ending the actual life of that child that could have so much potential in life.

There are numerous girls who get pregnant at a young age, but I see it as if you are in high school or college and you are able to know right from wrong and make your own decisions regarding your own life then you should have any say in what occurs with your unborn child. I have numerous friends from high school and college that are mothers at the young ages of 16-20. They say that bringing their child into the world was the best thing they have ever done. They took responsibility for their actions. Regardless of being young, they knew that getting pregnant even if not planned was the result of their actions with their partner.

Getting raped no matter what your age and being a child under 16 is when abortion should be allowed.

Being reckless and getting pregnant on accident when you are aware of your actions is when you as woman need to either take responsibility of that child that you have created or put that child up for adoption to give them the opportunity to have a great life.

When it comes to the argument saying that women should have the rights over what occurs to their body, they are absolutely right as everyone in the world should have that right. But, what about that child's father. What about the cases where the mother simply just does not what to have the child, but the father does? That father should still have the right to care for that child and have custody of that child once it is brought into this world. That unborn child was made equally between that man and woman together.

There are so many arguments that could be made about this law and many debates made. Will the law go into immediate effect, well we will have to just wait and see.

Although there are many opinions circulating around this ban, I simply just shed my own opinions and thoughts on the matter, what are yours?

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