Network 49 co-signed a letter to U.S. Senators concerning the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education. The text of that letter is included below:
We strongly urge you to vote against the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education. Her only qualification seems to be her wealth, which she has used to promote an extreme agenda of school privatization and vouchers. She has devoted her career to the dismantling and privatization of public education, and, if confirmed, she represents a perilous threat to the mainstay of our democracy, free public education for all.
For the November 8 election, independent political organizations in six Chicago wards sponsored referenda to stop charter expansion in their neighborhoods. Nearly 50,000 voters agreed, with an overall majority of over 60 percent. These votes communicate the demand for full, equitable resourcing of neighborhood public schools and demonstrate a public understanding that charter schools drain public resources without addressing root issues such as disinvestment and a lack of public accountability. Furthermore, these results communicate several basic demands shared by our diverse communities:
- That all children receive the best possible education
- That all public programs and finances are subject to strong public oversight
- That public finances and resources must not be used to enrich private corporations
Here in Chicago we have seen the closing of almost 50 neighborhood schools while more than 100 charters have been opened — with no demonstrable improvement in student performance. At the same time our local public schools suffer from a critical lack of basic resources. What we need here is more fair and equitable funding for public education along with greater accountability for charters. Betsy DeVos will bring us neither.
Because of Ms. DeVos’s efforts, nearly $1 billion of public education dollars have been drained each year from Michigan public schools into mostly for-profit charter schools of poor quality, resulting in “a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.” (New York Times, 6/29/2016). The attempt of Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder to insert some accountability, quality control, and oversight to prevent corruption and wasted taxpayer dollars was defeated primarily because of Ms. DeVos’s lobbying.
Our diverse Chicago communities are united in the belief that a bright future for our children can only be secured through an excellent public education system. The appointment of Ms. DeVos could set back the progress of our nation’s public schools so severely that they might never recover. We urge you to demonstrate your support for universal public education by energetically opposing the DeVos nomination.
Grassroots Illinois Action, Network 49 Education Committee, The 25th Ward Independent Political Organization, Northside Action for Justice, 33rd Ward Working Families