Before the U.S. Senate votes on Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, UF College of Education students and alumni are letting Sen. Marco Rubio, R-F.L., know their distaste for the nominee.
More than 140 people signed the “Open Letter to Marco Rubio,” which outlines why the group believes DeVos is unqualified to lead the education sector. Stephanie Schroeder, a UF education doctoral student, helped write the letter after DeVos’ nomination passed through a Senate committee vote Tuesday. The final Senate vote on the nomination is today.
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have said they will vote against party lines, which would tie the results, leaving the final decision to Vice President and Senate President Mike Pence. If one more Republican senator switches his or her vote, and every Democrat votes along party lines, DeVos won’t be confirmed.
Devos is an education philanthropist, Republican fundraiser and advocate for charter schools, according to The New York Times. She and her children have never attended public schools, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Schroeder, 30, faxed the letter to Rubio’s offices in Florida and Washington, D.C., on Friday. She doesn’t expect Rubio to change his vote, but she wants to inform people about DeVos’ policies, she said.
“It’s fantastic that so many people care about this issue, but I wish that our representatives would listen to us,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said she disagrees with DeVos’ support of school choice, which are publicly sponsored programs that give money to families for private-school tuition, according to NPR.
The letter cited a study about state charter schools performing worse than public schools and said the school choice movement promotes segregation of low- and high-income students, she said.
“She’s willing to send taxpayer dollars to support private religious schools,” Schroeder said. “I think it’s kind of frightening for someone to be in charge of our nation’s schools who basically wants to shut down public schools.”
In an emailed statement, the UF College of Education’s dean and associate deans didn’t take a direct stance on DeVos’ nomination.
“We support our students and student organizations in staying informed and actively participating in education-related public policy,” the statement read.
Some senators have received thousands of phone calls, mostly in opposition to the nomination, according to CNN. Rubio’s offices have refused to say how many calls or emails have come in about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Desiree Harned knows Rubio has at least five of her calls in his inbox.
The 33-year-old UF education doctoral student signed Schroeder’s letter Friday. She said DeVos’ policies would affect her job and her 7-year-old autistic daughter’s education.
“Having her in that position would do a detriment to the strides that have been made in special education,” Harned said.
She said DeVos doesn’t have a strong knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the law that ensures services to children with disabilities. The school choice movement would also take away public-school funding that helps students with disabilities, she said.
“If we aren’t supportive of education, then what does that really say about us as a country?” she said.