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New York needs to oppose education nominee Betsy Devos

Betsy DeVos is President-elect Donald Trump's choice for

Betsy DeVos is President-elect Donald Trump's choice for education secretary in his administration. DeVos, a charter school advocate, met with Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Nov. 19, 2016. Photo Credit: AP

With his nomination of Betsy Devos as secretary of education, President-elect Donald Trump has declared war on public education.

In NYC, parents of public school children have been collecting signatures to oppose the nomination of the billionaire school-privatization crusader, and delivering stacks of letters to Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

The petition, written by Lizzie Scott, a parent at Park Slope’s P.S. 10, points out that DeVos has no qualifications in either education or government. Rather, she has used her vast wealth to push a radical agenda: school vouchers and for-profit charter schools.

Because of DeVos’ philanthropy and activism, Scott’s letter notes, nearly $1 billion have been leached from Michigan’s public schools into for-profit charter schools. And despite years of charter school expansion, overall academic growth in Michigan drags behind other states, according to Politico.

New York State bans for-profit charter schools, and even many die-hard charter fans oppose them. The reason is simple. Schools need money. Funds will always improve students’ education if the money is intelligently redirected (buy more pencils and books, take more field trips, hire a music teacher). If shareholders are getting any profits, kids may very well be deprived of something that would help them learn.

More than 1,500 parents in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan have signed the petition. Organizers are still collecting signatures at many schools, including P.S. 321 (Park Slope), P.S. 9 (Prospect Heights), P.S. 295 (Greenwood) and P.S./I.S. 499 (Flushing).

DeVos’s Senate committee hearing is Tuesday. If the committee approves her, many assume she’s in, since the Republicans have a majority. But Democrats must remember that 90 percent of U.S. children attend public schools, and many Americans oppose DeVos’ extremist ideas. Even Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, fought some of her reforms.

Like most politicians, our senators need pressure from their constituents to do anything. That’s why this effort is so important.

Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.

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