Dear Secretary DeVos,
I wanted to write you a small note to thank you for what you have done in your capacity as U.S. Secretary of Education, but not for the reasons that you might think.
It is not because of your zealous crusade to expand vouchers at the expense of traditional public schools to satisfy some sort of personal agenda. The fact that I am a public high school teacher and a parent of students who attend public schools already puts us at odds.
It is not because you displayed absolutely no comprehension of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act during your confirmation hearings. The fact that I am a father of a special needs child already casts you into extreme doubt.
It is not because you have never served in any capacity as an educator, administrator, parent, or even student. The fact that almost anyone who has worked in a public school is more qualified to be secretary of education seems apparent.
It is not because you seemed to have paid your way into your confirmation. The millions of dollars that you have poured into the coffers of lawmakers, many of whom were on the HELP committee that enabled your confirmation, is well known.
It is not because you have not approved a single application for student debt relief for the tens of thousands of students who were targeted for bad loans. Your allegiance to for-profit business over actual students was apparent before you came into office.
It is not because you removed protections for LGBT students in public schools. As Donald Trump’s nominee, it would be expected that you would continue to push his political views.
It is not because you accepted a $100,000 check for the Department of Education that would have been the president’s second quarter salary. That should go a short way to helping repay the drastic cuts in the budget for public education. It should also make a rather small dent in the almost one-million-dollar-a-month bill you have accrued just for security since you were placed under protection from U.S. Marshals.
It is not because you have surrounded yourself with more neophytes in education and left a vast number of DOE jobs vacant.
It is not because you seem to only visit charter schools and other non-traditional school settings. The fact that almost 9 out of 10 students in this country attend traditional public schools should not be a reason for actually observing public schools (or maybe it should).
It is not because you are hardly a public figure when you are the leader of the public schools. Disregarding invitations to conferences and speaking opportunities to defend your policies has actually become the norm for you and totally expected.
IT IS because you have single-handedly placed public education and its importance back into the national dialogue. And the longer you stay in your office and continue your nebulous approach to privatizing public education, you will convince more people that the need to support public schooling really is important.
IT IS because more people realize that “school choice” really does not entail “choice” at all.
IT IS because more people understand that while someone may have enough money to buy herself an office in a presidential administration, that money cannot buy a true passion for educating any child who walks through the doors of a public school. That still cannot be bought.
IT IS because by your refusal to speak with the press, you actually validate the power of the free press thus confirming that the First Amendment is a foundational part of our country’s fabric.
IT IS because your timidity at talking with special education advocacy groups that many begin to understand just how complex the issue of special education is and that it should be fully funded.
IT IS because that your failures at privatizing schools in your home state become more visible on a national stage and expose the deleterious effects of your platform.
IT IS because knowing that you supposedly lead the nation’s public school without having any public education experience, you are actually confirming that when it comes to education, preparation programs really are vital.
IT IS because when you actually leave office, whether due to a new election or the fact that you are incompetent, the focus on public education will be even more keen and the next individual in the capacity of secretary of education will almost assuredly be infinitely more qualified.
IT IS because that every day that you supposedly serve our students in public schools you validate the very reasons why I advocate for public schools and all students.
But mostly, IT IS because I have never felt so much more committed to be a public school teacher if just to help combat what you stand for.
So, thank you.
I just hope the damage you inflict can be reversed.