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Op-ed

An Open Letter to Betsy DeVos: Do Better

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware of the complete horror show which is Trump’s administration. You are also aware of what a fantastic job Betsy DeVos has been doing as the Secretary of Education (sarcasm). I find it quite ironic how on her website it states, “Betsy has been a national leader in the fight to boldly reform America’s broken education system” when it seems that nothing she has done has moved us closer to fixing this system. Now sure, this is my opinion, meaning not everyone will agree. But Betsy DeVos, if you ever come across this article, you could do better.

You could do better at caring about those less fortunate than yourself.

As it would seem, growing up with a father who is a billionaire industrialist, marrying a man who is a billionaire heir to the Amway fortune and attending a private school as a child may not be the best way to realize just how fortunate you are. In order to do this you would have to visit communities filled with middle class families; families whose children attend public schools. You would have to visit families much like my own, where I attend a public high school and am eligible for free lunches. In case you aren’t aware, a public school is defined asa school that is maintained at public expense for the education of the children of a community or district and that constitutes a part of a system of free public education commonly including primary and secondary schools.” One simple visit to these schools that didn’t include talks of school vouchers or anything related to your wealth would allow you to take in the lives of hundreds of children less fortunate than you. But keep in mind, not all of us would prefer to attend one of your fancy private schools that you are so enthusiastic about.

You could do better at caring about students in minority groups and providing them with the protections they need.

I’m sure that, due to your upbringing, you didn’t encounter many peers and teachers who weren’t able, cishet and white. But does that excuse your seemingly lack of care for those who do not fit into that narrow category? Nope.

You were once asked by Congress whether or not schools receiving vouchers should provide federal disability protections to which you left it up to the states. When asked about giving vouchers to schools with discriminatory policies, you couldn’t seem to give a clear answer; something that never seems to surprise members of Congress anymore. But at a Senate hearing earlier this month, the issue of LGBTQ discrimination was brought up by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and he did not back down.

The question that was asked was whether or not, under your charter and private school grant program, discrimination of LGBTQ students would continue to occur or be allowed. Your response, as repeated numerous times, was that schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law. Well, duh. Merkley’s interpretation of this was that discrimination of this kind will continue to occur under your program, to which you did not invalidate or correct. After attempting to respectfully get an answer out of you, Merkley made a statement. He said, “I think that it’s very important for the public to know that today the Secretary of Education, before this committee, refused to affirm that she would put forward a program that would ban discrimination based on LGBTQ status of students…” To this your only response was that you were against discrimination and that discrimination in any form was “wrong”. So why won’t you ban it in your own program?

If you cared about these issues, shouldn’t you be able to come up with a clear and valid answer?

Lastly, you could get better at answering a simple question.

As I’ve stated above, you don’t have the best track record of answering questions that would be easy enough for a child to answer. Seeing as you are the Secretary of Education, wouldn’t it make sense that you would be capable of interpreting a question and answering it? The answer to that question, since I’m guessing you didn’t know which excuse to use, is yes.

When a respected member of Congress is asking you something and your only reply is that it should be left up to the states, Congress or the courts, I start to wonder why your position is even necessary. If every issue should be placed into the hands of somebody else, why is it that we continue to ask for your input? I apologize if this article contains too many questions and you are feeling very frazzled right now, that was not my intention. My true intention was to make sure you understood how a 16 year old girl from a middle class family felt about your policies and proposals. My opinion may not matter to you, but it is my opinion for a reason.

So Mrs. DeVos, do better.

 

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Martina Rexrode
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I am 16 years old and am one of the biggest introverts you will ever meet. I am interested in photography, reading and writing. I always enjoy educating myself on social and political issues, although it tends to stress me out.

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