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God, guns and grizzlies

An open letter to Betsy DeVos

By Alex Chanen and Amanda Lafferty

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Amanda Lafferty, A&E Editor

Alex Chanen, Features Editor

To our newest Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos,

Let’s talk.

For the past few weeks, the country has been watching your sad excuse for a confirmation hearing on repeat. Americans have been laughing as Senators publicly shame you on your lack of knowledge of basic educational terms, the federal financial aid system, educational laws to help everyone get equal access to education and your fear of grizzlies attacking a school. But Secretary DeVos, after a few good chuckles at your expense, we are seriously concerned for our educational future, and the future of every child who will go through the educational system under your leadership.

Your proposed ideas include shutting down the Education Department’s Department of Ethics, which protects students of color and not forcing states to follow the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You also have no experience or plan for how to maintain the country’s large student aid system.

You are now joining an administration which promotes “alternative facts” as something that is completely in the norm. We hope, Secretary DeVos, that alternative facts do not come anywhere near the nation’s curriculum.

Speaking of the administration in which you are joining, it is your responsibility to stand up for every single person in the education system, regardless of race, religion, sexual identity, income level or even immigration status. Refusal to do so disqualifies you from this position.

Illustration by Vica Otrubina
You and your family’s bias to the Republican Party and conservative efforts surely makes for uneasy feelings among students, teachers and other members of the public alike. When Senator Bernie Sanders said that our country is moving towards an
oligarchy, one in which the super wealthy control politics, he then asked what your family’s total contribution to the Republican Party has been. You said it is certainly possible that $200 million is the number.

According to the Center for American Progress, you have donated $957,950 to sitting Republican senators, who were able to vote to approve your nomination. Paying your way into the government is unacceptable, as now you have bought control of the country’s education system, and can steer it any way you want, including to benefit yourself. Having the great responsibility of being the Secretary of Education, holds you to a high standard of non-partisanship.

You have continued to privatize education in Michigan, pushing private interests into public education. According to The Washington Post, a superintendent of a charter school, which happened to be the only educational option in a poor area of Detroit, made $130,000 a year without any educational experience prior.

You said to Senator Sanders that making higher education tuition-free, regardless of income, is “an interesting idea” and one only to “think about.” You then stated that you will indeed work towards making higher education affordable, not directly answering his question. You only answered this after being asked repeatedly to clarify each previous answer.

Senator Elizabeth Warren explained to you that the Secretary of Education is in charge of “managing a $1 trillion student loan bank and distributing $30 billion in Pell Grants to students each year.” When asked by Senator Warren if you have ever dealt with a loan program adding up to a trillion dollars, or even a billion, you weakly stated, “I have not.” As students who are about to enter college, with having student debt in the realm of possibility for us, your lack of knowledge is appalling, and is making this already scary process, scarier.

While it isn’t a necessity for the Secretary of Education to have attended a public school at some point in their life, stepping foot inside one is. By that standard, you’re just simply not qualified. Secretary DeVos, your bias against public schools is inappropriate. For that, we invite you to Lane to see all the makings of an inclusive, progressive and 21st century public school.

At Lane, our student body represents almost every race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Our International Days, which celebrate the numerous diverse cultures and countries that our students come from, is our proudest tradition. Students represented by the IDEA law are equally integrated into the school with other students. Lane’s Adaptive classes are developed for the sole purpose of treating these students as equals, and the relationships and lessons learned from these classes will last a lifetime. This is what makes Lane “great.”

Additionally, our academic excellence is shown through every national ranking. Our students are accepted to some of the top ranking colleges and universities in the world. Yet, financial aid is always a concern. We are putting our trust and our future in your hands. Don’t screw it up, because every American deserves a high quality education.

Secretary DeVos, according to the Washington Post, you have said you will only take $1 in salary. But, we advise you against that. Take your whole salary, keep your dollar, and invest the rest in the actual public school system. Or better yet, use it to buy plane tickets, and visit some of the amazing public schools that are educating future presidents, doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Secretary DeVos, the next generation is on you. Please don’t let us down.

Amanda Lafferty is The Warrior’s Arts & Entertainment Editor; Alex Chanen is Features Editor and Business Manager.

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