Education International
Education International

USA: unions shocked after nomination of DeVos

published 24 November 2016 updated 30 November 2016

The nomination of a new secretary of education has immediately triggered expressions of concern from education trade unions in the United States, who fear that previous achievements will be systematically dismantled.

Both of Education International (EI)’s affiliates in the USA, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), have expressed their deep concern at the nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the future government’s Department of Education.

A defender of voucher schools

Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and conservative activist, has worked to undermine the education landscape in many states in the recent years, according news reports. She has invested millions of dollars to expand voucher programs that transfer taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.

Now DeVos is poised to spread her preference for vouchers nationwide, analysts believe. They also point out that this move is in line with the future government’s promise to follow through with the expansion of the movement toward “school choice” — including vouchers and charter schools.

Unions’ reaction

The NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement that DeVos' efforts have undermined public education. "She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education.".

Randi Weingarten, President of the AFT, stated that “in nominating DeVos it becomes clear that the next government’s education policy will focus on privatising, defunding and destroying public education in America”.

Weingarten explained that the pick meant that the promise that every child has the option of a quality public education would be lost. “The many who have it now will lose it. That’s been the experience of 25 years of privatising: It helps very few, and many students now go to schools that have faced years of austerity and disinvestment.”

Both the AFT and NEA agreed that the nomination of DeVos showed how the future administration of the country was out of touch with what works best for students, parents, educators and communities.