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Heavens to Betsy

New York Teacher

The following letter was sent to the Tampa Bay Times:

Your Feb. 9 editorial cartoon depicting Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as a welcome blow to teachers’ unions and a great benefit for students is troubling on two accounts. First, DeVos’ track record of meddling in Michigan schools is abysmal. While she created many charter schools under the guise of “choice” for parents, they were of low quality. Most recorded student test scores below the state average. Her vouchers have resegregated Detroit schools. Her reforms have never improved education but have improved the profits of their corporate investors. Her lack of any knowledge of pedagogy or curriculum does not bode well for the one chance at an education that the happy little cartoon child has. 

Second, the implied glee at the blow to teachers unions is a political shot that will likewise have an impact on that child’s education. Florida is one of the top states affected by a teacher shortage. There are more than 6,000 unfilled openings across the state. It was reported that 40 percent of Florida teachers leave within their first five years. Florida demoralizes its teachers with low salaries, overtesting that saps the joy of learning, no job security and a lack of respect. In states where unions are strong, educational outcomes outpace Florida and the best and brightest educators are recruited and retained. 

Unions ensure that teachers can speak out, without retribution, against harmful policies such as special education violations, English language learner violations, misconduct and sexual harassment. Unions stand up for school children, have antibullying programs and provide student scholarships and disaster relief. Unions fight to win respect for the teachers who have the dedication and calling to educate and tend to the needs of our children so teachers will make it a career and not a heartbreaking trip through a revolving door.

Lynne Winderbaum, retired

* * *

Flipping through the pages of the last few issues of New York Teacher led me to notice the absence of what used to be a regular feature of the paper, “The Educational Twilight Zone,” which I thought was very funny. 

With the election of Donald Trump and the appointment of Betsy DeVos, the whole country is entering a twilight zone in which almost all the departments of the federal government are run by individuals opposed to the very mission of their departments. This arrangement should yield much new, rich material for a resurrected “Twilight Zone” column.

Judah Landa, retired 

* * *

I am writing to you on behalf of all school secretaries who wanted to apply for the “secretary of education” position. The job was not advertised and was given on a silver platter to someone with no experience. Betsy DeVos never worked in a public school and her children attended private schools. 

Both teachers and school secretaries meet strict requirements for their jobs. Many secretaries go on to become teachers. After I retired from District 17 in Brooklyn, I returned to college and I now teach philosophy at Brooklyn College. 

I think DeVos should step down and give an experienced person the chance to make the best education for all children, not just the ones who live in fancy neighborhoods.

Irene Brodsky, retired 

Recent news that new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was barred from entering a Washington, D.C., school caused me to stop and think: This was not a wise move, I thought. Rather than trying to bar entrance to our public schools, hundreds of invitations should pour into her office from schools from across the country. Why?

Our public schools have every reason to be proud of what they achieve day in and day out. Let DeVos, who knows nothing about public education, learn about the great job our public schools do despite the lack of funding and a policy of accepting all children — unlike the private, parochial and charter schools she has supported and funded.

If DeVos has any self-respect, decency and humanity, she will be surprised by what she sees and learns from her visits and acknowledge that maybe she had the wrong perception of what our public schools are like. She will see what we public school advocates have always known: Public school teachers are remarkable people who accept all children, believe that all can learn and work hard to fulfill their professional responsibilities despite the many problems they face such as oversized classes and unjustified attacks from individuals like DeVos.

Abe Levine, retired

* * *

An educated public is a prerequisite for a functioning democracy where citizens understand the issues that affect them as well as the capacity to distinguish facts from propaganda. Quality schools and educated citizens may very well be a threat to the Trump agenda. 

Larry Hoffner, retired

* * *

Sad day for the children of the U.S. A totally unqualified woman paid her way into the top slot. At least we now know how much it costs to get a position with the Republican Party.

Jo Ellen Falconello, New York City resident
(via Facebook)

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