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Education

Local leaders fear DeVos would break down public education

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WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley
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It appears the final vote on President Trump's controversial nominee for Education Secretary could occur Monday or Tuesday. Betsy DeVos cleared a major hurdle in the Senate late last week when senators voted 52-48 to stop debate and prepare for a confirmation vote this week. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling her one of the "worst nominees." WBFO senior reporter Eileen Buckley says two area school board leaders are speaking out against DeVos.   

“She’s just very ill-informed of education, particularly public education,” said Toni Vazquez, president of the Williamsville School Board. 

The school board recently held a special session unanimously adopted a resolution to let Washington know that the Williamsville School District opposes DeVos.

“So our board really felt compelled to sort of be in the forefront of taking a stand,” explained Vazquez.

The Williamsville resolution was sent to Senator Charles Schumer. Much of the controversy surrounding DeVos centers on her work with charter schools and private school vouchers. Vazquez said the DeVos nomination a “slap in the face” to public education.

“Mrs. DeVos has no experience in public education. She was never a public school student, her children didn’t go to public schools, and she has no reference point of any student loans or any Pell programs,” Vazquez remarked. 

Buffalo School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold and several other women city school board members have also gone on record in opposing DeVos.

“It’s a nomination, I think that, really rightly should be questioned,” said Seals Nevergold.

Seals Nevergold sent a letter to the chair of the Senate Education Committee stating they have “grave concerns.”

"One of the questions that she was asked repeatedly by Senator Kaine was would you support accountability on an equal basis for all institutions – private, public, charter – and she would not commit to enforcing accountability that was consistent for each of the various schools,” explained Seals Nevergold.

Seals Nevergold said DeVos's philosophical approach “devalues” public education. 

“Vouchers is another is another entity that she’s promoted and ultimately what happens is these drain monies from the public schools and when that happens of course it impacts the students,” Seals Nevergold stated.    

Since the senate committee approved the nomination last week in a narrow vote to send DeVos’s name to full senate, two republicans Senators Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine stated they will vote against DeVos.

“And that is to vote against the conformation of Betsy DeVos to be our nation’s next Secretary of Education,” declared Murkowski.

“That my colleagues know firmly that I do not intend to vote on final passage to support Mrs. DeVos,’ Collins remarked.

Another local school board is also voice opposition against DeVos. Late last week the Alden School Board voted unanimously to go on record against the nominee. 

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