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Groups Vow to Protect Public Education Under DeVos

Public schools face an uncertain future after Betsy DeVos' contentious confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education. (Pixabay)
Public schools face an uncertain future after Betsy DeVos' contentious confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Education. (Pixabay)
February 8, 2017

DENVER – Colorado's education advocates are vowing to roll up their sleeves and continue the work of protecting public schools after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education by the U.S. Senate Tuesday.

Amie Baca-Oehlert vice president of the Colorado Education Association, says she was disappointed by the vote, and notes lawmakers disregarded hundreds of thousands of educators and parents in the state who voiced opposition to DeVos - mainly for her lack of experience.

"Somebody who herself had never attended public schools, sent her children to public schools, worked in public schools, and clearly, by the Senate confirmation hearing, it was evident that she lacked a lot of knowledge," she said.

During an overnight show of opposition, Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet called DeVos' nomination "an insult" to students, families, teachers and others working to improve the nation's public schools. U.S. Senators received a reported 1.5 million calls a day about the nomination, and rallies were held across Colorado urging Republican Senator Cory Gardner to vote against DeVos. Gardner called the debate "a healthy exercise in democracy," and says DeVos has pledged to fight for public schools.

Baca-Oehlert says opposition to DeVos - who has pushed for policies to privatize public education - sparked a wave of grassroots engagement in Colorado, which she hopes will continue under the new Secretary's leadership.

"And so, we're going to stay engaged, we won't stop," she continued. "We're going to make sure that we continue to share our voices, and to ensure that, whether it be policy at the federal level or at the state or local level, ensuring a quality public education for every child."

DeVos' confirmation adds another billionaire to President Donald Trump's cabinet. Colorado's senators split along party lines, with Gardner voting 'yes,' Bennet 'no.' Vice President Mike Pence stepped in to break a 50-50 tie.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO