On Friday morning, a small group of protesters blocked the newly confirmed education secretary from entering Jefferson Middle School Academy, a public school in Washington, D.C. DeVos soon got in her black SUV and left as a protester shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
Approximately three dozen protesters awaited DeVos’ arrival at Jefferson Academy, reports WAMU. The group included parents, Black Lives Matter activists, former teachers, and members of the Washington Teachers’ Union. Only a fraction of the protesters took part in the effort to block DeVos from entering the school.
— ABC 7 News – WJLA (@ABC7News) February 10, 2017
“Everyone will have a different way of demonstrating discontent with her policies. I understand why some parents are concerned,” Elizabeth Davis, head of the teachers union, told reporters. “My message is that we have got to keep the pressure on the Department of [Education], on Betsy DeVos, to ensure that structures are in place that would safeguard our public schools and stay vigilant. We simply cannot be on the sidelines and let things happen to our public schools without voicing our concerns and resisting things that would be harmful to our kids.”
DeVos’ meeting at the school, whose 300 students are primarily African-American and from low-income households, was announced on Thursday. Members of the press were not permitted.
The United States Senate confirmed DeVos as education secretary on Tuesday in a 50-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Susan Collins from Maine, voted in opposition to DeVos’ confirmation, as did all 46 Democrats and two independents.
A billionaire who with her husband, Dick DeVos, gave $2.7 million to Republican candidates during the 2016 election alone, DeVos faced tough criticism over her perceived lack of experience; her potential conflicts of interest due to business ties; and her staunch support for privatized schools, which is often characterized as “school choice” by its advocates. Teachers unions across the country have voiced concern and opposition to DeVos.
Opponents to DeVos fear expansion of charters schools will disproportionately impact low-income communities and weaken the public school system overall.