NYSUT pledges to combat any federal policy that aims to dismantle public education and harm educators and students.
In an initial salvo, the statewide union will take part in a Jan.19 national Day of Action organized by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), a network of community groups and unions across the country that promote educational and social justice, according to a resolution passed by the NYSUT Board of Directors at its December meeting.
The actions are in direct response to the controversial nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education, a clear sign the president-elect will follow through on his plan to privatize public education. DeVos — who has no experience or expertise in education — has used her family's vast fortune in Michigan to push for the proliferation of for-profit charter schools and the implementation of voucher schemes that siphon millions from public schools.
"Betsy DeVos has spent a lifetime using her family's billions to push for policies that would systematically destroy the nation's public education system," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "Her nomination defies logic and represents the potentially destructive path on which our next president could set this nation. NYSUT will not relent in its fight to protect students, families, schools and communities against the threats posed by the policies of such dangerous ideologues."
NYSUT Vice President Paul Pecorale, the union's liaison to AROS, agreed:
"Betsy DeVos has no meaningful background in education and has a long history of waging war on public schools.
Her philosophies, if carried forward, would threaten our students and their futures. It is imperative we stand up to the danger this presents to public education."
NYSUT urges locals to use the Day of Action to:
• Demand the full funding for your schools.
• Affirm the NYSUT Board resolution calling for your campus or school community to be designated a sanctuary for children of undocumented immigrants.
• Connect with leaders of organized labor and other community groups to demonstrate against the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education.
• Demonstrate against other proposed Cabinet selections whose policies would diminish workers' rights, civil rights and access to health care.
• Educate the community on the resources available to reduce/eliminate the opioid addiction in our communities.
• Organize members to defend the social safety net: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps — federal, state and local programs, intended to provide protection against economic calamity.
The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, NYSUT's national affiliates, also vow to fight back against any federal policy proposals that undermine public education.
"In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding and destroying public education in America," said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
DeVos, who gives generously to Republican political campaigns, has long supported school vouchers that funnel taxpayers' money away from public schools to private and religious schools. If confirmed, she would become the first education secretary who never was a public school student or parent.
"We have, and will continue, to fight for all students to have a great public school in their community and the opportunity to succeed no matter their backgrounds or circumstances ... DeVos has consistently worked against these values ... She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.
SAVE the DATE!
NYSUT will be a forceful presence at the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools' national Day of Action on Jan. 19. The union will use the event to advocate for fully funded community schools, limits for standardized testing, protections for undocumented students, ensuring access to affordable higher education and for living wages that lift working people out of poverty. Watch www.nysut.org and the NYSUT Leader and Member briefings for developments.
Say NO to making Betsy DeVos U.S. Secretary of Education. Sign the petition on NYSUT's Member Action Center — mac.nysut.org.
You can also sign an open letter from the NEA and AFT demanding the next education secretary commit to student success in public schools. Visit https://actionnetwork.org/forms/add-your-name-commit-to-student-success?source=AFT.
"Betsy DeVos will dismantle America's public schools and turn the education of our children over to right-wing idealogues and corporate profiteers," said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta. "Don't let her!"