Senator Heinrich Says Privatization Policies Pushed By DeVos Would Be Damaging To Rural NM, Indian Country

US Senator Martin Heinrich

Published February 6, 2017

Shares Concerns From Board of Education of Zuni Public School District Regarding DeVos Confirmation

WASHINGTON – On the eve of the Senate’s vote on Betsy DeVos’ nomination for Secretary of Education, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) took to the Senate floor in opposition to her confirmation.

“Betsy DeVos has clearly shown a disregard – even a hostility – for the public school system.  So I stand with the thousands of parents, teachers, and students in New Mexico in fighting to stop her confirmation. Simply put, education is too important to New Mexico children and our state’s economy to have a Secretary of Education not fully invested in the success of our public schools,” said Heinrich.

VIDEO: Heinrich Shares Concerns From Board of Education of Zuni Public School District Regarding DeVos Confirmation

During his remarks, Heinrich pointed out that the privatization policies pushed by DeVos would be especially damaging for rural communities in New Mexico, including Indian Country. He cited a letter he received from the Board of Education of Zuni Public School District voicing their opposition to DeVos. A copy of that letter, which was submitted to the record, is available here.

“I cannot support a nominee who wants to weaken the kinds of public schools that New Mexicans rely on. The privatization policies pushed by Ms. DeVos would be especially damaging to rural New Mexico, where there are few options to begin with.  It is not uncommon for students to travel more than an hour to get to and from school. School administrators wear multiple hats, sometimes running the afterschool program or driving the school bus.  In rural areas in my home state, the public school is often the only choice and there aren’t enough students to support the kinds of for profit private schools Ms. DeVos wants to replace them with,” said Heinrich.

Heinrich’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

I am deeply disappointed by the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee to be the leader of our Department of Education. Betsy DeVos has clearly shown a disregard – even a hostility – for the public school system. 

So I stand with the thousands of parents, teachers, and students in New Mexico in fighting to stop her confirmation.

Simply put, education is too important to New Mexico children and our state’s economy to have a Secretary of Education not fully invested in the success of our public schools.

As someone who went to public school and who is sending my sons to public schools, I am deeply troubled by Betsy DeVos’s record on privatization, which goes beyond simply voicing support for vouchers and private school.

Ms. DeVos has been a key player in the well moneyed effort to privatize and siphon funds away from public education, and she has time and again undermined the teachers we all rely upon.  

It appears as though Betsy Devos’s most notable experience in education is spending her career and her fortune advocating for policies that divert public tax dollars away from public schools and into private schools. 

I cannot support a nominee who wants to weaken the kinds of public schools that New Mexicans rely on.

The privatization policies pushed by Ms. DeVos would be especially damaging to rural New Mexico, where there are few options to begin with. 

It is not uncommon for students to travel more than an hour to get to and from school.

School administrators wear multiple hats, sometimes running the afterschool program or driving the school bus.  

In rural areas in my home state, the public school is often the only choice and there aren’t enough students to support the kinds of for profit private schools Ms. DeVos wants to replace them with. 

Having a Secretary of Education who has spent her entire career pushing a privatization agenda is not reassuring to New Mexicans and is at odds with the needs of the students and families across my state.

Further, I do not believe that Ms. DeVos understands the federal government’s trust responsibility in serving Native American students. 

Given Ms. DeVos’ rushed nomination hearing in the HELP committee, Senators were given very little opportunity to question her about her understanding of Tribal issues and Impact Aid. So I’m concerned that she will push her privatization agenda in these areas as well.

For example, Zuni Public School District is a small, rural district in western New Mexico. 

Earlier this week, their school board sent me a letter asking that I oppose Ms. DeVos’s nomination.

I want to take a moment to read some passages from their letter:

“The beauty of the United States public school system, unlike many in the rest of the world, is that we take everyone who walks through our doors and love every child who sits in our desks, without question. This Board therefore stands by all of our students, no matter what color or ethnicity, regardless of their creed; every child who identifies on the spectrum of L,G,B,T,or Q; every child with either a physical or learning disability, or both; every child who speaks a second language; every immigrant child as well as every Native American child who can trace their lineage in this land back thousands of years; every child who sees their education as the bridge between their most ardent dreams and their most hopeful futures.”

These are powerful words that I fully support and thank the Zuni Public School District for speaking out. 

We should all be this concerned.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the entire letter from the Zuni Public School Board be included in the Record following my remarks. 

During her nomination hearing, Ms. DeVos demonstrated over and over that she is unfamiliar with even basic education issues and failed to commit to uphold the responsibilities of the Secretary of Education to support public schools. 

Given that Ms. DeVos has no relevant experience as a teacher or school administrator, we should be very concerned with entrusting her to enforce key protections under Title 9, I.D.E.A., and other civil rights laws.

In particular, Ms. DeVos’s lack of commitment to the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Education, combined with the fact that she and her family have donated enormous sums of money to organizations that are anti-LGBTQ, anti-women’s rights, and anti-Muslim, is troubling. 

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation with vigorous enforcement of civil rights. 

During her nomination hearing, Ms. DeVos would not commit to continuing the Office’s policies that are making our college campuses safer by focusing on prevention and response to sexual assault.  

In fact, she has donated money to organizations that actually make it harder to prosecute sexual assault on our college campuses.

As amazing as that sounds, it is true. 

If my Republican colleagues rubberstamp this nominee, they will confirm a Secretary of Education that doesn’t believe in public schools, will unravel rural education, and has even worked to make it harder to protect women against sexual assault on college campuses.

I believe that we have a moral imperative to ensure all students have equal protections while attending school. Ms. DeVos will be a massive step backward. 

As the members of the Zuni Pueblo wrote to me in their letter, “our children are our most sacred gifts.”

This is what we are voting on with this confirmation. 

We need an Education Secretary who is committed to upholding these principles.

We need an education secretary who is committed to ensuring that every student has access to a quality education, regardless of their background or zip code; regardless of their ethnicity or religion; regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

In the last few weeks my office has been inundated with calls and letters asking me to oppose this nomination. 

I have heard from more than 8,000 constituents on this topic alone-many of whom are parents, teachers, and students.  That’s more than any other Trump nominee we have considered so far.  Never has an Education Secretary nomination received so much attention and opposition.  

I stand with the thousands of parents, teachers, and students across the country in fighting to stop this nomination.

And I urge my colleagues to join me in voting no.

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This BBSNews article was syndicated from Native News Online, and written by Native News Online Staff. Read the original article here.