Should Georgia teacher groups fight the Betsy DeVos nomination?

Bet

The Senate starts debate and final vote on Betsy DeVos Monday.

A GOP activist and Oconee County teacher is protesting a push by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators to torpedo the approval of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

In his letter, Kirk Shook, secretary of the Georgia Republican Party, tells the PAGE Executive Committee that it is becoming a tool of the Democratic Party.

PAGE has urged its members to oppose DeVos, asking, “please contact Senator Isakson’s office and politely request that he block DeVos’ confirmation and that he assist in the search for a more qualified Secretary of Education with a track record of supporting public schools. If you are a special education teacher, you might mention that fact, as well. Please remember to be courteous and professional in your communication, and be sure to mention that you are a Georgia resident.”

Shook has written for the blog before, writing in March that he believed test scores have a role in teacher evaluations. He has been a social studies teacher in Oconee County for 10 years and has served at the Georgia Department of Education on the Social Studies Resource Committee and the Georgia Performance Standards Revision Team for Economics. He was a Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year finalist for 2016.

Here is the letter he sent to PAGE:

As I have mentioned in a previous email a few years ago to you, I am very concerned about the direction of this group using our membership dollars for political activities. The very reason teachers join PAGE over GAE is to prevent their membership dollars from supporting political causes they don’t agree with.

GAE has long been a shill of the Democrat Party and you are becoming the same. As a Georgia public school teacher, I almost daily I receive emails that are promoting the Democrat talking points under the guise of improving education in the state. While this might be understandable since Republicans control the Georgia legislature and thus education policy, one would assume that you would also have been as critical of the Obama Administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan–two who have added more bureaucratic red tape to education than any administration in history with the likes of Race to the Top and Common Core, which necessitated the need for many of the policies to be passed by the legislature which you so lament today.

Of course, criticism of a Democrat administration which has placed undue burdens on teachers for the past 8 years has never been forthcoming, but now that there is a Republican President, you are now suddenly taking up the fight nationally.

This is disgraceful and I am ashamed to have my name associated with a group that claims to be supportive of education when instead they are only supportive of the Democrat Party. You are feeding Georgia teachers information to promote your own liberal agenda.

It is no wonder that your influence under the Gold Dome has diminished in recent years, and if this is the direction that you are trying to take Georgia, I hope the influence continues to diminish.

Kirk Shook

Secretary, Georgia Republican Party

2nd Vice-Chair, 10th Congressional District GOP

Member, GAGOP Executive and State Committees

And here is PAGE’s response:

PAGE is a non-partisan public education advocacy group that supports policies and initiatives that are best for our public schools. PAGE has a long-standing position against vouchers. This is based on our core beliefs and purpose and is confirmed by a high majority of our members as verified by internal polling. Ms. Betsy DeVos and the American Federation of Children are in strong support of vouchers and privatization efforts of public schools. PAGE promotes professionalism and competence within the education field. Ms. DeVos has been nominated to lead the highest education agency in the country, and yet has no experience with public schools having neither attended, worked in, served as a board of education member or sent her own children to public schools. While we are a Georgia-based professional organization, we have a responsibility to weigh-in on national issues when they will directly impact public education in our state and our members. Based on the concerns of our staff and our members regarding Ms. DeVos, we expressed PAGE’s opposition to her nomination.

As a non-partisan organization, PAGE supports or challenges issues that affect public education and our members regardless of party affiliation. PAGE has been critical of federal education policy under both President Bush’s and President Obama’s administration for the negative effects of testing and evaluation under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. We supported SB 364 in 2016, which was a Republican-led, bipartisan correction to the state educator evaluation system and reduction in student testing.

PAGE will continue its strong advocacy for public education and our professional educators without regard to party.

Reader Comments 0

84 comments
Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

For those of you so quick to defend Mrs. DeVos, perhaps you should do some research into her track record.  Since DeVos and her billions have begun pushing non-accountable for profit charters in Michigan, the state has seen their 4th grade reading scores as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress drop.  The state has fallen from ranking 28th in 2003 to 41st in 2015. Math scores have shown similar declines, with 4th graders falling from 27th to 42nd.  A one year review by the Detroit Free Press concluded that the charter sector  was a 1 billion dollar a year industry that operates without accountability or transparency in Michigan and has not produced any better results than the traditional public schools.  (with thanks for Diane Ravitch for information).  


I do not understand the strong blanket support for charters schools when the FACTS - (not "alternative facts" mind you, but the real deal) - drawn from school performance measures in states like Michigan, Tennessee and Louisiana where charters have proliferated show that not only do they not perform better (in general) than public schools, but that they often perform much worse!  They lead to increased segregation, educational instability for many students, loss of educational revenue for traditional schools, and without accountability, are ripe for corruption. Listening to DeVos supporters tout her "success" in Michigan is simply bizarre, seeing as all the data would indicate just the opposite.  Sorry, but facts are not "liberal" or "conservative."  They just are, and the facts would suggest that Michigan's charter experiment, as pushed by DeVos and other reformers, has been a dismal failure.  



There are certainly charter schools that succeed, just as their are traditional public schools that succeed.  There is no one right way to educate - but rather than seeking what actually works by asking the people who work in the trenches everyday, too many people would rather trust the education of this nation's children to a bunch of business people who have zero educational experience and are only looking to line their pockets.



weetamoe
weetamoe

Maybe  Ms. DeVos should just wear a pink vagina hat.

jezel
jezel

We all need to fight kleptocracy. The trend to take public resources....natural resources.....is in play in many areas across America.


DeVos is the latest player in the game.

Astropig
Astropig

@jezel 

We DID fight the kleptocracy.They left office on January,20,2017 at noon (EST).

Astropig
Astropig

One of my senators, (Lamar Alexander), has been vocal in his denunciations of Ms. Devos' hypocritical,self interested critics.He has pointed out how his party acquiesced in the confirmation of President Obama's two education secretaries,even though they didn't approve of most of their positions.


President Trump has earned the right to have his team implement his policies and priorities.The voters will decide if they want to continue those policies and priorities.Any other outcome amounts to tyranny by a minority-and that includes you GAE.  

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig And Georgia voters have made it clear by a 3-2 margin that they value public education. It is our duty to remind our Senator who we just elected by just as large a margin and is on the committee of that fact.

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s @Astropig 

The same surveys show that voters are overwhelmingly in favor of more charter schools and school choice options.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @dg417s with accountability - which Ms. DeVos has actively campaigned against. There was bipartisan legislation to bring more accountability to Detroit choice schools and Ms. DeVos spent millions to defeat that. We have plenty of choice as it is. Don't make the argument that we don't. If I remember correctly, you live in North Georgia - not the population hub of the state. Is there enough population for many choices there? We have them in Metro Atlanta. Even DeKalb has several choice options - Montessori, charter (both conversion and start up), magnet, arts, STEM, theme, etc. Some of those schools are the top schools in the nation.

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s @Astropig 

None of which has anything to do with her confirmation.Poor deflection on your part.I can only conclude that you don't believe in representative government except when your representatives govern.


President Trump has the same prerogatives that president Obama had- To install his team to implement his policies.If that bothers you,find a candidate that isn't hopelessly corrupt and run them in 2020.

dg417s
dg417s

@Astropig @dg417s I'm sorry, I forgot. I just deny students of all knowledge. That's all I do. </sarcasm> Trump may have won, but he also needs to remember (just as Hillary would have if she had won the Electoral College) that most Americans wanted someone else. No one got 50% of the vote. Neither one would have a true mandate to make these kinds of decisions. No, he doesn't get to just install whoever he wants. The job of the Senate is to advise and consent, and the Senate is the representation of the people. If Georgians don't believe that Ms. DeVos is a good choice, then it is Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue to go against what President Trump wants and do what Georgians want. That's their job. 

Jay Champion
Jay Champion

A. Yes. B. Yes. C. Yes. D. Yes. E. All of the above

Bentley A. Monk
Bentley A. Monk

I can't even believe that this lady is even being considered..........shameful

Jay Champion
Jay Champion

Doesn't matter to you when you have no shame

Honker
Honker

It's hard to take these people seriously when they don't know how to properly use the word "Democrat" and "Democratic."

And to think he's a teacher...

Astropig
Astropig

@Honker 

He got it right.It's really hard to tell the rigged Democrat primary process of last spring from some African dictator-for-life kleptocracy.

weetamoe
weetamoe

@Honker Democrat is the correct usage. The democrat party is the party of democrats. The republican party is the party of republicans, not the party of republics.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig @Honker African dictator-for-life kleptocracy. 

That was just short of calling the last president the N-Word!  

Good job pig.....Hope your employer is monitoring your online nonsense!

Elaine Kelly
Elaine Kelly

Agreed. Public education teachers should certainly express their concerns to both senators from Georgia. And so should home school and private school parents.

Blynne Roberts
Blynne Roberts

Is that a Rhetorical Question??? Or, do you have jokes?? She is SO UNFIT, there is only One Answer- ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

Dan Whisenhunt
Dan Whisenhunt

Should people stand up for things they believe in, you mean?

Sandi Yoder
Sandi Yoder

Regardless of whatever political stance my association may have taken under the Obama administration, regrettably I was not a fan of his educational policies. However, whatever your political persuasion, Betsy DeVos paid her way into this nomination and she cannot separate her religious views from the decisions she would make as Secretary of Education. She knows nothing about educational law and in her confirmation hearings cited her experience as a mentor. Just continue to do your damage behind the scenes Betsy and leave the business of educational policy to those with an interest and expertise in public education.

Julie Montague
Julie Montague

Not qualified. Any Superintendent, Principal or Teacher you know would be infinitely more qualified! I have written to and called both Senators Isakson and Perdue.

EdGraham
EdGraham

The school boards and administrators and the teachers and their unions will object because they're failing the children and they don't care.  They keep saying all that's needed to improve education is more money.  Well, the Atlanta Government Schools spend more per student than any other school district in the state and, yet, also has the worse graduation rate and the lowest test scores in the state.


It's very clear that the last people who matter to the school boards and administrators and the teachers and their unions are the children and their parents.


Even Barack Obama put his children in private school.  Why didn't he support the DC Government Schools and the union teachers?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

ALL CITIZENS should oppose the know-nothing!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Wascatlady


Btw, what I have continuously written about on this educational blog is an advocacy for continuous academic progress to mastery learning for all students, or continuous growth for all students. 


Betsy DeVos does not know the difference between Proficiency and Growth, and the long-standing debate between those two facets of educational advancement for children.  That is unacceptable in the U. S. Secretary of Education.

mvaughan
mvaughan

@MaryElizabethSings @Wascatlady I am not a teacher, nor do I have an education major, so I need a bit of help with the proficiency vs. growth debate that has become a bullet point in the news.  By growth, are you discussing the progress one student makes from point A to point B in knowledge?  If that is correct, I can see how that would be a good measure for those who are academically behind.  

In this debate, are we saying then that proficiency doesn't matter for that student?  If so, it would seem that ignoring proficiency sets the child up for failure.  

If the student isn't grade level proficient at reading or science, then the amount of growth that has been achieved really doesn't matter in preparation for life after school.  

I'm honestly looking for some clarification on this point since she's being hammered for this and it would appear to only be quibbling over academic definitions versus real world preparation and results.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Thank you for your question of me. Proficiency refers to the level of mastery that all students are expected to achieve by their grade level (which I prefer to call year in school). Growth refers to the individual progress made by an individual student in relation to his own previous score or mastery level.

Thus, a student who is 10 years old and has been in school for 5 years and is in 5th grade may not have yet reached the proficiency level expected for all students in 5th grade, but that same student may have grown, in relation to his previous reading scores, from 2nd grade level to 4th grade level, in one year, in his 5th grade in school. The educational principle behind this debate between Proficiency and Growth is that all children can meet their full potential and master all expected skills if TIME for MASTERY is varied among students. Some students have intelligence, socio-economic or even psychological problems to overcome before they can meet levels expected by all students of a certain age, or year in school. If educators vary TIME, then MASTERY for all students can be achieved, and students will not drop out of school, not having been taught on their individual levels of functioning at point in time.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

You are thinking wrongly in terms of my reasons for communicating my educational experience and knowledge.

mvaughan
mvaughan

@MaryElizabethSings So in your example of the 10 year old, 5th grader growing from a 2nd grade reading level to a 4th grade reading level, is this student promoted (social promotion I guess) or is he held until he masters this skill.


An American Patriot
An American Patriot

@MaryElizabethSings @Wascatlady But, but, but she has the Title of U. S. Secretary of Education and YOU DON'T which say's a whole bunch. You are condemning her before she even has a chance to do ANYTHING to improve education in the USA.  Me thinks what you're really afraid of is "States Rights In Regards To Educating Our Children" and the teachers unions in America are shaking in their boots.  

Chris McLeod
Chris McLeod

Of course...she's unqualified. All people should unite behind that fact. She couldn't even adequately prepare for her confirmation hearing enough to understand IDEA.

Eric Jaromin
Eric Jaromin

Maybe it's time to get a real teachers union in Georgia instead of simply a dues collecting and lobbying entity like we have now... Then teachers will finally have a voice. As it is now, all we can do is comment on Facebook to get heard...

Eric Jaromin
Eric Jaromin

Karrie Carden Nelson then we should also pressure to change that as well... but it won't happen...

Karrie Carden Nelson
Karrie Carden Nelson

yes but we work in a right to work state which means we can't strike or anything or we lose our jobs...so page is pretty useless

Katie Dunn
Katie Dunn

Is there ANYONE that supports her? Other than trump? Everyone I know across the board is appalled by her regardless of their political affiliation. I'm not sure if it's our state groups' place to lobby against her but someone sure needs to.

Beth Stallings Odom
Beth Stallings Odom

Unfortunately, yes. It appears that the approval is going according to party affiliation. I watched the entire hearing...D's didn't like her and R's did. It's not a partisan or a party issue, it's educating America's children. There are a few R's that don't like her, we just have to pray that there's enough that vote NO.

Johnny Knight
Johnny Knight

Because all the education people are liberal Union Lover and they see their gravy train ending and old bad teachers will be gone.

Georgia Born
Georgia Born

Regardless of political views, educators care about the CHILDREN! DeVos doesn't understand many of the Federal laws that were created to protect children, especially the ones designed to protect children with disabilities. It's a disgrace!

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

Right.  Take away teacher's benefits.  Underpay them even more. Increase the unfunded mandates they must fulfill.  Channel the money that would have paid for materials into charter schools and private schools (which do not have to hire certified teachers and often do not keep ANY teachers for more than a year or two) forcing good teachers to pay for supplies out of their pockets. Threaten their retirement funds...and suddenly, like magic, all you will have left are "good teachers"!


LOL!  Want to buy a bridge?