Defenders of public education have a few questions they want to ask Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's controversial pick to lead the Department of Education, when she appears at her senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
With a new campaign targeting members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as well as its members and supporters, are sharing questions they'd like to see answered by the billionaire Amway heiress and notorious critic of public schools.
"DeVos has no relevant experience in public education, but as a billionaire with an agenda she's promoted disastrous ideology and pushed destructive policies across her home state of Michigan—working to undermine, defund and privatize public schools, expand for-profit charters without accountability, and push unconstitutional private school vouchers," Randi Weingarten, president of AFT, wrote in an email to supporters on Monday.
"We need a secretary of education who would strengthen and improve public schools, not one who is out to destroy them," Weingarten added. "We need our questions answered before she gets anywhere near our children's futures."
The million member-strong trade union offered up some of its own #Questions4Betsy, inspiring others to do the same.
"Ninety percent of kids attend public school, an area you have no experience in," AFT observed. "What qualifications do you have for the job?"
Other questions followed:
#Questions4Betsy What steps are you taking to make sure your investments won't pose a conflict of interest for you at the Department of Ed?
#Questions4Betsy The policies that you helped enact have led to atrocious conditions in Detroit. What do you tell those parents and kids?
#Questions4Betsy What do you believe your role and the role of the department of ed is to ensure the free exchange of ideas on campus?
#Questions4Betsy Will you push expansion of unregulated, for-profit charters on the nat'l level as you did in MI, despite dismal results?
#Questions4Betsy Do you plan to pursue a #voucher program at the national level despite the fact that voters have rejected such initiatives?
#Questions4Betsy Can you share examples from your work where you held charter schools to “high standards and strong accountability”?
#Questions4Betsy how would you support schools’ efforts to attract educators and retain them to become a committed part of a school?
#Questions4Betsy: How will you enforce Title IX to ensure women have equal access and to support survivors of campus sexual assault?
And pointing to the DeVos's record as "a hardened anti-LGBTQ crusader," as Huffington Post's Queer Voices editor Michelangelo Signorile put it, AFT also wants to know: "As secretary of education, what is the Department’s role in protecting #LGBT students?"
Taking up AFT's call, public school advocates promptly took to Twitter to share some of the union's questions and pose some of their own:
How will you ensure that special needs students are protected if public school funds are diverted to charter schools? #Questions4Betsy
— Elizabeth Boyle (@ElizBoyle) January 16, 2017
As someone who hates public schools why are you taking over a position that promotes them? #Questions4Betsy
— Paul Rizzo (@PaulRizzo504) January 16, 2017
#questions4Betsy Do you continue to own any investments in for-profit education companies?
— Every Voice (@EveryVoice) January 16, 2017
#Questions4Betsy Will you commit to revoking federal funding for universities that repeatedly violate students' Constitutional rights?
— Jason Garshfield (@JasonGarshfield) January 16, 2017
— Up4 Yes (@Up4Yes) January 16, 2017
Have you ever attended a public school board meeting? #Questions4Betsy
— Nota10 (@not_a_ten) January 16, 2017
#Questions4Betsy Is it 'fair' that 44 million Americans who want to better themselves/communities have to take on student debt to do so?
— StudentDebtCrisis (@DebtCrisisOrg) January 16, 2017
Last week the HELP committee was forced to delay DeVos' hearing, initially scheduled for Jan. 11, due to concerns over her "extensive financial entanglements and potential conflicts of interest," as Politico reported at the time.
What's more, a separate Politico investigation published Monday highlighted how the DeVos family used its massive wealth to advance a staunch Christian conservative agenda in Michigan and beyond.
Responding to the Politico reporting, Diane Ravitch wrote on her blog Monday, "if Betsy DeVos is confirmed, which is likely, we will have a major battle on our hands to protect public education and to maintain a separation of church and state."
"She is not a normal candidate for secretary of education," warned the public education advocate and former assistant Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush. "She is a religious zealot and a radical extremist. She will speak of her admiration for all successful schools, including public schools, but don't believe it. She is a determined foe of public education."