How do you defeat an uber-wealthy right-wing ideologue who wants to destroy public education?
With organized communities and people for starters.
And, of course... with money.
"If Betsy DeVos can buy Senator Toomey's vote, we should be allowed to do the same.
With hopes raised after two Republican senators announced last week they would vote against Betsy DeVos—the billionaire nominated by President Trump for Secretary of Education—parents, teachers, students, and concerned community members are targeting other GOP senators, including Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, in hopes of pealing off the additional GOP vote or votes needed to defeat the pick.
And in Toomey's home state, one pro-education constituent found what could be a novel way to do so by crowd-funding more money than DeVos and her family provided to Toomey's most recent re-election campaign—somewhere in the neighborhood of $60,000—in order to "buy back" the vote he would otherwise cast for his benefactor when the Senate votes for her confirmation this week.
As they GoFundme campaign "Buy Pat Toomey's Vote" explains:
Betsy DeVos has donated $55,800 to the campaign of United States Senator Pat Toomey.
Incidentally, despite all evidence to the contrary, Senator Toomey thinks that Betsy DeVos would be a great choice to lead the Department of Education.
Betsy DeVos has never set foot in a classroom, did not send her children to public school, cannot distinguish between proficiency and growth, and thinks that guns should be allowed in schools in the event of grizzly attacks. That fictitious grizzly is about as qualified as Ms. DeVos to run the Department of Education.
If Betsy DeVos can buy Senator Toomey's vote, we should be allowed to do the same.
According to Philly Mag, the creative campaign was initiated by South Philadelphia educator and costume designer Katherine Fritz who said that if Toomey won't accept the money, all of it would be donated to local educational charities.
As of Sunday afternoon, the campaign had raised $68,266—exceeding its set goal of approximately $61,000.
Even as angry constituents have been organizing against Sen. Toomey every week under the #TuesdaysWithToomey hashtag, it looks as though the Republican senator will still likely vote to confirm Devos and on Thursday released a statement indicating that intention.
"Because of Betsy's work to expand charter schools, virtual schools, school choice, tuition tax credits, and education savings accounts, hundreds of thousands of children who had been trapped in failing schools have been able to access a quality education," Toomey said in the statement. "She understands that reform should begin with parents and communities."
And when it comes time for his next re-election, it might be those same "parents and communities" looking for a reform of their own.
But Toomey's not the only one facing constituent protests for supporting DeVos.
On Saturday in Colorado, hundreds of parents, students, teachers, and their allies held a protest outside Sen. Cory Gardner's offices in Denver as they called on him to vote against Devos.
A separate protest was also held in Fort Collins, Colorado where hundreds more rallied with the same message.
The Coloradoan reports:
Scores of marchers lined the sidewalk along Shields Street from the park's main entrance to the office park a quarter-mile away that houses Gardner's Fort Collins office.
Organized by the Poudre Education Association, the local teacher's union, fewer than 200 people said they planned to attend the rally, according to the event's Facebook group. That number swelled significantly.
"This community values public education, and we deserve an education secretary who reflects those values," Tom List, president of the Poudre Education Association, said in a statement after the event. "Parents, students, community members and teachers standing together is a powerful thing!"
Similar protests were also held in Omaha, Nebraska on Friday when hundreds of community members—organized by Indivisible Omaha—made the same demand of Sen. Deb Fischer. According to the Omaha World Herald:
The protesters, holding signs that said things like “Bad move Deb!” and “Corporate hands off education,” questioned DeVos’ competence and her devotion to charter schools, and said if Fischer, a Republican, voted to confirm, they would remember it when she ran for re-election in 2018.
“We want to hit her where it hurts,” said Dena Draskovich, one of the protesters. “Her re-election is not a sure thing.”
When a speaker asked who in the crowd was a teacher, maybe half cheered. Some were students. Some protesters brought their children.
Phones were ringing constantly in the background as protesters outside the office also voiced their frustrations with Betsy DeVos.
“She doesn’t have a doctorate, she doesn’t have a Masters, she’s never really been in an education setting,” father of four Richard Bolejack said.
“I work in public schools, I’m from a family of teachers and I don’t understand how she can be qualified for this position,” Lawrence teacher and parent Emily Boedeker said.
Despite a lack of classroom experience, DeVos held education leadership positions in Michigan where she was a big supporter of voucher programs, which many protesters see as directing federal dollars from public schools to private schools.
“I’ve only gone to private school myself, but like I said I’m concerned for all kids, they are our future so that’s where we need to be investing our resources,” Molly Oller, a Johnson County mother said.
“I really like my school and I just don’t want my school to suffer from what’s going on,” high school sophomore Chloe Hixson said.
And West Virginia's Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito also faced constituent outrage on Saturday as hundreds gathered outside her offices in the town of Martinsburg.
"Education is based on cooperation and collaboration, not competition," said Michael Stiles, a protester who spoke with local news outlet WHAG.