In the midst of teacher uprisings in multiple states that over recent months have drawn hundreds of thousands of educators and their supporters into the streets to demand increased school funding, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came face-to-face on Monday afternoon with several vocal opponents of her policies—the country's 2018 "Teachers of the Year."
According to the Huffington Post, many of the teachers expressed disapproval of the Secretary's pet cause—school voucher programs and charter schools, often referred to as "school choice" by proponents—which critics say pull funding from the very public school students the Education Department is meant to support.
When teachers including Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year, Jon Hazell, raised concerns over public funds and scholarships going to private education, DeVos said that "school choice" simply offers students a way out of "low-performing public schools."
"I said, 'You're the one creating the 'bad' schools by taking all the kids that can afford to get out and leaving the kids who can't behind,'" Hazell told the Huffington Post.
Another teacher who rose to question DeVos was Josh Meibos, Teacher of the Year for Arizona, who has joined an estimated 50,000 educators in his state in recent days in an historic strike, demanding raises for Arizona's underpaid teachers and an end to tax cuts until per-student spending reaches the national average.
— Josh Meibos NBCT M.Ed (@joshmeibos) May 1, 2018
Arizona's teachers have joined those in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Colorado who have called out their Republican lawmakers for handing out corporate tax cuts in recent years while schools are left underfunded and teachers go without even small cost-of-living raises.
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According to Melissa Romano, Montana's Teacher of the Year, DeVos voiced disapproval of the strike in the meeting, repeating talking points she shared last month.
"She basically said that teachers should be teaching and we should be able to solve our problems not at the expense of children," Romano told the Huffington Post. "For her to say at the 'expense of children' was a very profound moment and one I'll remember forever because that is so far from what is happening."
Striking teachers have shared stories of classrooms stocked with outdated textbooks and schools that are forced to ration copy paper due to funding shortages.
Several educators took to social media following their meeting with DeVos, denouncing the Secretary's statements and pledging to continue fighting for support for public schools.
The State Teachers met w/Ed. Sec. Betsy DeVos today @ U.S. Dept. of Ed. We shared stories, concerns, & ideas about what we need in our schools. This moment in time requires teachers that both fight for change & hope for the future. It’s too important to stay silent. @CCSSO #MNTOY pic.twitter.com/VW82WRgEwT
— Corey Bulman (@CoreyBulman) May 1, 2018
Walked into this building filled with optimism and hope. Left feeling like our voices fell on deaf ears. Proud to go through this journey with my awesome #ntoy18 cohort @CCSSO #wvtoy18 pic.twitter.com/oalwOGuQe2
— Katlin Thorsell (@WVTOY2018) April 30, 2018