I have taken to writing letters, emails and direct tweets. I think I will track what I send and the responses I receive here, on my blog. I will title the blogs “Letter Writing” and include a brief who and why in the title. I will post a blog as I send a correspondence. As I receive responses, I will update the blog.
This is my first.
Betsy DeVos is Donald John Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. According to ed.gov, The Secretary is responsible for the overall direction, supervision, and coordination of all activities of the Department and is the principal adviser to the President on Federal policies, programs and activities related to education in the United States.
So, why is the selection of an Education Secretary important to me: Both of my adult children are educators. My daughter teaches at the university level as well as an after school art program for pre-schoolers. My son is a substitute teacher for PreK-12 ages while he continues his personal education. My children’s livelihoods are at stake when choosing a good representative for the US Dept of Education. That is my primary concern in this selection. My secondary concern is this: I hear on an almost daily basis how we are raising a generation of ill-equipped young people who are whining and lack attention. I think for the most part, the ill comments that are thrown toward this generation are lacking in substance. However, for argument’s sake, let me agree with these people spouting this train of thought. Then, how do we combat this issue? I believe the root of the answer lies in quality education.
- I believe more dedication should be devoted to Vocational and Technical Education. In today’s financial landscape, not all young people can afford to go to college. And, quite frankly, not all of them WANT to go to college. So, how do we help this growing cross-section of youth to make sure that they have all of the resources available when they leave high school? Give them an education in skills they can apply immediately upon graduation. And, contrary to popular belief, these classes are not just welding and blue-collar jobs. Vocational schools typically offer relatively short, career-focused programs that quickly prepare graduates for the workforce. These classes can cover a variety of topics, such as Accounting, Landscape, HVAC Repair, Nursing, Human Resources. A list of trade school topics can be found: here.
- I believe our high schools need to teach Fundamental Life Lessons i.e.: How do I balance a check book? How do I apply for a credit card? What does APR mean? How do I avoid debt? How do I make the most of a job interview? How do I prepare a healthy weekly menu? To name a few topics needing to be required subject matter.
- I believe that antiquated systems hinders the education process. While my son taught high school on a fulltime basis as a math teacher, he was forced to allow the students to read (whatever they wanted to – magazines, novels, the backs of cereal boxes) for one half of one class each week. In addition to that, he had to devote a considerable amount of time for the class to utilize a computer program that was not beneficial to the class he taught. Top that off with his having to follow a certain structure and teach within that structure and accomplish everything on that “list” for each week. This, after they have taken two days away from him for reading (not math related) and useless computer programs. So, the system structures itself to set their teachers up on a rigorous teaching platform by already removing 2/5 of their teaching time.
- I believe that there needs to be a greater parental involvement. I am not sure how that would be accomplished. My son would often comment on how the parents who show up for the parent-teacher conferences were the parents of the A students. He needed to reach the parents of the kids who were not pulling down A’s, who were struggling. There needs to be a bridge built between educators and parents so a constant communication channel can be put in place. Intranet Portals maybe? A working parent can log onto a school website, sign in as a parent and review the grades of their child, see notes from teachers, send notes about concerns. We live in a tech-world. This should be an option at all schools.
So, those are some of the concerns that I have for the state of our Education System.
Why do I think that Betsy DeVos would be a horrible candidate for Education Secretary?
- Her complete lack of public education experience. I could end this list right there. That is how strongly I feel about this one highlight. How can someone who has no experience in a field, hold a public office, of the highest degree, and control the direction of that field?
- A child’s educational success should not be dependant on living in a more affluent neighborhood or whether or not they have the funds to attend a private school. DeVos has advocated for vouchers and charter schools. Privatization of schools is not the way to go. It does not support public education.
- We should be concentrating on updating text books, making all classes accessible to all schools, offering more opportunities for all schools. Her practice of charter schools goes against this and pits one school against another in obtaining more students, not more quality resources. In Michigan, DeVos fought for tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of public schools, for vouchers that divert taxpayer funds from public schools to private schools, and to allow for-profit charter school corporations to operate with no accountability while being funded by taxpayers.
- I fear that Title 1 money, that is to be used for the poorest of children in the United States, will be directed to her ill-planned voucher schools.
- She designed Detroit’s FAILED charter school program.
- She is so invested in the voucher program, she and her family has spent millions in promoting it or pushing tax cut incentives to prop up the venture.
- She has never attended a public school.
- She refused to say that guns have no place in schools.
Those are a handful of my reasons.
So, how do I help keep her out of this position? Well, thought I, it is a Senate Confirmation that grants her the position. Let’s write my senators. The two senators I would be writing are: Joe Manchin – D(ish) WV and Shelley Moore Capito R WV. Because I used the online message program on their websites, I was not given an opportunity to capture a copy of my correspondence TO them. In basics – I asked that they not vote for DeVos who is underqualified for the position and who would not support the best interests in the public education of our young West Virginians. I sent both the same day. The first response I received was from Manchin:
Dear Ms. Dolin,
Thank you for contacting me and sharing your perspective on President-elect Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos to become the next Secretary of the Department of Education. Hearing from West Virginians is important to me, and I appreciate your input on this issue.
As a former executive, I believe that the President should have a chance to pick his team. With that being said, I also take my Constitutional responsibility of advise and consent very seriously. Article II, Section II of the United States Constitution provides for a full review of all Presidential appointments by the United States Senate to ensure our federal government is and will remain responsible to the people of our great nation, and I will keep your thoughts in mind throughout that process.
It is critical that the next Secretary of Education has the necessary experience and expertise to get the job done. I look forward to meeting with Mrs. DeVos and hearing how she intends to steer the Department and how her vision aligns with the principles that I have set forth in my years of work on behalf of West Virginians.
Like you, I understand the importance of creating educational opportunities for students in West Virginia. We must work together to ensure that our students have access to the resources they need to excel including high quality instruction in the classroom that will prepare them for college or a career after graduation. We need to continue to improve our education system because our children and grandchildren deserve the best that we can offer.
Again, thank you for taking the time to add your voice to this important discussion. If I may be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
With warmest regards,
Joe Manchin III Unites States Senator
So, although I felt it to be dismissive, it acknowledges that he received my message, it was probably noted on the roster of “how many people contacted us to communicate issues with x”and at least my number was added to those who are not happy with DeVos.
Then a few days later I received a response from Capito:
January 23, 2017
Dear Ms. Dolin,
Thank you for contacti ng me regarding President Trump’s executive nominations. It was good to hear from you and I appreciate the opportunity to learn your views on this important matter.
As you know, the President of the United States has the power to nominate judges, ambassadors, and cabinet officials with the advice and consent of the Senate under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. As our nation witnesses the transfer of power from one leader to the next, the Senate will take up the important duty of considering the new Administration’s nominees for important executive offices. This process will entail thorough consideration of each nominee’s credentials and temperament by the standing committees of the Senate in order to determine their suitability for the offices for which they have been selected. Ultimately, final approval of each nominee will require approval by a majority of Senators during a vote by the full Senate.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming weeks to review the record of each nominee during the confirmation process. I expect to support most of President Trump’s nominees to Senate confirmable executive branch positions based on the long standing tradition that presidents of both parties are entitled to form their own cabinets unless the individuals they nominate are unfit or unqualified.
Again , thank you for contacting me. I look forward to hearing from you again soon and invite you to visit my website, www.capito.senate.gov , for further information and to si gn up for my e-mail newsletter. It is an honor to serve you.
Shelley Moore Capito
United States Senator
So, other than realizing that my Senator’s aid has a poor letter formatting and writing skills, this basically reads to me as: “I hear ya, but I am voting for Trump’s appointments anyway.” So, my voice in my state is not heard through that portal. I have decided to become a pen pal to Shelley. I will send her multiple letters in longhand and ask various questions regarding her stance on issues that matter to me. And I will post them for public consumption here.
ALSO – Shelley Moore Capito decided to add me to her spam newsletter. I did not sign up to receiver her newsletter but here we are, having to unsubscribe. Pshaw.