Area educators give DeVos an 'F'

Area educators give DeVos an 'F'

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Republicans expect President Donald Trump's embattled choice for Secretary of Education to survive a close call in her Senate confirmation vote.

Good thing Betsy DeVos' nomination doesn't hinge on the votes of public school teachers, principals and superintendents.

By and large, area educators contacted by The News-Gazette share the popular sentiment expressed by their peers nationally: DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and Republican donor, is no friend of public schools and has no business serving in Trump's Cabinet.

Among their gripes:

1. Her lack of relevant experience.

Danville Education Association President Mike Twidwell is "extremely" against DeVos' confirmation, largely for this reason.

"She has no education degree," the 31-year teaching veteran said of DeVos, a Calvin College graduate who earned her bachelor's degree in business administration and political science. "She has never taught in or worked in a school environment. She never attended public schools or had children who attended public schools."

Another downside, Twidwell says, is that she's anti-union, based on "comments before about public school teachers being overpaid."

That's no way to win over teachers, says Jennifer White, an eighth-grade science instructor at Jefferson Middle School who also serves as union president for the Champaign Federation of Teachers.

White says she is "glaringly unqualified" for the job. "Our union does an excellent job educating members about the issues that impact our profession and those we serve. ... We will not stand by quietly and allow our schools to be dismantled by someone who doesn't value them.

"This election has shown people the importance of playing an active role in government. Whether it's speaking up at a school board meeting, reaching out to your state senator about the budget crisis, or calling Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth regarding Betsy DeVos, people are feeling compelled to speak up and protect the things that form the foundation of our country."

Scott Filkins, who teaches high school English at Champaign Central, says it's clear DeVos is up for this post because of her family's wealth.

"Their contributions to the party in power, and in particular to members of the confirmation committee, are what's behind her nomination," he said. "That's not how our system is supposed to work, and when people saw that this clear mockery of the democratic process was poised to endanger a system that affects so many of us on a daily basis, they mobilized."

2. Her confirmation hearing.

Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood was so appalled by how DeVos answered senators' questions last month that she contacted her legislators, "begging them to put a stop to this insanity."

"She couldn't answer basic questions about schools, funding or assessment. She is uber-wealthy and has no experiences with public education because she lives like the 1 percent and knows nothing," Greenwood said. "I think Trump will have his puppet and others will run the department.

"This is a nightmare for educators and public education. She also didn't realize that IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is a federal law to protect those with disabilities. Really? She mentioned leaving things up the states that are federal laws and have been for years, if not decades. Her comments about being able to carry guns because of bears has really made the comedy circuit."

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Superintendent Jeremy Darnell was unimpressed with her hearing, as well, saying it was "very evident" she lacks understanding of current education issues.

He expressed frustration with the politics involved in choosing cabinet members.

"Votes should be cast on merit, preparation and the ability to effectively fill an essential role in our national government, not party line politics," Darnell said. "All appointments should be considered for their ability to effectively advise our elected leadership. No leader can be a master at all so the essential need to surround yourself with experts in their field is more important today than ever.

"Leaders should surround themselves with the absolute best people they can that both challenge their own strengths and complement their weaknesses. That is what true leaders do."

Centennial High School social studies teacher Greg Stock expressed similar concerns.

"The level of opposition against her might also be related to the fact that I have heard or read of virtually no one in the field of education, from higher education down, that supports this appointment due to her lack of qualifications," he said. "... I think that the Senate leadership is absolutely determined to try to get her confirmed but I honestly can't think of a less-qualified nominee in recent or even not-so-recent history."

3. Her pro-charter platform.

Tom Davis has spent a lot of time researching DeVos' background, including her support for the expansion of schools of choice and the use of federal vouchers for families to choose to attend private charter and non-public schools.

The Heritage superintendent says he hasn't formed a definitive opinion about the nominee quite yet. But, as a product of the St. Charles school system in suburban Chicago, he's a "staunch believer" in public schools.

"While I had two older siblings who attended Catholic schools up to high school age, we moved to St. Charles in 1971 specifically because of the schools' reputation and after that, all of us finished at public school through high school before all getting college and graduate degrees at public colleges in Illinois," he said.

Darlene Halloran is leery about talking politics, given her position as a Danville school board member. But, she says, "there's one tenet I think is very important, and that's to understand in public education, we don't have a choice of who enters our doors. We are legally and morally obligated to educate every single child, regardless of their background and their status. We must find the resources and the talent to do that. With charter schools and parochial schools or any other private school, they have admission policies. We do not."

On the other hand ...

Not everyone believes a DeVos appointment will be damaging to education in East Central Illinois.

"I am not too concerned about Betsy DeVos," said Arthur-Lovington/Atwood-Hammond Superintendent Kenny Schwengel. "I feel much of this is an overreaction, like we are seeing on everything President Trump does right now. The 'extremists' from both sides overreact after any major change. This time, though, Trump is more antagonistic and much less concerned about political correctness.

"... I do not believe one person will have that much impact on overall policy."

Politics aside, Westville Superintendent Seth Miller said he cares more about having someone in a position of power that will be supportive of children, specifically public school kids.

"We have the best educational system in the world. A leader who is committed to children, who need access to public education, would receive my support," Miller said. "... Spirited debate with informed constituents helps make us a strong country — big enough and brave enough for diverse opinions. It is my hope that whoever is confirmed as the next secretary of education will help perpetuate this democratic ideal in our public school system."

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Joe American wrote on February 06, 2017 at 9:02 am

How ironic.

Many area educators ALSO get rated an F by taxpayers.

Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 06, 2017 at 2:02 pm
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You sound just like Trump. Your comment makes zero sense and you are clearly only taking a swipe against the nameless area educators because they disagreed with your crybaby so-called president. 


Joe American wrote on February 06, 2017 at 4:02 pm

And you sound like a Hillary supporter.  You make baseless accusations using zero facts in some sort of a frantic butthurt manner.


Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 06, 2017 at 8:02 pm
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Your original post in this thread was literally a baseless accusation using zero facts.

You also affirmed your homophobia with your slur at the end there, not that any of us wouldn't have guessed it anyway.

chief21 wrote on February 10, 2017 at 10:02 am

At last a chance for parents to decide which school their children attend. Vouchers....let competition rule. Why have your child stuck in PC public schools, you pay taxes, select the school best for YOUR children. If you want your child to attend a public school and participate in the Hijab Day March for LGBT acceptance...fine. If not...then our taxes money should allow the parents where to go.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Taxpayers pay for neighborhood public schools, not for parochial schools.  The charter schools are no different from the parochial schools.  Parents do have the right to decide which schools their children attend, and for their personal reasons.  They have to pay the tuition though.  People pay taxes for public education, not for parochial education.

What is next?  Private police for some neighborhoods that do not want diversified police, and is paid for by the taxpayers?

No Dancing Impostors paid with taxpayer money either.  Oske-whine-whine !!!

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Taxpayers pay for neighborhood public schools, not for parochial schools.  The charter schools are no different from the parochial schools.  Parents do have the right to decide which schools their children attend, and for their personal reasons.  They have to pay the tuition though.  People pay taxes for public education, not for parochial education.

What is next?  Private police for some neighborhoods that do not want diversified police, and is paid for by the taxpayers?

No Dancing Impostors paid with taxpayer money either.  Oske-whine-whine !!!

Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 11, 2017 at 9:02 am
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You already do get to choose which school your kids go to by deciding which district you live in.

Don't like the school in the district you decided to live in? Pay tuition for private school just like you will for college.

Don't like your kids going to school with people a different color than you? Probably should have moved to Mahomet or St. Joe.

Objective Reporter wrote on February 07, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Name them

Concerned_Citizen wrote on February 06, 2017 at 10:02 am

I'm pretty sure she's unqualified because she has zero experience and wants to dismantle the system that she will be put in charge of. 

If you got a new boss with zero experience and who wants to dismantle your place of employment, you would probably be pretty upset too. 

APC wrote on February 06, 2017 at 10:02 am

It is not just that she is pro choice and anti-union that disqualifies her.  It is her seeming total lack of knowledge and single mindset against public schools, as well as the results in Michigan of the charter schools.  If you haven't been paying attention, she essentially bought the Michigan legislature out to provide vouchers for charter schools, without any accountability for those schools.  This mainly resulted in worse education for 1) public schools as less money was provided to them and the kids in most need were given reduced resources and 2) private schools as no oversight meant that for profit operators came in and ran schools that had no actual learning plans and folded mid semister/year, leaving those children out in the cold and the parents scrambling, while the charter school essentially stole the money.

I think there would be less outcry if there were a standard educational curriculum, oversight as well as balance of requiring charter schools to take in students of all calibers rather than being selective. This seems kind of like a public school.  The self-segregation of smart/dumb or well off/poor students also seems contrary to the success (however imperfect - as all large systems are) of the public school system that made America great in the 20th century.

Betsy Devos is simply unqualified because she lacks any experience with the public school system (no one in her family attended one or has sat on a public school board), seemingly lacks the most basic information about what issues surround education and is intent merely on burning the system down with no regard to how to fix these issues.

I have had a number of conversations with supporters on both sides of the aisle.  The conversations that are the best are the ones that recognize problems exist and try to discuss solutions and support those solutions with reasoned arguments.  Merely stating something like "voted Trump" or "voted Hillary" are specious discussions and a waste of time.

billbtri5 wrote on February 06, 2017 at 8:02 pm

...well maybe the headline should start with "Some"....

uncommon_name wrote on February 07, 2017 at 10:02 am

"We have the best educational system in the world."

That's what someone from inside the system says. Perhaps there is a need for an "outsider" who sees it for what it is.

I've been out of school for longer than I care to mention. Maybe the school calendar has already changed for a lot of kids. Why is it still the norm to have an entire summer out of school? Are all these kids farmers that have to tend to the fields and come back after harvest?

Bulldogmojo wrote on February 07, 2017 at 10:02 am


Devos violated Ohio law by funneling over $870,000 in national money to Ohio Republican candidates and didn't pay the $5.3 million fine the Ohio Elections Commission assessed for those actions in 2008.

Citizen1 wrote on February 07, 2017 at 12:02 pm

If Ilinois educators are against her, she must be good.  To keep doing what has always been done and expecting a different result is the definition of stupid

Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 07, 2017 at 12:02 pm
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I know hundreds of people who were educated in Illinois, myself included, and I fail to understand the blanket attacks on teachers that come from the Trumpsters. You act as though if you are employed by a school in this state then you are automatically the enemy.

For a crowd that puts blind faith in a con-man with a less than 6th grade grammar level, you seem to know an awful lot about education. 

Just like Trump and the rest of his clowns in his cabinet, DeVos has no qualifications for the job and everyone who knows anything about this position is saying she is a terrible choice.

Education is yet another casualty of VWIS (Voting-While-Incompetent-Syndrome). 

OldIlliniFan wrote on February 07, 2017 at 4:02 pm

Champaign-Urbana has five high schools, three of them are public, and the interviews were cherry-picked from the public side.  I would have liked to hear from representatives of the other two schools.  My suspicion is that they are De Vos supporters.  It would have been more accurate for the N-G to say "Some area educators give De Vos an F; we haven't talked to the others."  

Annotator wrote on February 07, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Ahh too bad!  Devos is now the Secretary of Education by a 50 to 51 vote of the Senate.  Educators need to change their teaching methods, or risk a flight away from public education by all students.

Champaignite wrote on February 08, 2017 at 7:02 am

What teahing methods exactly are the private schools using that are different than the public schools?  Perhaps you could actually offer some real examples of the teachingmethods that need to change instead of just blanket random statements with no substance.  Or is it just the kids that are different?  Let's be honest, many of the kids in public schools have far, far more needs than most,  if not all, students in private schools.  Private schools will not likely admit students with special needs because theyare too expensive to provide adequate services for and they don't have to take them.  Students in private schools aren't likely to be living in poverty and need all the support that many public school students.  But if public schools just change their teaching methods, whatever that means, then all will be fixed.  Is it your impression that charter schools will fix all the ills of education?  Do ten minutes of research and look at the data from any credible source and you will see that they are no magic bullet to performance or even grizzly bears.

Let's be honest, this confirmation had absolutely nothing with qualifications or even a sincere desire to improve anything for kids.  It was all about the money.  The millions that she and her family contributed to Republican candidates is what this is about.  This is political payback on the backs of millions of students.

Many would say the health care system is broken in this country; but, yet, I haven't heard one person mention that the Surgeon General should be replaced by a non-doctor who did not believe in nor had ever set foot in a hospital or clinic because doctors don't know what they are doing anyway.  Noone that I'm aware of has advocated that the president should have chosen someone for the Supreme Court vacancy who didn't have a law degree or had been a lawyer or had never been inside a courtroom. 

Yeah, it's the teaching methods that are the problem and are the reason for this confirmation.

B-Evs wrote on February 08, 2017 at 11:02 am

So when can we now expect to have the funding for schools who allow kids with disabilities, kids who are gay, the teaching of evolution and schools that support a student's right to not say Protestant Christian prayers to be removed?  Funding will be tied to abstinence-only sex 'education'.

Oh and she thinks that we already do more than enough about rape on college campuses.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 10, 2017 at 10:02 am

No experience, but plenty of money sums up Trump's cabinet picks so far.  At some point in time, the commentors supporting Trump's picks have to admit to themselves that the cabinet picks are only serving themselves posing as political saviors.  If Trump named The Devil as his pick for the Supreme Court, would the local Trumpites cheer?

Did the right-wing commentors lose all of their morality, common sense, and dignity by constantly defending Trump?  This country is more than two party politics.  Don't trade in your American beliefs, and values because of politics.

Of course, they may not have American beliefs, and values.  They could be hate-mongering, racists supporting Facism.  Which are they? 

yates wrote on February 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm

"May not have American beliefs, and values" "Could be hate mongering racists".... Your forgetting your party just lost an election on that platform Sid. But you keep on and maybe you'll show em some day.

Common Sense wrote on February 10, 2017 at 1:02 pm

What do private schools teach? Maybe the three Rs, and not how to put a condom on a cucumber or whether the kids might want to become a tranny, etc., etc. It's laughable how some say she has no experience, yet these same fools likely voted for a community organizer named Obama for president. Given the overall condition of public schools and what they produce, what does that say about all the previous people in charge who did have experience?

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 10, 2017 at 1:02 pm

DeVos knows how not to put a condom on a cucumber?  She doesn't use condoms with cucumbers?

Common Sense wrote on February 11, 2017 at 11:02 am

Try making some sense.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 11, 2017 at 1:02 pm

I did not read any sense in your comment, "common sense".  Do you like your cucumbers with, or without condoms?

DeVos confirmation had nothing to do with education.  It was due to "political contributions" (bribes).  Wonder what it costs to be named Ambassador to Costa Rico?  "Ambassador of the Month Club" could bring in HUGE profits.

Common Sense wrote on February 10, 2017 at 1:02 pm

One of the main problems is the NEA. They pretend to be for education, but they're not. Their only concern is the teachers, and to hell with the children and if they actually learn anything or not.'

NEA= No Education Allowed


Sid Saltfork wrote on February 10, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Who is going to teach with no teachers?  What subject will you be teaching as a community teaching provider? 

Who needs a mechanic, doctor, attorney, electrician, or mortician when you know how to do everything?

BoBob wrote on February 10, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Ironic. "Common Sense" clearly has none.

NEA = The National Endowment for the Arts, not the Department of Education. 

If you are in favor of education, then oppose Betsy DeVos and public funds for religious or charter schools.

Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 11, 2017 at 8:02 am
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Very ironic. He constantly shares his outward racism and uncanny inability to understand the most basic principles. It's no surprise he blindly supports the tiny-hands orange man.

Common Sense wrote on February 11, 2017 at 11:02 am

Looks like you're the one with no common sense. Ever heard of the National Education Association, otherwise known as a huge teachers union?

In case you can't figure it out, the acronym would be, wait for it, NEA.

Hence, No Education Allowed.

If you were really in favor of education, you would oppose the government (failed) monopoly known as the public school system.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 11, 2017 at 2:02 pm

"government monopoly"?  You mean local school boards? 

Will you teach when there are no teachers?  No, you will only complain again.  You have been watching too much FOX News.  The National Education Association is not a teachers union.  Teachers negotiate with their school boards for their contracts.

Keep commenting.  People need to read right-wing Trumpites' logic.  You recruit more sensible people for a common cause (not political) against the Trumpites.

What is next?  Commies in the military, or deportation of all citizens whose ancestors were not born in America............

chief21 wrote on February 11, 2017 at 8:02 am

If my property tax bill says $2300 goes to the school district. That $2300 is mine to use to pursue the best education for my child. I should have the right to select a private school with that $2300....why am I hostage to one supplier of education. Europe uses a similar fomula for retirement...when you leave one company for another your retirement funds follow. It's YOUR money....
Please no apples/oranges arguments about not funding the flushing of the toilet sewer tax and other mis direction arguments. It's my child.....not the states.

Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 11, 2017 at 8:02 am
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If you'd like your child to go to a different school, then either move to that district or pay the tuition for a private school just like everyone else.

I didn't like the school my son was in when he arrived in first grade. The curriculum was not being taught because a lot of kids didn't speak very good English so much of the time was spent on teaching English instead of other subjects. I didn't whine and complain that my tax money wasn't being used the exact way I wanted it to be. I simply moved to a better school district.

You cry baby Republicans have been whining about big government for so long and now that you've got your clown-in-chief in the driver's seat you are wanting a bigger government than ever to shove down our throats.

America will wake up from this nightmare in 2020 and hopefully you bigots haven't burned this country to the ground so we can ACTUALLY start making America great again after being hijacked by the unwashed deplorables.

Common Sense wrote on February 11, 2017 at 12:02 pm

So you didn't like him being around other kids who didn't speak good English?  What kind of bigot are you?

Instead of advocating improvment of the pitiful school systems millions of kids are stuck in, you tell them tough luck, move if you don't like it? You can afford to move, but fort all those who can't, it's just too bad?

You're probably the same type of person who hates the rich, but you yourself are talking like the "greedy rich" so many rail against. "I've got mine, if you don't, not my problem."

Instead of telling people to move to a good school system, how about bringing a good school system to them?

A good start would be to do away with teacher's unions. Good schools is one thing they are not working for.

Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 11, 2017 at 1:02 pm
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I very clearly represented that we moved so that the curriculum would match that of our children's learning level. The curriculum being taught to those who don't speak English is invaluable and the teachers there were fantastic. The school we moved our kids too was also very diverse, also a public school, but was a better fit for our kids. We are not affluent and I worked/saved very hard to get into a different district.

I supported their school then and I do now. We need to take care of the teachers who are tasked with educating all of our children, not just the rich ones. wrote on February 12, 2017 at 7:02 am

So you admit that you did not want your kids to go to school with the children of immigrants.  How very tolerant of you.

Dread Pirate DNT wrote on February 12, 2017 at 7:02 am
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Busted. When do I get my red arm band and white pointy hat like the rest of you Trumpsters?

Common Sense wrote on February 11, 2017 at 11:02 am

Typical liberal idiots, always claiming others are racist, sexist, whatever, yet it is they who constantly show it. She/he/it calls others deplorables, yet it is others who are bigoted.

Keep showng your true colors for all to see.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 11, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Ah... two of the REALLY SMART people in the community.  Yep, "honor9chief", and "common sense".  They continue to see everything as liberal, or Republican.  Things that people have in common like education, war, economic inequality, immigration, and health care affect everyone regardless of their party affiliation, or non-political affiliation.

Keep up the comments boys.  Let everyone read the thoughts of the right-wingers.  People are not threatened by White Trash.  "Oskee-whine-whine"!!!