Don’t Let DeVos be the Boss!

Dear Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions,

I am the mother of three young sons, Ryan (7 years), Zachary (4 years), and Connor (2 years) and I am writing to express my ardent opposition to the nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. On January 17, 2017 from 8:30 until after midnight I did something I’ve never done before. I sat and watched the entire confirmation hearing of Mrs. DeVos. (That’s right, Senator Alexander, despite your efforts to have the hearing at a time that would make it difficult for people to watch, I watched the entire recorded confirmation). Why did I spend over three hours of my time doing this? Because this woman will be in charge of regulating, budgeting, and controlling the education system in which my children will spend their most formative years. And I refuse to sit back and allow a totally unqualified candidate to move through the process without my ardent opposition.

Senator Alexander, I watched as you tried to extol Mrs. DeVos’ qualifications for this position. But really, do you think the American People are so naïve to believe you? If you were so confident in Mrs. DeVos’ qualifications for this role, then please, tell me, why did you insist on limiting the questions that committee members could ask? Never before has such an inexperienced candidate been before the HELP committee for this position. It is only logical that your fellow Senators would have a LOT of questions. Need I remind you?

Mrs. Devos…

  • Has no education beyond a bachelor’s degree and her bachelor’s degree is not in the field of education.
  • She has never worked in a school (at any level) as a teacher or administrator.
  • She has never held an elected political office.
  • She has never attended public school, nor have her children.

I went through the biographies of every Secretary of Education who has ever served and Mrs. DeVos is the only one who does not have any of the qualifications listed above. So, to expect that the members of your committee had a few more questions than normal seems more than appropriate. I would expect, Senator Alexander that you would be familiar with the caliber of the previous Secretaries, given that you were one of them. But, I digress…

While I was disgusted by the insistence by many members of your committee that Mrs. Devos is an acceptable nominee, I would like to personally thank some of you for your brave lines of questioning.

Senator Sanders,
Thank you for asking what so many Americans are wondering and acknowledging that the only reason Mrs. DeVos has been nominated to this position is because of her hefty donations to the Republican Party.

Senator Franken,
Thank you for making it crystal clear that Mrs. DeVos is wholly uninformed about some of the most basic issues confronting education policy makers at this time. Thank you for bringing to light Mrs. DeVos ignorance on the important issue of proficiency vs. growth when measuring student progress.

Senator Warren,
Thank you for pointing out that Mrs. DeVos had not completed her ethics paperwork prior to the hearing. And thank you for showing the public that Mrs. DeVos has no experiencing managing a system and budget as complicated as that which is controlled by the Department of Education. Thank you for highlighting that Mrs. DeVos is not willing to commit to enforcing rules and regulations already in place to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse.

Senator Murphy,
Thank you for challenging Mrs. DeVos on the issue of guns in schools. Thank you for forcing her to show that she is unwilling to say that “guns should not be in schools.” The shocked and appalled look on your face when she refused to state this spoke for so many Americans. We appreciate your brave and bold advocacy on this issue that seeks to keep our children safe. An issue, I might add, that I can’t believe is even up for discussion.

Senator Hassan,
Thank you for showing so clearly that Mrs. DeVos is uninformed about basic Federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). That someone who will be responsible for enforcing these exact laws could “confuse” something so basic to ensuring that all children receive an appropriate education is appalling.

Senator Murray,
Thank you for your leadership on this committed and your commitment to strengthening public education for all. I appreciate your attempts to get Mrs. DeVos to state her opposition to privatizing public education. But sadly, the woman now charged with protecting public education very well may dismantle it.

I don’t mean to exclude any of the other brave Senators who challenged Mrs. DeVos and posed excellent questions about important issues, such as sexual assault on college campuses, but in the interest of time, I will move on.

At the end of Mrs. DeVos’ opening statement at her hearing she said, “I trust parents and I believe in our children.” First of all, where in her statement did she say, “I trust teachers and I believe in our public schools?” Whether she likes it or not, she will be representing the Nation’s dedicated, hard-working, under paid public school teachers. And the fact that she seems to have little understanding of (and little desire to gain understanding into) how hard they work for their students is a slap in the face to these amazing men and women who give so much to our children.

Furthermore, if she really “trusts parents and believes in our children,” then perhaps she should take the time to truly understand what it is that the majority of parents want for their children and the other children of this world.

My husband and I are lucky to live in an upper middle class neighborhood, but we believe in public education and we are sending our children to public school. Our oldest son, who is in 1st grade at Nantucket Elementary School in Crofton, Maryland is receiving a superb education at a diverse school. He is loved and inspired daily by the teachers and administrators at this school. I know we are privileged to be able to send our children to an amazing public school. I know not all public schools work as well for all students. But, please, committee members, do your research!! It is well documented that Mrs. DeVos’ own home state of Michigan, where she sought to “reform” the public school system has shown a decline in student achievement since these “reforms” went into place.

If Mrs. DeVos truly trusts parents, and believes in children then she will take the time to listen to all parents and not just the wealthy ones who most benefit from vouchers. Studies show that vouchers rarely enable children in low income, failing schools to attend successful private schools. If the voucher is enough to allow a low-income parent to enroll their child in a private school, it is only the failing private schools they can afford.

Vouchers are most beneficial in helping wealthy families, who can already afford private school to supplement the cost of very expensive schools. So, when Mrs. DeVos says she “trusts parents” what she really means is she “trusts wealthy parents who are already sending their kids to private schools.” She does not appear to value or trust the opinions of parents like me and my husband who believe in and choose public schools, or parents of children who are struggling, but who don’t have enough money, even with a voucher, to attend a high quality private school.

And if Mrs. DeVos doesn’t trust teachers, and she doesn’t trust the majority of parents, then there is no part of me that comprehends how that translates into “believing in our children.”

To close I would like to share the words of two teachers with decades of experience between them:

Tom Carco, Kindergarten Special Ed, Boston Public Schools, 11 years of public education experience:
“At a time when our nation’s schools are finally taking steps to maintain high standards in all regions, regardless of income or background, we are also moving toward an important understanding that success is not exclusively measured by proficiency in testing – especially for students with special needs.

Mrs. DeVos has no experience reconciling this duality. Instead, she endeavors to ignore and shame those caught in the middle. She favors private and charter schools without holding them accountable to any standards, academic or socially just, as she blames public schools for failing to meet the needs of our kids. Her advocacy is unjust and serves a disproportionately small number of children – many of whom already benefit from an array of socioeconomic advantages.”

Peggy DeBoy, Speech and Language for the hearing impaired, History, at elementary, middle, and high levels,  in MA, RI, VA and MD, 35 years of experience:

“In my 35 years of teaching I have worked with a wide range of students representative of our society. Throughout my career, I have collaborated with outstanding administrators and other educators dedicated to their profession and committed to cultivating age appropriate  environments to guarantee and enable quality instruction to take place in their schools and classrooms.

It baffles me that the president would consider a person whose education, background and experience not only does not qualify her for the position of Secretary of Education but whose education experiment  in her home state of MI was  a dismal failure.

I am not only discouraged, but saddened and deeply concerned that competent educators, with a strong commitment to our children will be discouraged by inept decisions at the top and not receive the insightful, encouraging support to provide effective instruction. Already, statistics show that very bright, capable educators are withdrawing from the field, frustrated and stymied by unrealistic, ineffective demands, and inadequate compensation.

We cannot afford to waste our children’s education in laboratories created by people with little or no qualifications as educators.”

Senators, I beg you. Look to the research, look at Mrs. DeVos’ record (or lack thereof) and truly understand what it is the Nation’s teachers and parents want and our children need. I promise you, we do not need Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

 

Most Sincerely,

Kristen Caminiti
Mom to Ryan, Zachary, & Connor
Social Worker
Gambrills, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Mother’s Letter to Donald Trump

lovetrumpshateDear Mr. Trump,

Let me start by saying this letter is NOT going to be politically correct. But, considering you just ran a campaign on the premise of opposing political correctness in all its forms, this letter should be just the type of thing you would appreciate.

I am writing this letter for the benefit of my three sons. They are ages 7, 4, and 2. I want my three boys to know what side of history I was on when you became our President. I also want them to know that there is no part of me that hesitates to stand up to a bully, even when that bully happens to be the President-elect of the United States of America.

Mr. Trump, I am writing because I am disgusted by the fact that you will be our Nation’s next President. I’m sure you’ll read this and assume I am a disgruntled Democrat who is just angry that I lost. You’ll consider me one of those “enemies” you so rudely called out in your “Happy New Year” message. But that could not be further from the truth. Yes, I am a Democrat, but in my lifetime, and since I’ve been able to vote, I’ve been on the “losing side” a few times. But I have NEVER before been disgusted by the prospect of our next President. When George W. Bush won I wasn’t happy. But I never feared for the future of our Country or world, as I do now with you. Had Senator McCain or Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama I would have been disappointed and sad, but I would not have felt an overwhelming sense of despair as I do now.

You see, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney always impressed me as good men. Yes, I disagreed with them about what the greatest problems facing our Nation were and I strongly disagreed about what the solutions to those problems would be, but I never doubted their integrity as human beings.

You however, Mr. Trump, you are a disgrace. You are the epitome of what I will raise my three sons not to be. As they grow up and see you as our President I will sadly point to you and say, “See that man? Don’t be like him. Do not look up to him. Do not emulate him. Do not aspire to be him.” You are the definition of disrespect, bigotry, hatred, and dishonesty. The fact that you will lead our Country and represent us to the world is a travesty.

Throughout your campaign you demonstrated that you are willing to say and do whatever is needed to be elected. It’s a sad commentary on the people of our Country that the things that got you elected were doing and saying some of the most heinous things imaginable.  In case you forgot, let me outline a few of them:

  • To women, early on you commented on our biological processes, you know, the one that allowed you and any other human to exist, as an explanation for why one brave, bold woman, may have been just that, brave, bold, and clearly challenging you. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about can I remind you of Megyn Kelly and your comment that she had “blood coming out of her wherever?” Later a tape was made public in which you were caught regaling your ability to have any woman you want and it included your bold and disgusting statement that you just “grab them by the pussy.” Somehow this didn’t destroy your campaign. Sadly, the release of this tape seemed to embolden you and make you more determined to fight on. These are just two examples of the many times you demonstrated a complete lack of respect for women.
  • You mocked a reporter with a disability in such a vile and disgusting way, and then worst of all, like a two year-old caught stealing from the cookie jar you tried to deny that’s what you did. My two year-old has more integrity and compassion in his little finger than you have in your entire being.
  • You built a campaign around the goal of building a wall to keep out immigrants and you threatened to create a registry of Muslims to keep them out as well. As if this lack of compassion, understanding, and respect for the truth (there are in fact no more violent Muslims in the world than there are evil, white, Christian men) wasn’t bad enough, you then demonstrated just what a hypocrite you are by recently requesting work visas for your vineyard so you could hire immigrant workers. You are a liar and a cheat, Mr. Trump. Have I mentioned yet that you disgust me?
  • To the African American community you have repeatedly demonstrated your lack of respect and clearly do not consider them equals. You’ve been sued twice by the justice department for not renting to black people (yes, you managed to settle those cases out of court. Yes, I know. You don’t have to remind me). You questioned the legitimacy of our first black President by constantly spreading doubt about where he was born, and when white supremacists lathered you with praise and support you refused to openly disavow them. When a black protester started chanting “Black lives matter” at one of your rallies you said the next day, “Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up. It was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” What about that was “disgusting,” exactly? Please explain, because currently I don’t understand and it terrifies me to think that the President-elect of our Country seems to think the belief that people with dark skin do matter is disgusting.

And despite all of that you were still somehow elected. I take great solace in the fact that you did not win the popular vote. That’s right; you LOST the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Only 46% of those who voted chose you. And considering that only 60% of eligible voters actually cast a ballot I have to believe that the vast majority of Americans do not support you. And believe me when I tell you that people like me have never before felt so passionate about standing up for what is right. I have never felt so determined to speak out loudly and clearly about what I believe is right. People like me will be a thorn in your side throughout your Presidency. We will not sit idly by as you seek to destroy this already great country.

But, it didn’t have to be this way. I wanted to give you a chance. I wanted to believe that somewhere deep within your arrogant, narcissistic being that you wanted to do what was right for the majority of hard working Americans. But, then you started making Cabinet appointments…

  • In Steve Bannon you chose a man who gave a platform to white supremacists via his “news” organization Breitbart to be one of your most trusted advisors. And knowing he was unlikely to ever get past Senate confirmations you chose him for a position that requires no confirmation.
  • In Rex Tillerson you chose a man who has no diplomatic or government experience whatsoever to be our chief diplomat. He has no advanced degree and no education that suits him to this role. You chose a man who seems to have closer ties to Vladimir Putin than to the average American to represent America on the world stage.
  • In Scott Pruitt you chose a climate change denier as the person charged with protecting our environment. You chose someone with no background in science or environmental policy to run an agency that is supposed to regulate and protect our Earth’s resources. You chose a man who has been actively suing the EPA to run the EPA! If that’s not a conflict of interest I don’t know what is. And if this isn’t evidence that you have no regard for the safety of the people who live in America and on the planet Earth then I am not sure what is.
  • In Betsy DeVos you chose a woman to head the Department of Education who has NO EDUCATION EXPERIENCE AT ALL! She was never a teacher or school administrator. In fact, she has never attended a public school and none of her children ever attended a public school. She will be charged with making policy that will impact all of the children in the Nation’s public school and it’s quite possible she’s never set foot in one before. Making someone with no education background the “Chief Educator” is a farce. It is a slap in the face to the Nation’s children and to our brave and dedicated educators. It shows there is no part of you that has the best interests of our Nation’s children at heart. Choosing someone like this to head the department of education would be like choosing an oil tycoon as Secretary of Sta….oh…right……never mind.
  • In Rick Perry you appointed a man with no advanced degree, who barely graduated from college with a degree Animal Science. Most people don’t realize that the department of energy is responsible for the maintenance and protection of our nuclear weapons as well as the clean up and disposal of old nuclear resources (perhaps you didn’t know this? Please now consider yourself informed). All the recent Secretaries of Energy have been PhD level scientists some of whom are Nobel laureates, because it’s generally seen as an asset to understand nuclear physics in order to regulate nuclear weapons. But you decided all that was over rated and appointed a man who in a 2008 Presidential debate said he would abolish the department of energy, except, he couldn’t even remember the name of the department he was planning to abolish. Well done.

You see, I really wanted to give you a chance. But you chose these people (as well as so many others with questionable qualifications and backgrounds such as Ben Carson and Jeff Sessions) to help you lead our Country. With these appointments it became painfully clear that your priority was repaying favors and giving power to your billionaire friends. Your goal was NOT seeking the best people for these complex, powerful, and very important roles. Again and again you chose your own interests and the interests of your allies over the interests of the American people. Shame on you, Mr. Trump.

And then you’ve repeatedly demonstrated that you trust Vladimir Putin more than you trust the skilled and dedicated men and women who serve in our intelligence agencies. You have openly mocked these agencies all while openly praising Mr. Putin. You’ve threatened international diplomacy through provocative and poorly thought-out phone calls (Taiwan) and Tweets (China, Korea). You seem to lead by flying by the seat of your pants and that is absolutely no way to lead when your decisions affect the lives of millions of people.

You are no longer simply the CEO of the Trump family business. Then, when you screwed up you could file for bankruptcy, or find a way to turn your losses into assets by avoiding taxes. But now, when you screw up, lives will be at stake, livelihoods could be ruined, lifelong dreams shattered, and the future of our Nation could be destroyed.

So, Mr. Trump, as you take office, remember: the majority of Americans are not with you. We do not support your self-serving, misinformed, poorly planned agenda. And while I have and always will teach my boys about democracy and respecting the process I will also teach them about resistance and speaking out against that which is wrong. And you, Mr. Trump, so much about you is wrong.

As I stated at the beginning, I wrote this letter for the benefit of my boys; So that one day they can read it and understand that their mommy was brave and emboldened in the face of your Presidency. They will know that I took the time to write to the soon-to-be most powerful person in the world and told him he was selfish, amoral, misinformed, and unkind. And in the meantime, until they can understand the many complexities contained in this letter, me and my three boys are fighting back with kindness. We are spreading kindness far and wide. And they know that we are not spreading kindness because of you, but in spite of you. They know that you are a man who spent his campaign spouting hatred. And they know, with great confidence, that love trumps hate.

 

Sincerely,

Kristen Caminiti
Mom to Ryan, Zachary, & Connor