It is On

The battle for the future of Iowa is on.  While Governor Reynolds is telling us that we will have to wait until January for her to share her vision for the future of our state, two of the men who will surely play a grossly oversized role in what happens in the Iowa legislature this year have uncharacteristically made themselves visible today.  Drew Klein from Americans For Prosperity (AFP) and Jonathan Williams from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wrote an opinion piece that was printed in the Cedar Rapids Gazette today.  In it they attempt to distance Iowa’s economic situation and future from what has happened in Kansas in recent years.

Let’s take a moment to acquaint ourselves with AFP and ALEC.  AFP and ALEC are the Koch brothers; it really is that simple.  Let’s be clear who the Koch brothers are.  They want to use their billions of dollars to influence legislators without you or I knowing about it (https://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/alec-koch-brothers-dark-money-anonymous-donation-120784).  It is also critical to note that while the opinion piece in the Gazette is about tax policy, much of the Koch brother’s activities are in support of gutting public education throughout America (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/30/kochs-public-schools-shakeup-244259).

It is significant that the only person in the room when ex-Governor Branstad signed a bill stripping collective bargaining rights from public sector employees was Drew Klein.  There was no grand public bill-signing ceremony that day because Governor Branstad knew it was a bill that wasn’t about what Iowans wanted, it was what the Koch brothers wanted and Mr. Klein was there on their behalf.  It is also worth noting that today’s opinion piece in the Gazette is an attempt to distance the work of AFP and ALEC from what has happened over the last five years in Kansas (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/opinion/paul-krugman-charlatans-cranks-and-kansas.html).  They really want you and I to believe that the failure in Kansas isn’t on them.  The problem they have is that the Kansas failure is exactly what it looks like, a complete repudiation of their work.  They want Iowans to pretend that all of the money that they spent to influence Kansas legislators to do their bidding didn’t end up as a massive disaster because they are spending huge amounts of money doing the exact same thing in Iowa.

It is almost as if Mr. Klein and Mr. Williams’ strategy is to double dog dare Iowa to buy into their scheme even though we know exactly how it will end.  It’s a gutsy strategy and one that Iowans should run away from with all of our collective energy.  The folks at the Iowa Public Policy Project do an outstanding job of putting the numbers in perspective (http://www.gradingstates.org/the-problem-with-tax-cutting-as-economic-policy/the-lessons-of-kansas/).  The idea that the only problem with the “Kansas Experiment” was that Kansas politicians didn’t implement severe cuts in public services is laughable.  The last line from the Iowa Public Policy Project post hits the nail on the head, “What new businesses really wanted, in addition to the tax cuts, was more potholes and more poorly educated workers?  There is neither logic nor evidence to support such a claim.”

There are very few things in life that I am certain of, but I can promise you this, not a single Republican legislator in our state will talk about AFP or ALEC without being directly confronted.  They don’t want you or I to know where the legislation we are about to see is coming from. If the 2017 legislative session was any indication they are going to act behind closed doors, they are going to do all they can to limit public debate, and people like Mr. Klein are going to have an enormous influence on what happens behind those closed doors.

The Republican chairman of the Iowa House of Representatives Tax Committee said this, “Frankly, I don’t know what happened in Kansas.” (http://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/government/shadow-of-kansas-hangs-over-iowa-tax-overhaul-20171213) Really, Representative Guy Vander Linden said that. The chairman of the Tax Committee says that he is unaware of what happened in Kansas.  That can’t be OK with us, is it?  At the very least our legislators should be informed and transparent.  Mr. Vander Linden should take some time to read up on the “Kansas Experiment.”  I’m happy to send him links to more articles and analysis if he wants it.  I’d also love to have Mr. Vander Linden or any other Iowa legislator talk about AFP or ALEC and their role in creating legislation that makes it into Iowa’s capitol.  There is a great deal riding on what happens in the 2018 Iowa legislature.  You can be assured that ALEC and AFP will be in corners of the capitol where Iowans like you and me are not allowed.

I’m just a teacher who is incredibly transparent, and my voice isn’t magnified by the deep pockets of people like the Koch brothers, but I will make my voice heard.  Iowans are going to have to speak loudly in 2018.  It is telling that AFP and ALEC are showing their faces this early trying to change the narrative.  When AFP and ALEC say we shouldn’t be paying attention to Kansas, I can promise you that it means we should be paying attention to Kansas.  In order to stop our legislators from being influenced by Koch brother’s dark money like their brethren from Kansas were, it is going to take the voices of smart, serious, thoughtful, caring Iowans to rise up.  It is too important for us to not be heard.

Advertisements

The Lesson of December 12, 2017

I sat up and watched Doug Jones become the U.S. Senator from Alabama tonight.  It was exciting.  But, something else happened in Iowa tonight that may be more important to us here in the state.  Democrat Todd Wendt over-performed past results by around 31 points in his run for the Iowa State Senate in the heart of Steve King country.  Mr. Wendt didn’t win, but he proved that a strong Democrat can be competitive in places Democrats haven’t been competitive for a long time.

If I were a Republican like Jake Highfill, who represents the school district where I work in, I might be a little worried.  It doesn’t feel to me that simply running a campaign linked to President Trump and Steve King while doing the bidding of the Koch Brothers is a formula for success in 2018.  I can’t imagine that another session of behind closed doors meetings where the rights of public workers are taken away is going to play quite the same as it did last year.  I can’t imagine a scenario in which Representative Highfill or Governor Reynolds are going to be able to look Iowans in the eye and defend their running of the Kansas playbook for another legislative session.  The fine people of Kansas have abandoned those failed plans, but Iowa’s Republican legislators seem eager to keep starving public services so that big business can get massive tax breaks.  Are there Iowans anywhere calling for vouchers and charter schools?  Where are they?

The truth is that December 12, 2017 presents an opportunity for Iowa’s Republicans.  They have a U.S. Representative in Steve King who is busy trying to argue against diversity (and yet Republicans refuse to repudiate him).  Iowa Republicans have two U.S. Senators in lock step with the least popular president of our time.  Iowa Republicans have overseen a terrible economy for the last several years and we will surely be making more cuts to our state budget again this year because of their misguided policies.  In addition is seems certain that this 2018 Republican legislature will do their work behind closed doors and in the dark of the evening (at least that’s how they did it last year).  You can count on old Drew Klein from the Americans for Prosperity (Koch Brothers) showing up at bill signings to demonstrate who is really calling the shots.

If you are Jake Highfill or Kim Reynolds, what are you going to run on?  Do you want Donald Trump in Iowa to attach his record-low approval ratings to you?  Do want Steve King to come in and share his thoughts on diversity at one of your campaign rallies?  Is the economy going to improve as you enact more of the Kansas plan?

A Democrat gained 31 points tonight in a state senate election here in Iowa.  I think Iowa Republicans better do some thinking as they begin the 2018 legislative session.  Will the Steve Bannon politics of division play out well?  Will raiding IPERS, forcing vouchers down Iowan’s throats (has anyone met an Iowan whose issue is vouchers?) help Republican campaigns?  December 12th was a glimpse into elections future for Iowa Republicans.

I’m not inclined to help Iowa Republicans, but I can’t help myself, because I want Iowa to succeed.  If Iowa Republican legislators reached across the aisle and worked to close the numerous tax loopholes that exist to enrich Iowa’s wealthiest businesses and individuals, I suspect they would be rewarded.  If Iowa Republicans truly listened to Iowans instead of ALEC or the Koch Brothers and debated policy in the light of day, I suspect they would be rewarded.  If Iowa Republicans truly supported Iowa’s public schools, I suspect they would be rewarded.

It feels like the Iowa GOP is going to just keep running the Kansas playbook.  There will be late night deals done behind closed doors.  The Koch Brothers, ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity will be very active in the Republican caucus.  The end result of that will be that Todd Wendt’s 31 point gain on December 12th, 2017 will be the norm in November of 2018.

The lesson of December 12, 2017 is that the tide is turning and Iowa Republicans can run the playbook of the last three years at their own peril.  I’m eager to see Iowa Republicans prove me wrong.  Yeah, I’m eager, but I’m not holding my breath.

 

Ms. DeVos-One Year Later

A year ago I sent Betsy DeVos a letter on behalf of American teachers. It felt like it was important for her to meet us in light of the fact that she had no background in public schools and had actually spent her entire adult life working to shift tax dollars away from public schools into the hands of those who want to turn a profit in the “education business.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/an-introduction-from-public-school-teachers-to-betsy_us_5845e2fbe4b0707e4c8171a3) In the letter to Ms. DeVos I said, “America’s public schools are here to serve EVERY kid. As the teachers who keep those schools ticking, all that we ask is that you listen to us.” Well, it’s a year later and I don’t feel as though she’s listening. In honesty, the Secretary’s lack of curiosity about America’s public schools is pretty insulting.

 

It appears that that she has recognized that she lacks the knowledge and authority to inflict most of her vision for education on America’s K-12 schools, so she has focused much of her energy and attention on American higher education. For instance, DeVry University, a large for-profit “educational” institution recently settled a $100 million lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission because DeVry misled students regarding employment rates and income levels available to students upon graduation (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/12/devry-university-agrees-100-million-settlement-ftc). Secretary DeVos’s response was to hire Julian Schmoke, Jr. to be in charge of policing fraud in higher education. Here is the thing though, Mr. Schmoke, Jr. was a Dean at DeVry University. So, as you might guess, Mr. Schmoke is spending his time deregulating the for-profit college industry. “From Day One, Secretary DeVos and her advisers have chosen to side with predatory for-profit schools over the interests of students and taxpayers,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in an interview. “What they’ve done is actually make it easier for schools to cheat these students.” (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/31/devos-trump-forprofit-college-education-242193)

 

In addition to making it easier for these for-profit schools to scam vulnerable students, Secretary DeVos has also chosen to dedicate her time and energy to roll back protections for sexual assault victims on college campuses and has stopped approving new student-fraud claims brought against for-profit schools. But, to say that she has dedicated herself entirely to post-secondary education would be unfair. In October, Secretary DeVos rolled back 72 policy documents that specifically detailed the rights of disabled children in schools. In doing so, the Department of Education is stepping away from providing school districts with guidance as to how to protect our most vulnerable students. Don Moynihan from the University of Wisconsin has argued that states and schools now “have de-facto-discretion…to deny access to services.”

I promise you that in schools throughout the country teachers are spending their time asking what it is that we want students to learn, figuring out how we will determine if they’ve learned it, what we are going to do if they haven’t learned it, and what we can offer to our students who already know the material. Those conversations are happening simultaneously with conversations about how we can differentiate instruction to ever-growing class sizes, how we move away from simply measuring students based on grades and standardized tests and begin to measure whether they have the skills and dispositions that will allow them to be successful in the 21st century, and teachers are also talking about how we help meet the needs of students who are coming to us with incredible challenges outside of our school walls.

 

The truth is that having Ms. DeVos in charge of the Department of Education is an insult to those of us who work in public education. She has an agenda, and that agenda is to guide our limited resources towards those who wish to profit off of our schools. She would be best served to pursue that agenda outside of the Department of Education. The young people of America’s public schools deserve a leader whose mission is to help ALL students grow. The young people of America deserve a leader who will protect ALL students rather than protect the businesses that seek to profit off of them. The truth is that Ms. DeVos is exactly what we thought she would be and that is dangerous for the future of public schools in our country.

Betsy DeVos-One Year Later

A year ago I sent Betsy DeVos a letter on behalf of American teachers.  It felt like it was important for her to meet us in light of the fact that she had no background in public schools and had actually spent her entire adult life working to shift tax dollars away from public schools into the hands of those who want to turn a profit in the “education business.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/an-introduction-from-public-school-teachers-to-betsy_us_5845e2fbe4b0707e4c8171a3) In the letter to Ms. DeVos I said, “America’s public schools are here to serve EVERY kid. As the teachers who keep those schools ticking, all that we ask is that you listen to us.”  Well, it’s a year later and I don’t feel as though she’s listening.  In honesty, the Secretary’s lack of curiosity about America’s public schools is pretty insulting.

It appears that that she has recognized that she lacks the knowledge and authority to inflict most of her vision for education on America’s K-12 schools, so she has focused much of her energy and attention on American higher education.  For instance, DeVry University, a large for-profit “educational” institution recently settled a $100 million lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission because DeVry misled students regarding employment rates and income levels available to students upon graduation (https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2016/12/devry-university-agrees-100-million-settlement-ftc).  Secretary DeVos’s response was to hire Julian Schmoke, Jr. to be in charge of policing fraud in higher education.  Here is the thing though, Mr. Schmoke, Jr. was a Dean at DeVry University.  So, as you might guess, Mr. Schmoke is spending his time deregulating the for-profit college industry.  “From Day One, Secretary DeVos and her advisers have chosen to side with predatory for-profit schools over the interests of students and taxpayers,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in an interview. “What they’ve done is actually make it easier for schools to cheat these students.” (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/31/devos-trump-forprofit-college-education-242193)

In addition to making it easier for these for-profit schools to scam vulnerable students, Secretary DeVos has also chosen to dedicate her time and energy to roll back protections for sexual assault victims on college campuses and has stopped approving new student-fraud claims brought against for-profit schools.  But, to say that she has dedicated herself entirely to post-secondary education would be unfair.  In October, Secretary DeVos rolled back 72 policy documents that specifically detailed the rights of disabled children in schools.  In doing so, the Department of Education is stepping away from providing school districts with guidance as to how to protect our most vulnerable students. Don Moynihan from the University of Wisconsin has argued that states and schools now “have de-facto-discretion…to deny access to services.”

I promise you that in schools throughout the country teachers are spending their time asking what it is that we want students to learn, figuring out how we will determine if they’ve learned it, what we are going to do if they haven’t learned it, and what we can offer to our students who already know the material.  Those conversations are happening simultaneously with conversations about how we can differentiate instruction to ever-growing class sizes, how we move away from simply measuring students based on grades and standardized tests and begin to measure whether they have the skills and dispositions that will allow them to be successful in the 21st century, and teachers are also talking about how we help meet the needs of students who are coming to us with incredible challenges outside of our school walls.

The truth is that having Ms. DeVos in charge of the Department of Education is an insult to those of us who work in public education.  She has an agenda, and that agenda is to guide our limited resources towards those who wish to profit off of our schools.  She would be best served to pursue that agenda outside of the Department of Education.  The young people of America’s public schools deserve a leader whose mission is to help ALL students grow.  The young people of America deserve a leader who will protect ALL students rather than protect the businesses that seek to profit off of them.  The truth is that Ms. DeVos is exactly what we thought she would be and that is dangerous for the future of public schools in our country.

 

 

 

All Sides are Not Right

“When you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

 

I have tried to find an attribution for this quote, but I can’t find one. I feel like whoever said it was trying to tell us something about the world we are living in today.

As I watched white supremacists gather in Charlottesville this weekend to chant things like “blood and soil” (a phrase popular among Nazis) and “you will not replace us,” I became angry. I became angry because I have done all that I can to see the shades of grey that exist in our current political landscape. I actually have friends who get frustrated with me, because I have tried over the last year to understand the mindset of those who voted for President Trump. As a teacher, I believe it is important to see the many sides of any particular issue, and I believe that it is important for teachers to ask students to suspend judgment while they collect evidence before making determinations.

When President Trump stated that the unrest and violence in Charlottesville could be blamed on “many sides,” I got angry.

 

While it is certainly true that there is more than one side to issues of equality in our country, it is important to say this: not all sides are right. The white supremacists who came to Charlottesville this weekend are wrong. Real conversations about race, equality, and social justice require honest, complex, and challenging dialogue among thoughtful people. The racists who marched through the streets of Charlottesville have no interest in that conversation; the problem is that they have become empowered to believe that their hateful rhetoric belongs in the conversation. They believe that the current political climate is an opportunity to bring hate, racism and intolerance into our national conversation about what it is to be an American. They are wrong, and we need to say so. Not only do we need to say so, but our leaders need to say so. I was pleased to see so many of our leaders call out the racism that was on display this weekend, but those who tried to spin a narrative that “many sides” were to blame should be ashamed of themselves.

 

I spent two days last week in a building with 2,000 educators talking about how we can make our schools better. Specifically, we were discussing how we create a culture in our schools in which ALL students believe they can succeed. We talk a lot about “achievement gaps” in our schools. There is no doubt these gaps are real, but the discussion becomes more challenging when we talk about the “attitude gaps” and the “opportunity gaps” that exist in our schools. As a group of white supremacists are marching around Virginia trying to convince us that they are being oppressed, we know there are real gaps in opportunities among students in our schools. It is going to take teachers, school leaders, political leaders and communities to address the fact that all of our students don’t find the same opportunities to succeed in our schools. But if we allow ourselves to engage in the hateful rhetoric of those who are spewing Nazi propaganda as a way to further divide us, then all is lost.

During my two days discussing the culture of our schools last week, there were a lot of great conversations, but maybe equally important was what wasn’t discussed. There wasn’t a discussion of how we can profit off of public education, there wasn’t a discussion of cracking down on affirmative action as a way to make our colleges and universities better, there wasn’t a discussion of how a reduction in after school programs would make our schools better, there wasn’t a discussion of how a reduction in arts funding would make our schools better, and there certainly wasn’t a discussion of how creating equitable learning conditions for ALL students comes at the expense of the white supremacists who were marching this weekend.

 

As schools across the country start up this month, teachers are going to open their doors and arms to ALL students. Teachers are going to work hard to close the opportunity gaps that exist in our system. It isn’t easy, because our students don’t all come to us looking like the kids you see in those back-to-school ads, and that’s the way we like it. We got into teaching not because it is easy work, but because we know there are kids in all of our schools who need us to give them hope. It is hard to convince a young kid to be hopeful in a world where white supremacists are recognized as just “another side” of our national debate about equality. Some of that hope will come from saying out loud that those people marching through the streets of Charlottesville are wrong. Hope will come to our students if they hear the message from Nelson Mandela that President Obama shared on Saturday:

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

I’m Not Changing Many Minds

The National Rifle Association recently ran an ad that caught my attention. In the ad, a conservative commentator I’ve never heard of started listing things that some group of people she referred to as “they” are doing to “assassinate real news.” In the ad the NRA seems to argue that “they” are doing lots of things like using movie stars, singers, and comedy shows to repeat “their narrative.” “They” are also marching and protesting. Of course she also observes that “they” are smashing windows, burning cars, and shutting down interstates and airports. What really caught my eye though was an observation that “they” use “their” schools to teach children that the president is another Hitler.

I am “they.” I haven’t broken any windows, burned any cars, taught students that anyone was like Hitler, and the closest I’ve come to shutting down an airport is the time I forgot to take some quarters out of my pocket going through security. But make no doubt about it, I am “they.” Over the course of the last three years I have dedicated quite a bit of time blogging, writing articles, as well as writing and calling legislators and other leaders to advocate for public education. It became clear to me this week that I haven’t changed the mind of one of these public leaders.

 

I grew up believing that politics was about the healthy exchange of ideas. I read about the debates in the Continental Congress where smart people argued the merits of how much government was too much or too little. I read history books about how Abraham Lincoln brought together those with diverse opinions in order to hear more than one viewpoint in his cabinet. My political baptism was in an era when Ronald Regan and Tip O’Neill would meet after hours over an adult beverage and find ways to come together. It is obvious that we are in a new era of American politics.

 

I am “they.” The angry spokesperson in the NRA video will never see me as anyone other than “they.” I am not going to change her mind. I am not going to convince Betsy DeVos that one of the roles of public schools is to protect the civil rights of our students. There isn’t any amount of evidence that will convince Iowa’s Republican legislators to abandon the “Kansas Playbook” of tax cuts for big business and the wealthy, which are leading to cuts in critical public services. True stories, such as this one from my college friend Jodi, will not convince my senators to vote against massive cuts to Medicaid. We are living in a political environment where we won’t listen to “them.”

 

It would be easy to give up. It would be easy to accept the fact that those with money are going to win the day. Yet, we can’t stop fighting. The narrator of the NRA ad accused “they” of using “their” forces to repeat “their” narrative “over and over again.” She’s right, WE are going to use words, voices, and ideas over and over again to tell our narrative. While I recognize that President Trump, Secretary DeVos, Senator Grassley, Senator Ernst, Governor Reynolds, or the Republican legislators in my state aren’t interested in the thoughts of those who disagree with them, that doesn’t mean that we stop talking. The NRA would have you equate my advocacy for public education with violent extremism in order to not have to hear my voice; it won’t work. No matter how hard our leaders want to hide behind close doors, stop holding public town halls, stop holding press briefings in front of cameras, and suppress the voices of a free media or their opponents, it will only work if we allow it.

 

We can’t give into an “us vs. them” mentality. Let others play that game; we aren’t going to change the minds of those who refuse to listen. Regardless, it is important that we are relentless in telling our narrative. As a teacher, I am going to continue to share the narrative that our schools are filled with teachers who want nothing more than to ignite passion in young people. I am going to continue to shout from the mountaintop that schools must stand up for our most disadvantaged students.

 

No amount of bullying will stop me from fighting for more arts programs, more industrial technology programs, more programs for our physically and mentally challenged students, more programs for our young people who come to us speaking different languages, and more opportunities for EVERY student. That is what is going to make America great again. There are minds I won’t change, and I have been on the losing end of many elections, but I refuse to be on the wrong side of doing right by those who need us the most. The NRA ad closes by saying, “the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” It’s a chilling comment. I offer another possibility to save our country and our freedom; we will change our country through honest conversation, a willingness to respectfully disagree, and through open hearts.

Another Letter to Betsy DeVos

In December, I wrote you a letter as an introduction to those of us who teach in America’s public schools. In it I shared that we were a little freaked out about your nomination. You’ve never worked in a school, your children never attended a public school, and you didn’t seem to have a lot of positive things to say about the hard-working people who dedicate themselves to the 50 million young people who attend public schools.

You’ve now been the Secretary of Education for a few months and I have to say, we’ve moved from being freaked out to understanding that you are who we thought you were. President Trump began his presidency, and your tenure as Secretary of Education, by saying that American schools were depriving students of knowledge and describing them as “American carnage”. It lacked the poetry of “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” but we got the point. The dark vision that you and the president paint of our public schools (which you neither of you have really spent any time in) surely has an impact on your plans for the Department of Education.

Your first budget for the Department of Education is out and it’s a doozy. You eliminate $1.2 billion from after-school programs that serve 1.6 million children, you cut $27 million in arts education, $12 million for Special Olympics programs, and eliminate a program that provides loan forgiveness for teachers who offer to teach in underserved rural communities. In his inaugural address, President Trump said that American schools were “flush with cash.” My wife, who often has to teach music lessons in hallways and closets might disagree, but I digress. Your budget seems to try to surmise that schools are wasting money by providing safe places to go after school, giving young people the opportunity to create art, and supporting special education students. That’s disappointing in and of itself, but what is really appalling is that you are going to take the money from these programs that directly serve students and you are going to use it to expand corporate (profit making) charter schools and voucher programs.

Educator Carol Burris has studied the impact of diverting tax payer dollars to charter schools and voucher programs all over the country and has come up with the following three conclusions:

1) Privatized school choice will inevitably reduce funding to your local neighborhood public schools.

2) Direct and disguised vouchers to private schools and other public school alternatives start small and then expand, increasing the burden on taxpayers.

3) Additional administrative costs coupled with a lack of transparency waste taxpayer dollars and open the door to excessive legal and fraudulent personal gain.

I guess my question about your leadership of the Department of Education is this, who are you serving? Your proposed budget would suggest that your interest is in diverting dollars away from programs that directly impact young people and putting those dollars into the pockets of those who would like to make a profit in the business of educating our young people. The reality is that the vouchers that you champion will allow wealthy Americans to simply pocket money that they can afford to spend to send their children to the private (often religious) schools of their choice as taxpayers make up the difference. The reality is that charter schools aren’t going to use taxpayer dollars to build schools in rural communities, but taxpayers in those rural communities will be subsidizing charter schools in suburban communities, as well as the salaries of those who run large corporate school operations. In no universe does your budget make public schools better for the students who need them the most.

The thing is, you are doing exactly what you said you would do. Your disregard for public schools is what we knew we were getting. As the public schools of our country struggle to adapt to your agenda, as the pool of teachers willing to work in this new era continues to diminish, and as you do all you can to line the pockets of those who wish to exploit your agenda, it is those who voted for your nomination that teachers are really angry with. My own senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, voted to confirm you, knowing that the rural schools of Iowa would be hurt as much as anyone by your agenda.

The educators of my home state of Iowa have seen several years of budgets that are forcing our schools into austerity, we have lost our right to bargain collectively by a vindictive state legislature, and now we are watching as you enact a budget that will take dollars from important programs that serve students in order to build an industrial education complex that cares more about profit than student achievement. It only takes a brief look at your budget to see who benefits from your leadership in the Department of Education and to discover that you are who we thought you were.

American teachers will continue to look out for EVERY young person who comes in our door; the young Bosnian child who translates for her parents, the homeless teen who studies in a car with just a street light to illuminate his books, the student who stays in school because of a great music, art, or industrial technology program, and the special education student who loves to interact with their peers for part of their day. We are disappointed, but not surprised in what we are seeing. We hope that you will continue to meet more of us and in that process, begin to understand that our schools aren’t carnage, but are sanctuaries of hope for the children who are our future.