Dear Senator Grassley,
I’m a public school teacher in Iowa. I have even voted for you a couple of times (although in honesty I didn’t vote for you this time around). There was a time when you were considered a moderate. There was a time when Iowa was a state that took some pride in being governed by moderates from both parties; the name Robert Ray comes to mind. Those days seem like a distant memory.
While much has changed in Iowa over the last 36 years, one of the things that I think has remained constant is that Iowans take pride in our public education system. My parents had the option to move anywhere in the Midwest (in the country really) in 1973. They did a lot of research and decided that Ames, Iowa was the best place in the country to raise a family, based primarily on the quality of the public schools. Although my father had numerous opportunities to make more money in other places, he kept our family in Ames through his children’s graduation because he recognized that he had made the right decision in 1973. Great public school education is what Iowa should offer to young families.
I am writing you to respectfully ask that you do not vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Ms. DeVos has no practical experience in education. She has spent the last several years actively opposing public education in her home state of Michigan. She has not attended a public school, she has not studied education, been a public school parent, or ever worked in a school. Ms. DeVos has spent the last several years as the architect of a largely unsuccessful private and for-profit charter school system in Detriot that has diverted millions of public dollars from underfunded public schools.
Her lack of experience in the field of education should be enough to disqualify her to be Secretary of Education, but her complete disdain for public schools should make the decision to deny her confirmation very easy. The system she devised for Detroit’s schools operates like the Wild West. Her solution for a struggling school system was to invite those seeking to make a profit to take over schools with essentially no oversight. Her solution has failed. After more than a decade of getting her way on a host of educational policies (by filling the swamp with millions of dollars in contributions), Michigan is one of five states with declining reading scores.
There was a day when you represented Iowa as a moderate voice of reason in the Senate. It is undeniable that you have become more partisan and less moderate over the years. Regardless, I assume that you take the job of representing Iowa values seriously. There is no way to argue that Betsy DeVos represents what is best for the public schools of Iowa. There are reasonable arguments to be made for creating more school choice, but Ms. DeVos’s track record demonstrates that her agenda is not to create conditions for all schools to have equal opportunities to provide the best education for students. Her agenda is to take taxpayer dollars and put them into unregulated for-profit businesses whose primary interest is not what is good for kids.
Do what is right; vote against the nomination of Ms. DeVos. It would remind Iowans that you are not just a puppet of your party or of special interests. It would demonstrate that you recognize the importance of public schools. It is the right thing to do.
Patrick J. Kearney