Dear Secretary DeVos,
I see that you were in my hometown yesterday. I was excited to see that you were taking time away from stripping protections from sexual assault survivors (https://psmag.com/education/devoss-proposed-title-ix-changes-could-harm-both-due-process-and-victims-rights) and cutting funding for student loan forgiveness to those who do public service work (https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/13/politics/betsy-devos-student-loan-forgiveness-budget/index.html) to visit little old Iowa. I was eager to come and see you speak to Iowans about the work you are doing. But, I guess that wasn’t in the cards. Instead it seems that you met behind closed doors with a handful of Iowans, most of whom are far-right lobbyists. No teachers. No students. There are rumors that a public school administrator might have been there, but since the meeting was closed to the public and closed to the press, I guess we might never know. I did see that Koch Brothers lackey Drew Klein was there; thank goodness that the Koch Brothers had a seat at the table. We certainly won’t know what was discussed, but hey, thanks for coming to Iowa.
Actually, I have a pretty good guess what was discussed. You were discussing using public dollars to fund private schools. You were discussing legislation that would insure that affluent suburban private schools were getting more tax dollars. I would guess that you discussed being sure that homeschool parents get a few more public funds in their pockets. I am guessing the words choice and competition were used quite a bit in the meeting. Those buzzwords have been used all over the country to strip money from public schools and put it in the hands of private for-profit schools and it has failed time and time again (https://www.brookings.edu/research/more-findings-about-school-vouchers-and-test-scores-and-they-are-still-negative/). But, again, thanks for coming to Iowa and meeting with 6 or 7 people who already support the type of plan that have been so unsuccessful in your home state of Michigan (https://www.mlive.com/news/2018/05/michigan_schools_on_a_race_to.html).
If you were selling something that Iowans were interested in, wouldn’t you hold a rally? If you were selling something that Iowans were in favor of, wouldn’t you invite the press in to talk about it? Why hide? Well, you know the answer as well as I do. Iowans don’t want public dollars spent on private schools (https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2017/02/26/iowa-poll-majority-oppose-using-public-funds-private-school/97996574/). No candidate ran on a voucher platform in Iowa. You know Iowans don’t want it, so you have a closed door meeting to appease the Koch Brothers and rally some lobbyists and then you scoot out of town to do what you can to run down public education somewhere else.
The funny things is that Iowa’s public educators would really like to have a conversation with you. We’d love to talk about how we can serve a student population that is coming to us with increasingly unique needs. We do have achievement gaps that we would love to address, but to get at the needs of ALL of Iowa’s young people that come through our doors we need resources and that isn’t happening. Iowa’s Republican legislators are driving us to austerity. Budgets that don’t keep up with cost of doing business are forcing schools to cut staff and eliminate programming. Iowa’s public schools want to talk about what is best for Iowa’s students, but we can’t get a seat at the table. You see Secretary DeVos, we don’t see the education system as a competition. Instead, we see each student as an opportunity to make the world a better place.
While I’ve got your attention, as someone who understands how this stuff works, can I ask you a favor? My neighbors and I aren’t all that fond of our local public pool. It’s really busy, understaffed, it’s starting to show it’s age a little bit, and they let absolutely anyone swim. We were wondering if you could help us set up a tax credit so that we could build a private pool in our neighborhood. With our private pool we could just make it available to the local kids, it would be cheaper to operate because we wouldn’t have to have safety features like chlorine or lifeguards, and we would definitely keep out any kids who couldn’t swim; those kids can use the public pool right? So, who would we talk to about getting a tax credit for this pool? Is there a cabinet secretary willing to come to Iowa and meet with 5 or 6 of us “Private Pool Advocates” and maybe a few of our lobbyists? Or is that just plain crazy?
Well, thanks for coming to Iowa I guess. Maybe next time I’ll get a chance to say hello.