Teachers union on DeVos confirmation: 'A sad day for children'

Teachers union on DeVos confirmation: 'A sad day for children'
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is blasting Tuesday's Senate vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education, saying it is a “sad day for children."

“If she wants to work with the educators who work hard every single day—in districts as diverse as McDowell County, W.Va., Detroit, and Scarsdale, N.Y.—to provide children the opportunities they deserve, we renew our invitation to have her visit America’s public schools and see the strategies that work for kids,” Randi Weingarten said in a statement after the vote.

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“But it’s more likely we’ll now hear the same trashing of public schools that the disrupters, the privatizers and the austerity hawks have used for the last two decades. That makes this a sad day for children.”

The Senate earlier confirmed DeVos to helm the Education Department with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence, a first for a Cabinet nominee.

Weingarten, along with other major teachers unions, has been a vocal opponent of DeVos’s nomination, arguing that she lacks public school experience. She said Tuesday that one bright spot of DeVos’s confirmation is that the public has become more vocal about education and will serve as “a check and balance."

“DeVos’ confirmation battle has a major silver lining: The public in public education has never been more visible or more vocal, and it is not going back in the shadows,” Weingarten said.

“This same public—from rural towns to urban centers, from liberals to conservatives—will now serve as a check and balance, and they will be fierce fighters on behalf of children.”

DeVos has been a lightning rod for criticism since her shaky confirmation hearing last month. The billionaire GOP donor is a longtime supporter of charter schools and school choice, and critics have sought to frame her as an opponent of public education.

Senate Democrats held an all-night talkathon leading up to Tuesday’s final floor vote and hundreds gathered in front of the Capitol Monday night to protest her nomination.

The AFT and another top education union, the National Education Association, also attended the demonstration.

Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiOPINION | GOP healthcare attack is a vendetta against President Obama Conservative group to give GOP healthcare holdouts ‘Freedom Traitors Award’ Source: Senate leaders to offer 0 billion to win over moderates MORE (R-Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan CollinsOPINION | GOP healthcare attack is a vendetta against President Obama Rand Paul opens door to backing healthcare bill on key hurdle The Memo: Trump tries to bend Congress to his will MORE (R-Maine) were the only two Republican senators to vote against DeVos. Democrats were looking for a third Republican to join them in sinking DeVos's nomination, but no other GOP senators defected.