Central New York, Community, Education, Politics, Spring 2017

Betsy DeVos’ Confirmation Hits Home for Syracuse Public Schools

By Nicole Hansen SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – It’s projected, according to The Huffington Post, that by 2021, 90.9% of America children will be educated in a public school. For this reason, many people have found President Donald Trump’s pick of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education troubling, as she explained in her hearing that neither she nor any of her children had ever attended a public school.

Megan Root, President of the Syracuse Teacher’s Association, explained that DeVos’ confirmation not only affected her on a professional level, but also on a personal one.

“My two daughters go to Corcoran High School in the Syracuse City School District,” said Root. “They’ve been in public school since kindergarten…although they won’t be directly affected, one won’t, she’s graduating this year. My junior will be, you know, my district will feel a little bit of a hit.”

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Donald Trump’s pick for the Secretary of Education just last week, but before that even happened, many people were concerned about how her policies would affect public schools in the United States.

Maya Angelou's quote is pressed on the wall in one of Syracuse Teacher's Association's conference rooms. (c) 2017 Nicole Hansen

Maya Angelou’s quote is pressed on the wall in one of Syracuse Teacher’s Association’s conference rooms. (c) 2017 Nicole Hansen

 

As someone who works closely with teachers in a large public school district, the Syracuse City School District (SCSD), Root said this is a problem that has been a real concern of hers.

“It’s obviously very discouraging that someone is Secretary of Education who is anti-public schools,” she said. “Knowing her history and knowing the damage that she’s done in other states…and to have to watch that and to think about how that’s going to impact my own students and my children and me as an educator…it made me angry.”

Root reiterated that public schools like the Syracuse City School District provide more than just what children learn in the classroom.

“We have reading specialists, we have A.I.S. teachers, we have social workers in the building,” Root said. “We have some schools that are community schools that provide health services, law services for families who may be going through the legal system.

“We have so many supports in place for not just the students, but for their families that charter schools don’t provide, catholic schools don’t provide. They serve their own populations…but they can’t serve the population that we do. They just don’t have the resources for it.”

Keri Rothman, a senior Inclusive Elementary and Special Education major, said she’s concerned about DeVos’ confirmation as a student going into teaching within the next couple months.

“I’ve been in a lot of different field placements and seen a lot of different types of schools, and it’s interesting listening to her talk about very basic policies and federal laws, like, I learned about freshman year of college,” Rothman said. “And she just doesn’t have any clue.”

Even though if may affect her future career, Rothman said that this confirmation hasn’t changed how she plans to pursue her career moving forward.

“Because of the way I’ve been educated and the way I view teaching, I’m going to provide for all my students regardless of the label that they have,” she said. “So it doesn’t affect me, but I can see other teachers being frustrated by it, and parents being really frustrated by it because they feel like their students aren’t getting all the services that they need and deserve.”

Since DeVos was only confirmed last Tuesday, no big decisions have been made yet in regards to public schools. However, that hasn’t stopped Root from traveling around the state to advocate and raise awareness for these issues.

“We go to New York City for a statewide representative assembly, which is where union leaders get together and make sure…we’re voting on the right resolutions to keep that state and local control where it needs to be, and to advocate for public schools,” Root said.