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February 07, 2017

Constituent tells Toomey: Listen, follow our lead, and reject DeVos

Dear Mr. Brandt and Staff,

As a constituent of Pat Toomey, I recognize that the senator believes that voting for Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education is a good idea. This may be because of her financial influence (which she has extended to Pennsylvania Republican campaigns in general and Pat Toomey himself, in particular), her impact in conservative circles, or her association with the Trump White House, which may be potentially beneficial to your office.

Regardless of the senator's justifications, I am certain that the decision to support such a spectacularly unqualified candidate, so disinterested in the lived experience of public school students, parents, and communities and so dismissive of the self-sacrificing professional educators who fight to help students in a system that is already critically underfunded and abused, is in fact a horrible mistake.

The types of "reforms" that DeVos proposes are nothing more than quick-fix schemes that have been proven to deepen racial and socioeconomic divides...

Please understand that I am a life-long Pennsylvanian, a proud graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, and an experienced, credentialed educator who has worked in middle and high schools – both public charter and private – who cares deeply about education. I am proud to say that I served for five years in a school doing good work in one of the most drug- and crime-ridden neighborhoods in one of the hungriest districts in our state and, in fact, our country. I cannot stress enough to you the importance of a quality public education for ALL of our citizens. It is the cornerstone of a truly healthy, functional democracy.

You are right to believe that the system is broken. That is crystal clear to anyone who has spent time trying to navigate that system to ensure that every student has all that they need not only to survive in this country but to thrive. However, the types of "reforms" that DeVos proposes (without thorough, unbiased examination of the real data on this subject) are nothing more than quick-fix schemes that have been proven to deepen the racial and socioeconomic divides that have caused this systemic breakdown in the first place. Though her smiling "reforms" may sound reasonable on the surface, they are variations on the same themes that have caused the soul-crushing "achievement gap" against which passionate educators and their brilliant students fight every single day.

In all honesty, I don't care what led you to think that DeVos might be a good Secretary of Education because those weak justifications are obliterated by the truth of the matter. DeVos wants to dismantle what is essentially the heart of our democracy. She can hold up a few scattered success stories and speak to people's general desire to want more control in the education of their children, but she cannot obscure, to the Americans who understand it best, the devastation that these willfully uninformed policies can and will cause to our nation.

I ask you to dig deep within yourself and recognize that this is not about party allegiance or public relations. This is about an actual and unprecedented threat to the core our democratic system. Talk to the students, the parents, the teachers, the community members impacted by this nomination. Listen to the average Americans asserting their Constitutional rights outside your offices.

You represent US.

Listen and follow our lead.

With hope that you will find your moral strength soon,


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Alexandra Greco is a writer and educator in Philadelphia. She emailed the letter republished here to Daniel P. Brandt III, legislative director to Toomey, at the senator's office in Washington, D.C.