Oregonians rally in opposition to Trump pick for Education
More than 300 people rallied in downtown Portland on Friday to protest the nomination of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.
President Donald Trump nominated DeVos, an advocate of charter schools and home schools. She underwent one hearing before the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 17, and Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has said there won't be a second day of testimony. The committee is expected to approve her nomination and send her name to the full Senate.
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That possibility drew the ire of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, along with U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, who addressed the crowd on Friday outside the 1 World Trade Center building in downtown Portland.
Merkley said DeVos' nomination likely came about because she contributed an estimated $200 million to the Republican party, not because of any experience working in education. "Our public schools aren't the place for pay-to-play politics," Merkley told the crowd.
He also upbraided her for apparently not understanding many issues related to public education, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA.
"She had no idea what IDEA is," he said.
Bonamici attended the rally partly because she sits on the House Education and Workforce Committee, but also because, as a high school student, she attended school in DeVos' home state of Michigan. Bonamici said DeVos led the fight to cut funds for public schools, and to fund private schools and charter schools in that state.
"She decimated education in Michigan," Bonamici told the crowd.
Among those on hand to speak was Kali Thorne-Ladd, who sits on the Portland Community College Board of Directors. "Few issues are more important to the trajectory of a person's life than education," Thorne Ladd said. "We need a leader to work with us to improve the public education system, not to decimate it."
Heidi Dodge, a teacher from Portland, came downtown for the rally because she wants to support the lawmakers in their opposition to DeVos.
"We're teachers," she said of her friends. "We support public education. We think (DeVos) is unqualified for this position."
Linda Sneed of Wilsonville is a retired elementary school nurse. She and her husband showed up to support public schools. "We need someone who understands the system," Sneed said. "If the goal is to improve public education, then yes, I agree. But I don't want to see an opponent of public education leading (the Education Department)."