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San Diego Schools Superintendent To DeVos: Put Fact Before Ideology

Vice President Mike Pence, right, swears in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Vice President Mike Pence, right, swears in Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, left, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017.

Local educators say they will be watching what comes out of D.C. following the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

San Diego educators say they are watching what comes out of Washington, D.C. following the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary Tuesday afternoon.

Her confirmation was pushed through by Vice President Mike Pence’s historic tie-breaking vote. DeVos was criticized for having no experience in the public school system and for her support of school vouchers, which would give students public dollars to attend private schools.

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten said Tuesday she hopes DeVos will acknowledge public education success stories, like her district’s 92 percent graduation rate.

“I think it's important that the new Secretary of Education is able to pay attention to strategies and research-based practices that work before sweeping policy changes would be made,” Marten said.

She said she is especially concerned about funding for special education and programs for low-income students.

"We would have great concern if there would be significant and vast, quick changes in federal policy, especially funding and programming, if the decisions were made on ideology rather than fact," Marten said.

She said the district is keeping an eye out for quick changes that might affect the budget process already in progress but didn't have any predictions. Marten said one thing that would not change under new leadership is what's happening in classrooms as a result of the Common Core standards. Several states, including California, opted into the new framework under the Obama administration.

"For us Common Core has been about critical thinking, and we've always believed that we needed to shift instructional practices in the classroom for students with or without Common Core," Marten said. "With or without the federal government saying it's there or not there, we have shifted how we teach. Whether the policy changes or not, we have already shifted."

The California Federation of Teachers issued the following statement Tuesday:

Despite an unprecedented surge of opposition and protest, the United States Senate voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as the nation’s 11th Secretary of Education on Tuesday. The California Federation of Teachers is extremely disappointed in the confirmation of this unqualified candidate to lead our nation’s education system.

Teachers, classified workers, students, parents and policy makers from both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly opposed the confirmation of Betsy DeVos. Her lack of skills, knowledge and direct experience with public education is deeply unsettling and bodes poorly for our students. As Ms. DeVos’ substantial political donations to the very Senators who voted for her are part of the public record, her advancement signals the dangerous role money is playing in policy development. California’s six million K-12 public school students and three million public college and university students deserve better.

That Mike Pence became the first Vice President called upon to cast a tie-breaking vote on a cabinet nominee speaks to DeVos’s lack of broad support. It is unfortunate that someone so openly anti-public education is running public education. The California Federation of Teachers will continue to stand with students, their families, and the broader public to fight for quality public education and against the disastrous policies of the Trump administration.

KPBS reached out to the Diocese of San Diego, which operates private schools that could benefit from a voucher program under DeVos. Its director of schools is at a conference and is unavailable.


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