WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called teachers “bullies” at a right-wing think tank conference.
“Betsy is taking a page out of the president’s playbook by calling people names when things aren’t going well. It’s so disappointing that, once again, she has betrayed her responsibilities as secretary of education to foster safe and welcoming environments for students and to resist the divisiveness and polarization enabled by her boss.
“We’ve tried over and over to educate Betsy about the importance of public schools, but it’s clear she doesn’t want to hear it. At the start of her term, I took her to Van Wert, Ohio, to tour a public school, but afterward, despite her promises, she never followed up. Then, we went to the Department of Education to deliver report cards with feedback from 80,000 educators, but she locked us out.
“DeVos has a right as a private citizen to air her views, but as secretary of education, she has an obligation to all young people, including the 90 percent who go to public schools. Instead of listening and learning, she is abdicating her responsibility. Only a billionaire would fail to grasp that teachers want what kids need—and it’s through the vehicle of a union that teachers have the power to fight for them. Meanwhile, millions of borrowers drowning in student loan debt have been abandoned as Betsy sides with servicers rather than the people she’s sworn to represent. When you put privatizers over public schools, and lenders over students, we’re going to call you out.
“And at a time when school bullying is increasing, aided and abetted by Trump spewing hate on Twitter, labeling teachers “bullies” is a new low. Unlike the secretary, teachers are in classrooms every day caring for kids, while Betsy has gone out of her way to make their lives harder by trying to cut programs, silence their voices and siphon resources into private hands.
“Today, in my faith tradition, it is the beginning of the new year, and we reflect on how we can do better next year. I would suggest that rather than name-calling, DeVos does the same.”