WASHINGTON—Oklahoma City public high school teacher and American Federation of Teachers member Melissa Smith testified at Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination hearing today, urging lawmakers to closely examine Kavanaugh’s record on public education and unions.
Smith, a social studies teacher from U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, was part of the walkouts earlier this year. She spoke on behalf of fellow educators, union members and her students, saying, “I am honored to be able to show [my] students exactly what it means to use your voice and participate in government at the highest level.”
As part of her testimony, Smith detailed the crisis of public school underfunding in Oklahoma, and warned lawmakers that Kavanaugh’s record on supporting school vouchers—despite limited evidence that voucher programs result in measurable improvement in student outcomes—poses a serious threat to making high-quality public school a reality for every child, regardless of skin color, geography or income.
“Despite the incredible need for resources in a public school like mine, Judge Kavanaugh has, for over 20 years, taken public positions questioning the foundation of public education and supporting private school voucher programs that use public school funding with little oversight and accountability. Siphoning more funding away from public education will destroy our public schools,” Smith said.
She also called attention to Kavanaugh’s record of siding with corporations over working people, and his likelihood to stand in the way of commonsense gun reforms that would protect students, teachers and other staff from the epidemic of gun violence in schools.
AFT President Randi Weingarten also spoke out against Kavanaugh’s nomination, saying:
“Judge Kavanaugh has a right as a person to hold any opinions he wishes, but he does not have that right as a judge interpreting the Constitution.
“The limited writings that have been released suggest that he refuses to acknowledge the idea of equal educational opportunity, which has been woven into the fabric of our nation since Brown v. Board and Plyler v. Doe. He wants to unravel the presumption that every child is entitled to an equal education no matter his or her ZIP code, in favor of maintaining a world of winners and losers where success is left to chance. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would put his thumb on the scale to siphon money away from public education into private hands, while attacking workers’ rights, women’s rights and affordable healthcare.
“Moreover, the administration’s shameful refusal to release critical background documents just isn’t how democracy works. We don’t nominate people for a lifetime appointment with a fraction of their record available. This is a shameful moment in our history, when a nominee to the Supreme Court repeatedly dodges questions about his stance on critical precedents by paying lip service to ‘settled law.’ What are he and Senate Republicans hiding?
“It’s not surprising that more Americans oppose his nomination than any other nominee in history. Melissa Smith’s testimony reflects the views of working people around the country: that Judge Kavanaugh does not belong on the United States Supreme Court. A nominee should be fair, independent and committed to protecting rights, freedoms and legal safeguards, not a craven political operative committed to stripping them away. Kavanaugh fails that most basic of tests at the very first hurdle.”