Unprecedented Public Outcry
The NEA reports that DeVos Survives Confirmation Battle But Her Agenda May Not
Hundreds of educators, parents, civil rights activists, and U.S. senators assembled across from the U.S. Capitol on Monday evening to urge “just one more” senator to stand up and cast the deciding ‘no’ vote on Betsy DeVos as U.S. Education Secretary. Coming on the eve of the confirmation vote, the rally was the final exclamation point of a nationwide mobilization against a nominee whom educators consider dangerously unqualified to lead our public schools.
The effort to defeat DeVos went into overdrive last week when GOP Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, due to the overwhelming response from educators, parents and community members in their states, announced they would be breaking ranks with their party and voting against DeVos.
With all 48 Democrats already united against her, DeVos was suddenly hanging by a thread. Only one more GOP vote was needed.
Already deluged with emails and phone calls, senate offices from both parties were hit again over the weekend.
“Your calls and outreach have been amazing,” Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told the rally on Monday evening. “You’ve really freaked out a lot of my GOP colleagues.”
In the end, however, that last ‘no’ vote proved elusive. DeVos was confirmed on Tuesday when Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a vote to break the 50-50 deadlock – the first time in the nation’s history this action was necessary to approve a cabinet nominee.
Despite the disappointing outcome, the mobilization against DeVos shook Capitol Hill and the White House.
“In my years as a public education advocate, I have never witnessed this level of public outcry,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The nomination has touched a raw nerve not only with public education advocates like me but with the general public as well.”
The level of engagement – which ran deep and across party lines – was nothing short of astounding.
Educators, parents and allies sent more than 1 million letters via NEA’s activism site and made 80,000 phone calls in 4 weeks, urging senators to vote no. Opposition swelled nationally, and senators reported that the three days ending last week resulted in the most calls into the Capitol switchboard in history.
“Americans across the nation drove a bipartisan repudiation of the Trump-DeVos agenda for students and public education,” remarked Eskelsen García after the vote on Tuesday. “This marks only the beginning of the resistance.”