YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Tuesday, Youngstown State students, faculty, and community members rallied to send Senator Rob Portman a message about President Trump’s nominee for education secretary.
Betsy DeVos has become one of Trump’s most controversial cabinet picks.
A Senate committee voted 12 to 11 in favor of the Republican donor and school choice advocate earlier today, and now the vote is off to the full hearing.
The GOP majority has defended DeVos as a reformer who wants to shrink the federal imprint on education and create opportunities for disadvantaged children. Democrats, however, have opposed her, saying she’s unqualified and favors policies that undermine public schools.
The group at YSU argued the billionaire from Michigan will not help the country’s education system and want Portman to vote “no.”
Hasheen Wilson led the rally.
“We need someone who’s heading our country that believes in public education. You would think they would be a product of public education or at least have some dealings with public education,” he said.
Former Campbell City School teacher Mary Janek told the crowd she thinks DeVos would eliminate public school altogether.
“The worst case scenario would be that public schools would be closed and everyone would have to pay out-of-pocket to attend public school, to attend elementary school, to attend high school,” she said.
YSU student Marissa Gray fears DeVos in power would take away what Title 9 has provided victims of sexual assault.
“We now have mental health support available for students. Rape kits have become free of charge, which allows convictions and ultimately lowers the instances of sexual assault.”
Wilson is encouraging people who oppose the education secretary nominee to write Portman or post on the senator’s Facebook page, telling him to vote “no” in the upcoming hearing.
Portman, who meets with boards of education regularly, said many of the boards expressed concern about DeVos.
“Some of them supported her but most of them were very concerned about her.”
Portman said he’s still deciding what he’s going to do with his vote.
“I think she is committed to, particularly underprivileged kids, get a better education. I think she’s put a lot of time, and effort, and money against that. I want to be sure she’s supportive of our public schools and our public charters, and she’s indicated she is.”
There is no word yet on when the official vote will be. Portman guessed it might come next week.