Arizona Education Association critical of DeVos confirmation, charter schools energized

Posted at 8:26 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 22:26:49-05

The confirmation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Tuesday is being celebrated by the charter school community, and it's sparking a lot of concern among the state's largest teacher's association, the Arizona Education Association.

"We're not very happy with the fact that we now have a Secretary of Education who's never worked in a public school, her kids never went to a public school, she never worked in a public school," said Marisol Garcia, the vice president of the Arizona Education Association.

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"It's just a big question mark. What is her intent? Why is she getting this position? You've never even been in a classroom, now you're in charge of every classroom in the United States?" she added.

While many questioned DeVos's qualifications, there were others who felt she was the right woman for the job and would hire people with the right qualifications around her.

The Charter Schools Association was excited about the confirmation of DeVos, as she had a history of supporting school choice, charter schools, private schools, and the voucher program.

Eileen Sigmund, the President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, said the charter school business was booming in Arizona, with many parents supporting school choice. Sigmund said 30% of the state's public schools were now charter schools, responsible for teaching 16% of Arizona's tpublic school population.

Sigmund released a statement saying:

“With the Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, we are sending to Washington a true champion for quality educational options available to every student and family.

“Ms. DeVos is a proven leader who will fight for education reform that works – just as she has done for nearly three decades. That means putting students over special interests, expanding access to high-performing schools, empowering parents and loosening the federal government’s grip on education policy decisions that are better left to local officials.

“The Arizona Charter Schools Association congratulates Betsy DeVos on her confirmation, and looks forward to working with her to ensure every child in this country has access to a quality education.”

Garcia said more than 80% of Arizona still attended public district schools, which can serve as a center for neighborhoods. Many were already struggling with taxpayer money steered toward charter, parochial, and private schools, and this was hurting many families in Arizona, Garcia said.

DeVos has pledged to create "great" public schools in America, but during Senate hearings declined to answer a yes or no question regarding public funds being steered from district schools to support school choice.

Democratic lawmakers have vowed to keep close tabs on every action taken by her office, and hold the department accountable.