John Dillon protests Betsy.


-By John Dillon. John blogs at Pension Vocabulary.

When my brother and I traveled down to the “Say No to Betsy DeVos” protest at the Federal Building in Chicago this afternoon, we wondered whether we’d see anyone dressed in a large Grizzly costume.  In fact, we scoured a few blocks on the way to find a costume shop.  You might recall that when asked whether or not schools should be gun-free zones, DeVos cited the likely need for weapons in some cases; for example, like Wyoming where grizzlies are present.  So, that would be a yes?

Arrived at Jackson and Dearborn at 3:30.

No Grizzlies, but a swelling crowd of around three hundred protestors materialized.  DeVos had received a confirmation vote of 12 – 11 hours before in the Committee hearings, a vote split with a dozen Republican Yays, and eleven Democratic Nays.   The full Senate confirmation may fall along the same lines unless the Democrats hold firm in their opposition and several or more Republicans agree with education as a right, not a privilege.  And an Education Secretary who might perhaps understand existing laws to protect students in an educational or academic environment?

The throng of people at the Federal Building grew and the chanting began – rhythmic and forceful: “Education for the masses. Not just for the upper classes.”

Placards expressed frustration with much more than DeVos.  Some in Arabic opposed the immigration crackdown; others listed the various cabinet choices and one effigy of Trump was carried about as a large puppet.  Note how small the hands are.

Several protestors were arrested for blocking doorways at the Federal Building, and as they came by to be processed, the crowd stood against the windows shouting encouragement.

You might also recall that Betsy DeVos’ resume for Secretary of Education is spotless; that is, missing any real experience in education.  She has no education degree, no teaching experience, nor any experience working in any school environment.  Indeed, none of her children have ever had any connection to public education.  But she does work hard to generate “for-profit” schools, especially in her home state of Michigan, where she has, according to the Washington Post, been a primary force behind the escalation of low-performing charter schools in urban areas.

While DeVos may decry the salaries of teachers working in the public school systems, she is not bothered by the superintendents in her advocated charter systems earning $130,000 annually despite no credentials or educational experience.  And with scores showing less than state averages despite skimming the public systems for best candidates.

“She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.”“DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.

Near the end of the protest, an authentic “Grizzly” showed up: a 98-year-old Great Grandmother who took the microphone and told the story of her father’s arrival to America with a falsified passport in 1905.  She described her own journey and matriculation from college at no cost because it was in New York at a time when the people voted to allow free and public education for everyone.

“What happened to us?’ she asked the crowd.  “My grandson won’t tell me what he owes for his college education, but I got him to nod yes when I guessed $60,000.  That’s crazy!  This is wrong.  How did we become 99.999% without hope? “

“I’ve seen a lot.  I may be old, I may be 98 years old, but I still have enough fight left for this battle too.”

Then, the cheers.

Read the entire post here.

7 Replies to “John Dillon protests Betsy.”

  1. Thanks for your posts, Fred. This sometimes bring me to tears, but they also provoke a lot of hope. Keep up the good work.

  2. $60K in college debt? I’m retired from the public sector and I managed to pay that and more out of my own pocket for my children simply by working hard and saving what I earned. You won’t see tears from me. I would tell her grandson he should have worked his way through college while tightening his belt. That’s how I did it going through school and I’m no worse for the wear. Work and delayed gratification builds character and a more productive member of society.

    1. Some people have opportunity and privilege because of who their family is or knows. Others are less fortunate. I respect the fact that you worked hard and were able to provide for your children. I too was fortunate, and I’m grateful for that. But I know others (many) who were less fortunate.

      Our Pentagon and military industrial complex seem to have an endless budget. Is it asking too much to appropriate enough so that young people can a good start in life with a junior college education? We spend billions (probably more like trillions) on war and preparation for war.

      1. Not at all Jacek. That would be fine with me with the following caveat. If you test positive for drugs or are convicted of a felony the funds stop flowing toward education and welfare. I would even support 4 years of free college if after graduation the welfare option is off the table unless illness or job loss occur. There is plenty of waste throughout government, not just in the pentagon and military, to fund free education.

    2. Dear Anonymous,
      I also am a tier 1 public sector retiree, and I also worked my way through college. That was a long time ago, and the economy was different. Back then you could easily get jobs in private sector unionized industries that paid 3 or 4 times the minimum wage. I had no trouble getting these jobs while in college. Also many of these companies offered tuition refund grants to employees. Also if I had stayed I would have gotten a company paid defined benefit pension and free company paid retiree healthcare and full social security. These were not the Mcjobs/minimum wage type of positions offered today! Many students today face the choice of drop out for lack of funds or take out student loans. It is a bad situation either way.
      I am glad you got by without taking out any student loans. I am glad I don’t have any student loans to pay because on my meager public pension I barely make ends meet, I have to live a semi-impoverished lifestyle. Most of my earned social security from my private sector work has been stolen as a punishment for having a public sector pension.
      I have no simple solution to this problem facing college students today. Many of them have minimum wage jobs but only bring in a fraction of their costs and therefore end up with student loans and debts when they do graduate. After they graduate many still have job offers that pay little or nothing more then minimum wage. They work hard, play by the rules, and they still get screwed on their wages and working conditions everywhere they go.

    3. It’s unfair to presume that one’s financial circumstances can be replicated by everyone else. The state of finances in American families varies widely. Furthermore, the costs of colleges plus the interest rates for student loans have changed dramatically over the years. How much does this all have to do with conservative fiscal policies, wage stagnation, and increasing income inequality?

      The Huffington Post excerpt below about a young lady whose circumstances are similar to my son-in-law who graduated from Notre Dame’s medical school thirteen years ago. He had scholarships, his parents’ help, and help from my wife and me. My daughter’s and son-in-law’s combined income is much better than that of the average college graduate, yet they’re still paying off his college loan debt. Something is terribly wrong when we have a high percentage of young people with such debt. Below is an excerpt from Huffington Post report that further illustrates the student loan debt problem …

      “What is less obvious is Kay’s struggle to pay down $89,000 worth of student debt on her starting salary of $35,000.

      “Between rent, loans and keeping up with everyday expenses, saving for the future is not a realistic priority right now,” Kay said
      Unfortunately, Kay’s is not a unique story. As tuition prices continue to rise at both public and private universities, more than 60 percent of all students take out loans, and the average college graduate has more than $24,000 in debt upon graduation. In fact, 10 percent of borrowers, including Kay, have more than $50,000 in outstanding payments.

      Mountains of student debt combined with a challenging job market leave many graduates focused on immediate financial priorities rather than long-term financial solutions. Without freedom from debt in sight, traditional paths previous generations found after college — saving money, getting married, and having kids — seem like far-off dreams to many graduates. In fact, nearly one in four young people have delayed marriage because of debt, a 2012 report from the Pew Research Center found.”

  3. I am pleased to learn that Senator Donnelly from Indiana will not confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I received an email from him today.
    Senator Donnelly [Indiana] to Oppose Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos
    Thank you for taking the time to contact me about the nomination of Betsy DeVos to become the Secretary of Education. After reviewing her record, qualifications, and Senate committee confirmation hearing, I have decided to oppose her nomination.

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