Betsy DeVos Was Confirmed in a Rancid Republican Flip Off

DeVos was confirmed. In between feeling completely shafted by the Republican party and despair, friends George Estreich and Jisun Lee offer words of wisdom and hope.
We are so fucked.

DeVos was confirmed.

A woman who has shown an inability to understand basic law surrounding students with disabilities, who has no ties whatsoever to public education, who has done everything in her power to strengthen charter schools, was confirmed this morning as the United States Secretary of Education in a record 51-50 vote. Pence broke the tie.

We are so fucked.

I know I need to get to the positive and see this as a great opportunity for change – see it as the darkness before the dawn – but right here, right now, I am crying.

How in the hell have our country’s leaders simply lost all dignity and care, going slackly off to the highest bidder?

How has partisan loyalty come to transcend common sense? I mean, how could any Republican who supposedly cares about education actually vote for a woman who has absolutely NO experience to LEAD the United States public education system?

And how could the same Republicans, who supposedly care about education, vote yes in the face of the millions of phone calls, emails and pleas, begging them to choose another in DeVos’ stead?

How can people really think that because DeVos is reportedly not taking a salary believe that she is really going to protect the nation’s most vulnerable students – that is, the very poor and students with disabilities?

Not taking a salary simply means that she makes her money in other ways. It’s like saying that NonProfits don’t make money – which is wrong; NonProfits can and do make money – “NonProfit” simply means that the money they make needs to go back into the organization (which can take the form of a salary increase).

How are we going to do this??

How are we going to get through the next 4 years? My God, I’m tired already. How on earth are we going to be able to watch every single thing DeVos is going to lay down, and protest or keep IDEA in place?

That answer, I think, lies in an update that George Estreich gave on Facebook –

[from George Estreich]

(1) Our calls made a difference. Moving two Republican senators is unprecedented; so is getting Pence to cast the tiebreaking vote. And DeVos has been put on notice.

(2) We need to remember the senators that failed to stand up, especially those who claim to support students with disabilities. We need to let them know how disappointed we are. One possibility is to make a donation to an opponent of theirs and let them know about it. Another possibility is to call them out on their decisions in person, at town hall meetings and the like.

Those who supported DeVos would like nothing more than for people to forget and move on. I don’t think they should have that luxury.

(3) We need to remember that the NDSS supported DeVos, contrary to the interests of students with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

(4) We need to be very careful when we read stories about students with disabilities, particularly when individual stories are used to buttress a reality that doesn’t work for everyone. I fully expect to see success stories of students at Special Kids Charter School X. That doesn’t mean that charter schools are a viable solution for students with disabilities.

We all love stories: reading them, telling them. I do too. But we need to ask what vision of society is served by the story.

(5) We need to articulate a positive vision: we need strong public schools that work for *all* students, because schools are both a model of the society we are building and the place where students learn to become citizens in that society. I have said this until blue in the face, but there is no Special World after high school. The more inclusion, the better.

(6) Just as the phrase “access” is a weasel word in healthcare–that is, having “access” to healthcare is fundamentally different from actually *having* healthcare–so we need to be alert to the weasel words in education policy.

DeVos’ statements, after her disastrous confirmation hearing, were rife with weasel words and weaselly logic. It means absolutely nothing to be “sensitive” to the needs of students with disabilities, or to be “interested” in full funding of IDEA. Those of us who’ve been to IEPs understand that at the end of the day, you either get the inclusive placement or you don’t, you either get the speech therapy or you don’t, and so on. Our focus should be on what actually happens: is IDEA funded; are schools accountable; are charter and private schools fully open to students with disabilities; do said students keep their rights and protections, or not. This is all binary. Don’t let the weasel words blur the binary.

Boom. My heart felt better with that. Ideas. Hope. Vision. Stories.

My friend Jisun responded to George with a lovely piece –

“Thank you for this, every point you made resonated with me. I think you touched on a very important thing here regarding our stories. We need to help people read stories that use disability critically, including being critical ourselves. Because the fact is, a story is being crafted for our kids whether we like it or not, so we must be vigilant in considering what stories we support, what stories we tell ourselves, and how we place our stories in the disability canon, if you will.”

Personally speaking, I think that is where I have to go with this – follow George’s wise advice, Jisun’s too. Stay vigilant, positive, active, hopeful. Know that I make a difference, even if I don’t always see or feel it.

But for today… today I’m going to grieve.

PS.

Just in from my friend Kelly:

...and don't forget to take care of yourself and your grief

Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
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@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
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