By: Brian Elliott
It’s no secret that the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the 11th Secretary of Education, serving under the Trump administration, has been controversial. DeVos is a charter school advocate and a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan. Her stance on pro-school-choice has been praised by other advocates of school-choice. However, many supporters of public education feel their voices are not being heard and they are being misrepresented with the appointment of DeVos. Many of those involved in the SUNY system are skeptical about DeVos’ ability to serve as Secretary of Education.
Devin Bonner, President of The College at Brockport Student Government, was raised in a household of teachers. Being a product of public education herself, she believes there is something wrong with DeVos’ view on public education.
“If you are serving the public in education and primarily in public funded education, you should be a product of public education,” Bonner said. “Or if not a product [of public education], a supporter in the interests of people who have public education.”
Bonner, like many others, shares the concern that DeVos will not properly represent and advocate for public education. Bonner explains that nothing will get done through complaining, and if we want change, then we need to take action any chance we can get.
“Call your representatives and just by making those calls, it helps that much more,” Bonner said. “So continue to make those calls and we [BSG] can be a conduit for information, so if a student doesn’t know who their representative is, come into our office and we can help.”
Calling representatives is essential to the process but the problem that many people are coming across is they feel they don’t have a voice. It’s important to remember that the SUNY system has leadership that is fighting for our benefit.
Marc Cohen, President of the State University of New York Student Assembly, would like to meet and work with Secretary DeVos before making any professional opinions about her.
“She does not seem connected to the students of public education,” Cohen said. “But I will not engage in criticism until I have the opportunity to work with the secretary to ensure that student’s voices are heard.”
Being president of SUNY Student Assembly, Cohen acts as the voice for 64 SUNY campuses across the state. He wants to ensure SUNY that he will continue to make the student’s voices heard as he meets with the secretary in the future.
Having a representative in SUNY that advocates for public education isn’t all that needs to be done. Devon Smith, a resident director and graduate student in higher education at Brockport, wants to remind educators that they cannot bend to changes that will not benefit or further public education.
“Higher Education professionals need to be diligent when it comes to changes that may be coming down the line so that we can better support our students if something that greatly hinders their ability to receive a college education is passed through Congress,” Smith said. “We are professionals who are here for the students, and no matter what, we will support them.”
DeVos being confirmed as the Secretary of Education is not the end of public education as long as we stay informed and stay aware. Students, educators, and supporters alike must do their part to make their voices heard and to preserve the well-being of public education for all.