Lily Eskelsen García: Betsy DeVos called me. I sent her this letter


Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos called NEA President Lily Eskelsen García the other day. In response, Lily sent a letter, outlining the questions we still have about the commitments we – parents and educators – demand DeVos make to our students.

Read the letter, below, and add your name to demand answers from Betsy DeVos.

Dear Secretary DeVos:

I am writing in response to your voice mail. I’m an elementary teacher from Utah. I’ve taught in middle-class suburbs. I’ve taught homeless children and hard-to-place foster kids in a residential home. I know how important it is for my students to have education leaders who understand their lives and the support they need. As president of the 3-million-member National Education Association, I look for partners to stand with us as we protect the rights of all our students.

We will continue to fight for students, educators, and public schools. We will make sure the voices of educators are heard and that policymakers understand that investing in public schools is an investment in the next generation of teachers, scientists, welders, and even politicians.

It’s important for educators, parents, and communities to know where you stand on some of the most critical work of the federal Department of Education. We must ask you to give us the substantive answers that we did not hear you give to the senators at your hearing on issues critical to our students:

1. Do you agree that all schools receiving public dollars must be held to the same accountability and transparency standards?
2. Will you agree not to privatize funding for Special Education of Title I?
3. Will you stand with educators and protect our most vulnerable students from discrimination, including LGBT students, immigrant students, students of color, girls and English language learners?
4. Will you focus, as educators are focused, on the civil rights of all children, regardless of their ZIP code, by challenging the inequities so many face in equal access to programs, services and support?

For us, there is a wrong answer to these questions. Privatizing and profiting from public education has not moved us toward equity, equal access, non-discrimination, and opportunity for all students. Educators will never waver in our determination to create a system that works for ALL children. Educators, students, and parents deserve to know that the U.S. Secretary of Education will do the same.

We look forward to your response.

Lily Eskelsen García
1989 Utah Teacher of the Year
President, National Education Association

To sign on to this letter, click here:


Carol Burris: There is a reason that Betsy DeVos sings the praises of Andrew Cuomo.


There is a reason that Betsy DeVos sings the praises of Andrew Cuomo.

He talks Betsy’s language. He called public schools “a monopoly” that he wants to “break.” He introduced the “Parental Choice Act,” a voucher program using tax credits.  And when it comes to charter schools, he received millions in donations from their advocates. Cuomo earns those donations by furthering the charter lobby agenda.

And this year, he is doing it again.

Cuomo wants to expand charters in NYC even further by eliminating the charter cap. His budget would give more taxpayer dollars to charter schools for rent.  And he wants to force NYC schools to give even more space in their own school buildings to charter schools.

But that’s not all.  Cuomo’s budget would decrease the current reimbursement to school districts for supplemental charter tuition in 2018-19, and give reimbursement to fewer districts. This would be a $22 million reduction in aid to school districts statewide.

Tell Governor Cuomo to stop privatizing New York public education by sending an email here.

Below is a sample of the per pupil charter tuition rates that some New York districts must pay when a student attends a charter school:

Pawling Central School District: $16,071 per student.

Albany City School District:  $14,572 per student.

Lake Pleasant School District:  $25,831

Hempstead School District: $18,202

Lawrence School District: $ 23,002

Rockville Centre School District:  $23,002

New York City: $14,027

Are you shocked? You should be. And districts pay transportation costs as well.

To see the charter school per pupil tuition rate your district pays from its budget (or would pay if charters expand to your area) go here.

With Betsy DeVos in charge, Cuomo will have a Washington partner. Make it clear to Cuomo that you support public education and oppose school privatization by sending this email today.

Please share this letter by posting this link:

Thank you for all you do,

Carol Burris

Executive Director

Documentary: $ BACKPACK FULL OF CASH $


BACKPACK FULL OF CASH is a new 90-minute documentary, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Matt Damon, that examines the growth of market-based education reforms such as privately-run charter schools, student testing and vouchers—and their impact on America’s most vulnerable children. Watch the new trailer!


BACKPACK FULL OF CASH Official Trailer from Stone Lantern Films on Vimeo.

Narrated by Matt Damon, Backpack Full of Cash explores the growing privatization of public schools and the resulting impact on America’s most vulnerable children. This 90-minute documentary takes viewers through the tumultuous 2013–14 school year, into the world of what is now called education “reform.” In Philadelphia and other big cities, public education – starved of resources – hangs in the balance.

The filmmakers are part of the team that made the award-winning 4-part PBS series, SCHOOL: The Story of Public Education, narrated by Meryl Streep.