NJ Teachers Uncensored on Likely Secretary of Education

John Mooney | January 25, 2017 | Education
Among comments about DeVos as head of federal Department of Education — ‘demoralizing,’ ‘an insult and slap in the face to educators’

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
The fight over Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. education secretary isn’t over just yet, at least not in New Jersey.

With the push of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a half-dozen New Jersey educators — including a former teacher of the year — joined a press call yesterday to decry President Trump’s choice of the Michigan billionaire to lead the federal department.

Given the host, the sentiment wasn’t all that surprising, and Menendez used the occasion to announce he would oppose the nomination.

But as DeVos’ confirmation looks all but certain, unless some ethics or financial issues are discovered, the teachers and administrators also gave a firsthand assessment of how much the choice of U.S. secretary affects local schools and their teachers.

The following are excerpts:

Maryann Woods-Murphy, gifted and talented, and 2010 New Jersey Teacher of the Year, Nutley

“I learned so much about the kind of work that was happening (in schools) all across the country and in New Jersey, and I want my secretary of education to understand that and have deep buy-in.”

“I am picturing my students, Nicholas, Arianna, Noah, and I know they all deserve a secretary of education who can hit the ground running, who will work with us to improve public education. They don’t want someone who needs to learn the basic vocabulary or who’s best answer for our children is to move money away from public education to private options.”

Rich D’Avanzo, 8th grade U.S. history, Burnett Middle School, Union Township

“When you are taking less (federal) money that will be coming to districts, it will mean less choices for students, and who is to say that maybe social studies may be viewed as less a priority. And there will be definitely a cutback on extracurricular activities that has already been taking place over the years.”

“It is a huge concern among all of us, I can easily say, that in Ms. DeVos’ testimony, you can see she has a huge disconnect between her agenda and public education, and really there is no relationship when it comes to the needs of disadvantaged students. It really is an insult and slap in the face to educators.

Louis Moore, superintendent, Red Bank Regional

“We’re in a district where we do rely on federal funding, notably for students with disabilities and others facing challenges. And while we are working hard on our budget development, it is disappointing that the nominee is going into this thinking we can just eliminate federal funding and shift it to private schools. That seems to point to an insensitivity to boards of education who have come to rely on these sources of funds to make the budgets stable.”

“For a number of years, the Common Core has helped us in terms of curriculum development, in working with our colleagues and teachers. While there is certainly room for discussion about the Common Core and certainly things we could do to improve it … there is a much in the Common Core that has a lot of merit and schools have embraced it. To have the secretary of education go in with preconceived ideas that it’s some federal mandate and lowering standards, the word I’d say is it’s “demoralizing.”

Rebecca Schaliack, teacher, Shoemaker Elementary School, Woodstown

“Our children deserve the best, and so we feel we need a leader in the department of education who is an expert in the field, who has studied and researched and dedicated their time and energies into the best practices in education, in child development, in curriculum, in instruction.”