Thursday, April 19, 2018
Education

Florida and Tampa Bay react to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos

Around Tampa Bay and the state, Tuesday's confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the nation's new education secretary brought quick reaction. A sampling:

"Millions of families share Secretary DeVos's vision for disrupting a failed status quo that has denied too many children access to a quality education. It's time to upend the entrenched special interests that put adults above genuine reforms that will raise student achievement."

Jeb Bush, former governor

• • •

"Politics won out, even though DeVos refused to commit to the basic premise that all schools that receive public funding should be held to the same standards of accountability. False choices will never replace the promise of a well-financed public school system."

Joanne McCall, president, Florida Education Association

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"You've got somebody who has dedicated 30 years of her life to education, and she didn't have to. I'm open to anybody who will shake things up and give kids a chance for an education. … I just think the Department of Education from a national level has lost sight of what their job is. I hope she can bring it back in tune."

Steve Luikart, Pasco County School Board member

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"Personally, I heard from more friends and associates — not educators — but parents and professionals who were very dismayed that someone who had no public school experience, no educational credentials and no expertise in this very complex field would even be suggested for that position. That said, I will certainly do everything possible, as I think other educators and parents will certainly do, to try to help her understand our public schools and the challenges they're in."

Jean Clements, president, Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association

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"We are hopeful that Mrs. DeVos will be a champion for all of America's children, whether they are in public or private schools. We believe that parents should have greater ability to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children while preserving the common good. The future of our country is dependent on the quality of our schools."

Chris Pastura, superintendent for Catholic schools in the Diocese of St. Petersburg

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"She just didn't seem to understand the basic laws governing public education. … It should've been a fight. There should've been more Republicans doing the right thing. … Of all the cabinet nominations this had the biggest public outcry.""

Linda Lerner, Pinellas County School Board member

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"We are disappointed Sen. Marco Rubio ignored the voices of tens of thousands of parents, teachers and students from across Florida that support public schools. We believe a U.S. Secretary of Education should demonstrate a basic understanding of education policy. Betsy DeVos failed this standard in both live and written testimony, yet Senator Rubio voted to confirm her."

Melissa Erickson, founder, Alliance for Public Schools

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"I hope she has taken people's concerns to heart and will understand that there's a sharp learning curve. … "I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say she's going to learn. …I don't think it's the end of the world, but I do think we need to be cautious."

Carol Cook, Pinellas County School Board member

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"I am so deflated that big money won over millions of voices of parents, educators and professionals in this county and throughout this country."

Missy Keller, organizer, Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association

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"She hasn't been quiet about it, she's going to push vouchers. That's her agenda. … It's not a good day for education when someone like Betsy DeVos is secretary for the Department of Education."

Mike Gandolfo, president, Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association

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"We're looking forward to helping Ms. DeVos ensure all children have access to the learning options that best meet their needs, especially children from lower-income families."

Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up For Students.

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"I don't know if she's going to do what's best for public education. I feel that until she proves differently, we have to stand together and be supportive. … I'm more concerned about what the state of Florida's going to do for education."

Eileen Long, Pinellas County School Board member

Compiled by Times Staff Writers Colleen Wright, Marlene Sokol and Jeffrey S. Solochek.

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