“Tell Sen. Gardner Dump DeVos” was the name of the rally and a few hundred parents and educators turned out, Feb. 4, to demonstrate their displeasure with President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos. The group gathered on the street below the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner, who likely has the power to derail the nomination of the billionaire lobbyist and longtime Republican Party donor.
“DeVos has never been a teacher, school administrator or school board member. She’s never attended public schools, her children have never attended public schools, and she has no appreciation of their mission of providing opportunity to every student,” said Kathleen La Cost, an elementary school teacher who travelled from Lamar to speak at the event.
La Cost, a registered Republican, shared her concerns about DeVos’ record to privatize public education through school voucher schemes, which funnel taxpayer dollars away from public neighborhood schools to private schools and for-profit charter school companies.
“The truth is, the voucher schemes supported by DeVos would rob a public school, like mine in Lamar, of vital funding and resources,” said La Cost. “Her ideas would deny my students the opportunities they deserve. I don’t know about your district, but out in Lamar, every dollar makes a difference. We can’t afford to have Betsy DeVos in Washington.”
Hundreds more Coloradans took part in similar rallies this morning at Gardner’s offices in Fort Collins and his hometown of Yuma. Public education supporters here believe their Colorado senator could have the tiebreaking vote to keep DeVos out of Washington after two fellow Senate Republicans declared their intention to vote against her.
Cherry Creek parent Keith Camhi sent a message for Gardner to “do the right thing” in his remarks at the rally. “Should you choose to vote yes and be the tiebreaking vote to get this incompetent, ideologically-extreme person to be our secretary of education, then you will own, as part of your political legacy, every incompetent thing she does, every school-destroying thing she does, and the damage that she does to every child’s education in this great state. But there’s no reason to think you have to do that. There’s no reason that you have to be that loyal to Donald Trump.”
** See video of Camhi’s message to Gardner on CEA’s YouTube channel **
The event emcee was Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association. She made a point to ask the supporters if they were indeed Colorado voters concerned about public education, and not paid political operatives flown in from outside the state. The crowd cheered as Coloradans, knowing Sen. Gardner in recent days has complained that he was mainly getting harassed about DeVos from outside special interests. CEA organized today’s rally with American Federation of Teachers – Colorado.
“Betsy DeVos is not the person to lead us,” declared State Sen. Andy Kerr, a teacher in Jeffco Public Schools and parent of public school children. Kerr shared a letter he sent to the U.S. Senate HELP committee chair and ranking member opposing DeVos on behalf of more than 400 state legislators from all 50 states, concluding DeVos “to be unfit” to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education.
Kerr also noted that Gardner and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the two Republicans now voting against DeVos, received roughly the same amount of political campaign contributions, nearly $50,000, from the DeVos family. “She is still voting No. Senator Cory Gardner, please do the right thing. Come back to Colorado, listen to your constituents and join me in dumping DeVos.”
Gardner was at a fundraising event in Florida today. The final Senate confirmation vote on DeVos is expected to happen Feb. 5 or 6.