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NEA to DeVos: Address Our Concerns or Resign

Boston

By Stephen Sawchuk

The nation's largest teachers union demanded July 4 that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos either address its concerns or resign. 

The nearly 3 million-member union wants answers to the questions posed by NEA President Lily Eskelsen García to DeVos in a February letter—including whether the education secretary will hold all schools receiving public funds to the same accountability and transparency standards and whether she will push to privatize special education or Title I dollars for needy students.

If DeVos doesn't answer the union by September 1, it will call for her resignation, according to the motion, passed at the union's annual convention here.

DeVos' spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Though DeVos hasn't formally responded to the February letter, the answers to some of those questions are already evident. The administration's budget request proposed a $250 million program to fund and study vouchers, and $1 billion boost to Title I that would fund public school choice programs. 

The motion came two days after a speech from Eskelsen García saying she would not allow the NEA to be "used" by the administration. 

But the item did not pass unanimously.

Delegates supporting the item linked it to resistance to the Trump administration. 

"I would say fire her, fire her, fire her, fire her, stand up, turn your back on her, get rid of her. I want nothing to do with her," said Kevin Michles, a California delegate. "As far as I'm concerned, this is the number one article I've seen that fights against Donald Trump in this assembly." 

But a fellow delegate from California wondered whether the tactic could backfire. 

"Demanding her resignation would either be used as a propaganda tool of the right to keep her locked in place, or be used to replace her with someone with equally bad ideas, but with the actual competence to see those ideas moved forward," he said. 

In 2014, NEA demanded the resignation of Arne Duncan, then the education secretary and a Democrat, after much frustration with his administration's push for evaluating teachers using test scores.

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