Dear Senator Chuck Grassley,
You have been an Iowa senator since before I was born in Black Hawk County, and you have always been a household name. My family has discussed you over dinner. I’ve beamed when hearing you mentioned on Sean Hannity while working in the barn. I’ve even written papers about you in school -- one of which hypothesized that you might run for president someday!
As such, I've followed your career with interest -- and, often, pride -- but this is only the second time I’ve reached out to you. I’m actually in the middle of a jungle in Thailand right now, but Tuesday’s vote regarding Betsy Devos is important enough that I’ve put a pause on my holiday to share my thoughts with you -- in easily-digestible, "listicle" form.
Without further ado, here are:
7 Reasons Why Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley Should NOT Vote to Confirm DeVos
1. Betsy Devos is the least qualified nominee for education secretary in history.
Senator Grassley, you have a decently strong background in education, as evidenced by some of your work as chair of the Senate Fiance Committee. In fact, I would go so far as to say that you are far qualified for the education secretary position than DeVos.
But I digress.
The point is, you understand and care about education. I do, too. That’s why I’m certain we can agree that whoever secures this confirmation should at least be familiar with basic education terminology.
Betsy DeVos has demonstrated that she is not.
2. Betsy Devos has never attended a public school in her life.
Many Republicans are ashamed of our current president. But others are happy with the election outcome, because they -- your constituents -- are tired of out-of-touch elitism.
Yet here we are, considering whether we should put someone who has never attended a public school in her whole life… in charge of our public schools. The message you would send by voting for her is, “Who needs experience and hard work, when you have an ‘elite’ education and a rich family?”
I’ll be honest: personally, I have no problem with the fact that she’s never attended a public school, per se. There’s a difference between expertise and “lived experience” (aka, anecdotal evidence).
But DeVos is a candidate who has neither.
3. You don’t need her money.
When the current president ran for office, he promised to “drain the swamp.” Yet today, we are on the brink of confirming the least-qualified education secretary in history. Devos recently said it is "possible" that her family has donated over $200 million to the GOP (that kind of money, apparently, is a non-issue for her).
Especially troubling is the fact that she has directly donated to several Republican senators who will be voting this week.
Concerned by the idea of an oligarchy "owning" our senators, a schoolteacher from Philadelphia recently launched a GoFundMe called Buy Pat Toomey's Vote. Her goal was to raise more than $60,000 for the senator -- because that is how much DeVos donated to him. In increments of $5-$50, voters put their money where their hearts were. In just one week, the campaign has raised $70,721.
Senator Grassley, you win all your elections by landslides. You’ve been our senator for decades. You don’t need her money. You have already earned our respect and trust -- please don't disappoint us now!
4. I strongly support school vouchers - but since I’m not ignorant, I understand that they will not solve today’s education problems.
I do have one thing in common with Betsy: I’ve never been to a public school. I attended Immanuel Lutheran School in Waterloo, before attending a private boarding school. After that, I attended Stanford, where I earned my BA and MA in Psychology. While there, I spent six months conducting research in a preschool, and three months working in a disadvantaged middle school.
In the course of my education, I've extensively studied our nation’s education problems -- from standardized testing to incarceration to an alarming increase in mental illness. I’ve learned that technology has changed the classroom -- for better, and for worse.
But in the course of attending two expensive, private institutions of learning, I’ve also realized the importance of school vouchers -- especially for the middle class, who often fail to qualify for financial aid, even though tuition is not affordable to them.
Moreover, having worked with students from religious and charter school backgrounds, I’ve seen how vouchers enable innovation and experimentation in the classroom.
But… school vouchers aren’t the answer. They are one tiny part of it.
This is obvious... just not to Betsy DeVos. To her, school vouchers are the be-all, end-all.
Your voters deserve an education secretary who is more innovative, experienced, and insightful than that.
5. The grizzly bear thing.
Should we have guns in school? That’s a complicated question. On the one hand, perhaps teachers and police officers with proper training could use one to stop unspeakable tragedies. On the other, perhaps the guns could fall into the wrong hands. Perhaps they create an uncomfortable environment for students of certain backgrounds.
I can’t speculate on that.
What I can say is that Betsy’s “grizzly bear” argument was embarrassingly stupid.
While I appreciate her willingness to consider school policy on a local or state level, as that is tremendously important, Wapiti School, the school she claimed kept guns in case of grizzlies… doesn’t. They use fences and bear spray.
If she didn’t care enough to fact check her arguments before making them in front of our nation… do you think she cares (or knows) enough to run our nation’s public schools?
Betsy DeVos deals in “alternative facts.” But Iowans want truth.
6. We can do so much better.
Our education system has its problems. But we also have some of the best colleges, universities and researchers in the world. America is nothing, if not a hub of discovery, inquiry and innovation.
We have a wealth of experts who have devoted their careers to education.
Why can’t we confirm one of them?
7. I know you know better.
Senator Grassley, you've been in politics a long time. I know you can tell horse manure when you see it.
Which means the only reason you could possibly vote for this horrifically unqualified woman is because you're showing loyalty to the politicians you work with, rather than your friends, neighbors, and loyal constituents.
Yes, we both agree that school vouchers are great, school choice is great, and state- and local control is great. But there are other people who feel that way -- people who are seasoned experts at this. People who have taught, who have studied or worked in education.
Please -- instead of following the more junior Republicans like an Iowa sheep, be a leader. Leverage your conscience, your intelligence, and your seniority to confirm a suitable candidate.
Education is a really big deal.
Thank you for reading this letter. I hope you will seriously consider my words, as well as those of the thousands upon thousands of Iowans who have been calling, emailing, and writing to express their concerns.
Now go make us proud!
Agree with me? Feel free to "sign" this letter in the comments!