Today, national civil rights leaders urged the Senate HELP Committee to review Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos’ alarming past with respect to civil rights and hold her feet to the fire on critical issues of civil rights that are a central function of the U.S. Department of Education.

A recording of today’s event is available here.

Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said “The most important work the Department of Education will undertake requires a deep commitment to protecting and advancing the civil rights of the nation’s students, a majority of whom are children of color and/or from low-income families. Nothing that we know about DeVos’ advocacy and background leads us to believe she’ll hold fast to the department’s civil rights mission, and everything we do know makes her unfit to lead it. The Senate HELP committee must reject her nomination.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said “Any Secretary of Education must possess a commitment to public education. This includes a demonstrated commitment to advancing equity in education, promoting racial and socioeconomic school diversity, and reducing harsh school disciplinary practices that push children out of school. The Department of Education plays a vital role in ensuring equality in public education through the enforcement of civil rights laws, and the Secretary must be prepared to lead this vital federal agency in ensuring that local school districts provide quality public education on an equal basis to all students. “Ms. DeVos’ record shows no demonstrated commitment to, or experience working to advance these principles of public education. In fact, Ms. DeVos’ commitment to private charter schools, voucher programs and her support of groups that oppose affirmative action, raise serious and important questions about her commitment to public education. Ms. DeVos’ has no experience as a public school teacher or administrator. Neither she nor her children attended public schools. Ms. DeVos has produced no scholarship or other demonstrated engagement with the obligations imposed by federal law on local school districts. Ms. DeVos is ill-suited and unprepared to serve as Secretary for the Department of Education.”

Fatima Goss Graves, Senior Vice President for Program at National Women’s Law Center, said “If Betsy Devos is confirmed as Secretary of Education, it will be a blow to students—especially for girls and young women. She has aggressively lobbied against any oversight of charter schools. And she has financially supported organizations that undermine Title IX, spread false information about abortion and birth control, and preach ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBQT people. With students’ futures on the line, we urge the Senate to reject DeVos’ confirmation.”

Mara Keisling, Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality, said “The Secretary of Education must have the interests of all students in mind, and everything we have seen from Betsy DeVos suggests that she will not. The hundreds of thousands of transgender students around the nation deserve better than a Secretary of Education who has donated huge sums of money to organizations that have called transgender people ‘broken.’”

Susan Henderson, Executive Director of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, said “Ms. DeVos’ well-documented support for publicly funded voucher programs raises serious questions about whether she will defend the civil rights of children with disabilities. Most voucher or school choice programs have one thing in common: a loss of civil rights for children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

The Secretary of Education’s role as the enforcer of education and civil rights laws is central to advancing our shared vision of an inclusive and diverse system of high-quality public education that enables every student to live up to their potential. DeVos has demonstrated no previous commitment to ensuring equal educational opportunity in schools. When compared with Secretaries of Education throughout the history of the department, DeVos’ lack of experience stands out. She has never been an educator or worked directly with children and families in public schools. She has never led a school, district or state agency tasked with educating students. She has never been a public school parent or a public school student. This lack of experience makes her uniquely unfamiliar with the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s students, families, educators and schools.

The Senate HELP Committee must do its constitutional duty to ensure that DeVos is committed to protecting the civil rights of all students.

Press

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Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.

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