December 12, 2016
Dear Mr. Salisbury,
Thank you for contacting me about President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. I appreciate you taking the time to express your views. Your input is, and will always be, welcomed and appreciated.
As a product of Michigan public schools, the son of a high school teacher, and a father of three children who have attended Michigan public schools, I know firsthand the importance of a strong education system. I believe early childhood, quality K-12, and affordable higher education must be accessible and affordable for all students. Investments in every level of education must provide students with the skills they need to compete and succeed in the 21st century global environment.
Michigan has been devoted to great public education for generations—a commitment that stretches back to even before the founding of our state. Some of our earliest pioneers settled under the guidance of the Northwest Ordinance, which states “schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” We have strived to live up to this creed ever since, not only for our young children but also our young adults. The University of Michigan became one of the first public universities in the nation, and Michigan State University became one of the first land-grant universities. Our numerous public preschool programs, K-12 schools, community colleges, colleges, and universities have kept America on the cutting edge of innovation throughout history. We must take every step we can to preserve access to these critical educational institutions.
I am committed to protecting learning opportunities for all students. I voted for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and was signed into law in December 2015. During the consideration of this bill, I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to successfully defeat an amendment that sought to shift funding for low-income students away from public schools to private schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act will ensure that our public school educators have access to the resources they need to serve all children, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and youth from low-income communities. It is important to me that the next Secretary of Education supports our public school system and upholds these values.
One of the most important responsibilities of the U.S. Senate is to review and confirm the President’s Cabinet nominations. A nominee for Secretary of Education should have strong qualifications, sound character, relevant experience, and a deep commitment to improving public education in the United States.
In 2000, Ms. DeVos championed a failed Michigan ballot proposal that would have amended our state’s constitution to create a voucher system for students to attend nonpublic schools. She most recently served as Chairman of the American Federation for Children, an organization with the primary mission of advocating for directing public funds to private and charter school systems.
I am deeply troubled by privately-owned or privately-run schools using taxpayer dollars intended for public schools, especially because federal provisions that hold schools accountable and help prevent discrimination against certain groups of students do not apply to these types of private programs. Because of Ms. DeVos’ history in Michigan working for policies that would hurt public schools, I cannot support her nomination. I believe she has the wrong approach to improving our nation’s schools and helping all American children succeed.
Thank you again for contacting me. I always enjoy hearing from you and hope that you take the time to contact me again soon. For more information, please feel free to visit my website, http://www.peters.senate.gov.
Gary C. Peters
United States Senator