American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called out Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, saying she lied about the teachers’ unions losing members in the wake of the Janus v. AFSCME decision.
Weingarten said that while DeVos is secretly cheerleading the Janus decision and is anti-union, they actually added new members.
“The reality is the AFT has added 100,000 members from February 2018 to February 2019, and we’ve tallied 14 organizing wins since June,” stated Weingarten. “We are close to 1.7 million members again and have added a quarter of a million members in the last decade.”
Weingarten said that the Supreme Court decision ignited a “which side are you on?” moment for teachers instead of the reverse.
“The real reason DeVos is attacking us is because her antipathy toward public schools, public school children and the Special Olympics has been on front street this week,” said Weingarten. “Her disastrous testimony before Congress showed just how far she would go to privatize the schools that 91 percent of kids attend. Betsy isn’t concerned about fixing mold and crumbling classrooms because it gets in the way of her political project to syphon public money into private hands. And she wants to silence people like us who champion the aspirations of working families for a better life.”
Last month, DeVos unveiled a $64 billion proposed budget for the Department of Education that would take away $17.6 million in federal funds earmarked for the Special Olympics.
After the outcry, DeVos said she supports the Special Olympics, but it isn’t a federal program. She said it’s a private organization and she wants to divert funding to other priorities. She blamed the media for misinterpreting her.
“It is unacceptable, shameful and counterproductive that the media and some members of Congress have spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts,” said DeVos in a statement.
For the third year in a row, DeVos proposed ending a loan forgiveness program for public service workers and eliminating subsidized loans for low-income students. As part of President Donald Trump’s budget, she also proposed a 12 percent decrease in funding for the education department along with other cuts to student aid. According to documents submitted by the White House this week, it would “save” the government more than $200 billion over the next decade.
Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program that DeVos wants to cut, student debt is forgiven after eligible workers make 10 years of on-time payments. It’s designed to get people with student loans to go into lower-paying public service professions like social work, teaching and public defending.
The backlash from this is why Weingarten believes that DeVos has directed her attention to teachers’ unions.
“When asked about funding school infrastructure to fix crumbling buildings, clean up mold and replace lead pipes so that kids don’t get poisoned or develop respiratory illnesses, she said she’d rather spend that money on charters and vouchers,” stated Weingarten. “DeVos’ entire term as education secretary has been about putting her thumb on the scale against public schools and public education. The wave of walkouts over the past year shows educators and the American people won’t stand for it—and are mobilizing in the millions to defend the kids and communities she desperately wants to undermine.”