Dear Senators,

Dear Senators,

Maybe you'll read this. Maybe you won't. But I need to say this anyway.

As someone who's been raised by two public school educators and spent the majority of my adult career in public education - I'm disturbed about the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education.

Please, let me be clear - I don't think Mrs. DeVos is an evil woman. I commend her for thinking she'd be a good fit. But it's crystal-clear that she has no business being the leader of our education system. And the mark of a good leader is knowing when to step aside and make way for those who have the proper qualifications to do the work.

To the senators who voted for her, know that you all just failed us.

Us being future generations. Us being public school educators. Us being the American people.

You. Failed. Us.

On my way home from work last night, I spoke to a former student. He graduated two years ago. He needed life advice. He needed some work. He needed to talk. So I did just that - I spoke to him. I listened to him. I continued to teach him.

See, teaching doesn't stop when you leave a classroom. And teachers don't stop caring about their kids, their students, once they graduate.

When I saw Mrs. DeVos speak at her confirmation hearing, so many moments crossed my mind.

I thought of this past November, how one of my favorite human beings on this planet, who also happened to be one of my father's favorite students was killed. This student, Rick, well, his mother called my father when she heard of the news. Let that sink in for a moment. My father was one of the first people she called when her son died. Ricky was 42 when he passed away. My father had him as a student when he was 11 - see, great teaching withstands decades.

Every year my Mom does a project with her AP Spanish class that requires students to write Valentine's to one another. Always the progressive teacher, she wanted to know if it was still a worthwhile project to do, and so she inquired about it on Facebook. A former student of hers, now a teacher himself said - OF COURSE. And subsequently showed her the Valentine from HIS class that he kept from when he participated in the project over ten years ago.

My parents are exemplary teachers. They have devoted their lives to public education - and this nomination and confirmation is an insult to them, and public educators everywhere.

As Betsy DeVos made her way into the headlines, memories of my former students stood at the forefront of my mind.

I've seen students battle addiction. Broken families. Absent parents. I've seen students become parents themselves. I've been fortunate to know their children. 

I've seen students crumble before my very eyes about coming out to their parents, fearful that they will no longer have the love of their families if they're honest about who they are.

I've taught classes where my principal didn't have enough money to get me a class set of novels, so I created my own class set with my own money, so that my students could read literature that resonated with them.

Just this week I worked with a student who's struggling to complete her high school diploma, as she's pregnant with her third child. I had another student break down in front of me because his parents are going through a divorce, and he's taken on the responsibility of raising his younger sisters. Another student expressed dismay at the fact his parents won't acknowledge the fact that he's trans.

He said, it sucks going home, because they don't acknowledge me. But here, at school, I feel happy.

See, Mrs. DeVos, while I admire your desire to reach out to parents, I'm dismayed at how you overlook our teachers.

Are there bad teachers? Sure.

Just like there are bad CEOs and soldiers and police officers and doctors and lawyers and accountants and artists and businessmen and laborers, and...well, you get my drift.

There are bad people in every profession. But that's not what this is about.

This is about the lack of support for good educators. This is about the smug dismissal about the thousands of good men and women who devote their lives to other people's children, and having a hand in shaping the youth of our country - and thinking that school vouchers and charter schools are going to be a fix. 

They're not a fix. They're a way to sweep those whom you don't deem worth your time into the darkest corners of your closet.

Why is it so easy for all of you to overlook them?

It's mind boggling.

It's insulting.

And it's the nail in the coffin in which you're trying to bury public education in.

You want an education system that produces the best and brightest minds in the world? 

Great. Me too.

I'm right there with you.

But to do that, you have to invest and respect in public schools and their educators.

Confirming Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is not the way to do it.

This is not a partisan issue.

It's a people issue.

For when we invest in our schools and in our teachers, we're investing in a better future for us all.


Megan Minutillo