Downtown Holland hosts Betsy DeVos protest as Grand Rapids Public Schools show support
Before the senate education committee voted 12-11 in favor of Betsy DeVos as the next Education Secretary, protestors in her hometown of Holland took to the streets this weekend—however, in Grand Rapids, the public school system’s superintendent is voicing her support. As hundreds of demonstrators wrapped around Centennial Park many carried signs that questioned DeVos’ qualifications, and what kind of affect she would have on public schools. Many said they were educators.
“I’m a retired school teacher of 30 years," protestor Jack Prince said. "You have to understand; Betsy DeVos is an advocate for the privatization of the public school system, there is not a bigger enemy to public schools, than Betsy DeVos,” he said.
Grand Rapids Education Association president Mary Bouwense said that most educators in the area share those sentiments.
“I don’t know how much of a differing opinion you’re going to get, I think that anyone in the education world is extremely disappointed, and concerned for the future of public education,” Bouwense said. “Grand Rapids being a larger district, being more strapped for cash, having a lot of special needs students, all of those things would be concerning for Grand Rapids public schools.”
However, Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal disagrees.
“I expressed my support for Betsy because I know her, I have a relationship with her, I've seen how she and her family want what’s best for children and education, and I know what they have done for me and my district,” Neal said in a written statement. Neal also said that DeVos has also been a major contributor to the school district’s Transformation Plan.
“I know our Superintendent thought she was a good pick, but which concerned me too, but then I figured that was just all about money," Bouwense said. "I mean as educators go, you know we have seen a lot of stuff happen here, and what really stuns me a lot is that, we know it all because we are here in West Michigan, it’s the rest of the country that isn’t quite as familiar with what has happened here, you all need to pay attention,” she said.
A full Senate vote expected in the coming weeks.