Central Conference of American Rabbis Opposes Confirmation of Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education
Sunday, February 5, 2017
When the Talmud teaches that “Jerusalem was destroyed because school children were kept from their classrooms,” it conveys eternal truth: Education is essential to the welfare, indeed the survival, of any society. In America, Jewish immigrants often made their first steps toward success and integration in the public school classroom. None should be surprised, then, that the Central Conference of American Rabbis adopted a resolution in 1998 entitled, “Making Public Education a National Priority.”
That 1998 resolution begins with the reminder that “the Reform Jewish movement has developed very strong policy supporting the maintenance and enhancement of the public schools and opposing any schemes to divert resources from them. We have consistent policy opposing government funding of sectarian educational institutions.” Recognizing the diminishing resources directed toward public education, the resolution called for enhanced support and innovation in public schools. The CCAR also supported, and continues to support, “choice within the public schools, provided that it does not create an undue financial burden on the parents, unequal spending of government resources, nor a further segregated society.”
The CCAR further resolved to “cautiously support the charter school movement and other forms of creative education as alternative options within the public schools, provided that all such programs: (1) are established for a specific educational objective; (2) are subject to proper administrative and curricular oversight and regular auditing of their results; (3) are available to all students at no cost to the individual family; (4) are non-sectarian; (5) are not-for-profit; (6) adhere to the same standards and guidelines in civil rights and religious liberties as do other public schools.”
We reaffirm our commitment to public education and our 1998 resolution today. With those principles as our guide, the Central Conference of American Rabbis approaches President Donald J. Trump’s nomination of Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos to become U.S. Secretary of Education.
Ms. DeVos’s experience in education is focused solely on school choice, almost entirely of the type that the CCAR resolved not to support in 1998. In 2000, Ms. DeVos advocated for a ballot measure that would create a private school voucher through the Michigan constitution. She founded, and until recently led, the American Federation for Children – a non-profit that also has an associated Political Action Committee(PAC) – which promotes vouchers that would enable parents to take their children and funding away from public schools into private schools, including sectarian schools. Ms. DeVos has declared specifically Christian goals for her approach to diverting funding from public to private education.
Ms. DeVos has also donated significant funds to organizations that oppose LGBTQ rights. Since the Secretary of Education is charged with enforcing non-discrimination laws, LGBTQ advocates, including the CCAR, are concerned. Schools must be on the forefront of creating welcoming, inclusive environments that assure all students equal access to education and equal opportunity for advancement.
Therefore, the Central Conference of American Rabbis opposes the confirmation of Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, and urges the Senate to reject her nomination.
Rabbi Denise L. Eger Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis