More than 60 educators from across Colorado protested Wednesday’s appearance by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in Colorado Springs, particularly piqued by her support of voucher programs, charter schools and proposed cuts to federal education funding.
DeVos was to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of Parents Challenge, a local nonprofit that provides scholarships, similar to education vouchers, for more than 200 low-income children annually to attend a school of their choice.
At the invitation-only event at James Irwin Charter Academy’s high school, in Harrison School District 2, DeVos was scheduled to deliver remarks and participate in a panel discussion on “Why Choice Matters.”
"We have a state-wide all-call of people who really wanted to demonstrably and vocally share their disdain and their displeasure with Secretary DeVos's agenda, " said Phyllis Robinette, a second grade teacher in the Lewis-Palmer school district. "For too long, she's cutting our funding and as we know, Colorado (has some) of the lowest funded school's and we can't take anymore."
Colorado ranked in the lower third among the states in public-school spending per pupil last year. It was ranked No. 39 nationally among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2016, with per-pupil spending in public elementary and high schools averaging $9,575. The national per-pupil spending average at the time was $11,762.
Protesters donned in red shirts to symbolize "Red for Ed" spoke of their frustration Wednesday, specifically toward DeVos's proposal to cut $7.1 billion from the 2020 federal education budget.
"Our Colorado students deserve better," Robinette said. "Her actual agenda really goes at our neediest kids who really need that funding."
DeVos promotes school choice and assistance for students to attend charter or private schools, which teachers unions say hurts traditional schools.
"I'm really concerned at what she's doing to public education," Robinette stated. "Taking that money and putting it into charters and vouchers is not the way to solve education at all."
Randi McCallian, a candidate for Colorado State Senate District 10, stood among public school educators and parents Wednesday morning in opposition of DeVos's political platform.
"Public education, and education in general, is a really big issue for children," said McCallian. "All children deserve the opportunity to reach for the stars, to reach their greatest potential. Education, access to equal and good education, is important to that."
Here's a look at some of the protesters:
Here's previous coverage of the event: