February 7, 2017 – Americans United for Separation of Church and State today expressed disappointment at the Senate’s confirmation of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, a school voucher proponent, as U.S. Secretary of Education.
“The leader of our public education system should be an advocate for improving public schools, not dismantling them,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “We have grave concerns that DeVos will focus on finding ways to bleed public schools dry through vouchers and other so-called ‘school choice’ schemes that divert desperately needed taxpayer funds to private, mostly religious, institutions.”
Americans United vowed to oppose any attempts by DeVos and President Donald Trump’s administration to defund public schools by redirecting taxpayer dollars to private schools that lack accountability and typically perform no better – and sometimes worse – than public schools. AU also is concerned that vouchers will be used at private religious schools that teach religion, such as creationism and anti-LGBTQ curriculum. AU notes that these school don’t provide the same civil rights protections – including those that protect students with disabilities and young women against discrimination – that public schools do.
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Voters have shown their lack of confidence in voucher programs by voting them down in ballot referenda across the country, including in DeVos’ home state of Michigan. And the nature of her confirmation – requiring Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote for the first time in our nation’s history for a cabinet appointee – should send a clear signal that she lacks public support.
“We’re disappointed that more senators didn’t listen to their constituents who have protested DeVos’ nomination for weeks,” Lynn said. “We hope the American people will join us in continuing to loudly voice support for public education and opposition to misguided voucher schemes.”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.