Michigan educators react to DeVos nomination

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DeVos Place hosted the Michigan Music Conference, an annual event bringing together the state’s music educators – many of whom have not rallied behind new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who’s namesake adorns the venue.

The Michigan billionaire was confirmed in the Senate in a 51-50 decision, the win decided by a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

DeVos advocates for school-choice and using vouchers to pay for private schools. But her opponents dislike her lack of education experience.

“You have to be working with the kids day by day to understand what it is we do,” said Farmington High School choir director, Angel Gippert. “Someone who has never done that, who doesn’t have the experience or background should not be in a position to tell us [what to do].”

Other public school teachers, like music teacher Pam Pierson of the Ottawa school district, echoed these sentiments.

“I do not support her nomination,” said Pierson. “I think someone in that position should have some more direct experience.”

DeVos has been a GOP mega-donor for decades. By some estimates, she has donated nearly $200 million to various Republican causes.

One of those initiatives was her 2011 crusade that lifted the cap on the number of charter schools in Michigan. The state is one of the most “charter-friendly” in the country, according to nationwide evaluations of charter school laws.

For Alex and Marie Manoogian charter school principal Dr. Hosep Torossian, charter schools give parents more options for their children.

“It’s the parents who need to decide … we don’t believe that someone’s Zip code should determine the fate or the future of your children,” said Torossian.

And many parents turn to Torossian’s school because of its strong focus on Armenian culture and language education.

“It’s the freedoms that we have in tweaking education as we see fit,” said Torossian.

This flexibility earned Torossian’s school a spot on the 2012 U.S News and World Report’s list of best high schools.

With successes like these, Torossian says that charters are growing in popularity and numbers.

If DeVos commits to fostering charters and private schools, the movement could be here to stay.

“Anyone who understands the concept of charters, is welcomed by charters,” said Torossian.

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