Many Americans are deeply disappointed today. Despite phone calls, letters, emails, town hall meetings, and social media blasts, Betsy DeVos was confirmed by an tie-break vote in the Senate. It seems a disgrace in itself that it is was a tie--there could be no more sign of the controversy than a tie.
What do we, the ones in favor of a strong public school system and education in general do now?
First, go make a few jokes to relieve the tension. Perhaps you can say that you are now a brain surgeon because qualifications and education doesn't matter anymore. Make some Delores Umbridge memes. Talk about grizzlies. Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying. Then it is time to get to work.
Look and see how your Representatives and Senators voted. If they voted in favor of DeVos, see if DeVos had contributed to them. Remember how we called their offices in an attempt to influence their vote? Call them again--or email or write or Tweet--and let them know that you hold them accountable. Make sure to say your memory of their vote will be on your mind when he or she comes up for re-election--even if it is 5+ years until that election. If your Senator or Representative voted against DeVos, write a note of encouragement thanking him or her. It is important to let our elected officials know that they represent the people.
Also write or email DeVos. Let her know that she is accountable (her favorite word) for our public schools. She isn't going to care--she is looking for a return on her investment (in the campaign contributions she has spent), but it might be good to have an outlet for anger you feel.
Next, get involved with your own local school board. Attend meetings, run for open positions, at least read about what has went on in a meeting. Your local school board affects you most. If you are paying the property taxes, they are using your monies. Learn the history of your county's school board (Wake County put out a great video just yesterday about the consolidation of Wake County and City Schools for instance).
Listen to the stories and research about why public schools matter. "This American Life" has some great episodes about where public schools are working and how they work best. Keep your ears open. If you see or hear research, learn about who financed it to see which way it will skew. Learn who lobbies for public schools and who lobbies against them.
Most of all, if you are in any way involved in a public school, support the teachers. Many are discouraged by today's vote and want to give up because the vote has been a kick in the face. It goes against everything they know and love. So get involved in advocating for our public school teachers. Join the PTA if you have a student in a public school. Volunteer in a public school and get to know the teachers and the incredible, life-changing work they do every day. If your child attends a public school, send in notes of encouragement to the teachers. Send in supplies. Send flowers and chocolate and giftcards to the local coffee shop. Never stop support of them in your discouragement. We know that any one of them is better qualified than DeVos, but they can feel your support through your voice. Use it.
Above all, don't lose hope. Millions are in the public school system and millions have been successful because of public schools. That track record is verifiable. Keep your eyes on truth and let your voice be heard.