Students, Teachers Gather Outside Senator Schumer’s Office to Protest Education Rights

Miranda Levingston, Deputy News Editor

Elementary school children waved signs proclaiming “Public School Students Are Watching” and “Reject DeVos, Reject Hate” from the windows of Senator Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) office.

A diverse group of approximately 300 parents, elementary-aged students, teachers and other concerned bystanders attended the event organized by Public School Watchdogs — a parent education organization based in New York. The event was launched on Facebook five days ago, with over 700 people showing interest in attending.

The event was organized in response to Schumer’s recent statements opposing Betsy DeVos’ possible appointment as secretary of education. Schumer disagrees with DeVos’s plans to privatize education, enforce daily prayer in school and her refusal to divest from her companies. Schumer has also voiced his concerns on his Twitter account.

Protesters called for Schumer to act on his previous intentions to block DeVos’s appointment. Chants of “Teachers; not billionaires,” “Betsy DeVos is not the boss” and “Withhold consent — 100%” echoed around the midtown block. The event’s organizers also asked protesters to thank Senators Gillibrand and Schumer for their promised votes against DeVos.

Tisch freshman Meagen Tajalle said that she was particularly alarmed by DeVos’s plan to privatize education, because she personally benefits from federal financial aid, federal grants and federal work-study. She said that DeVos’s policies could financially limit college students’ opportunities.

“I’m worried by the thought of someone like DeVos to be confirmed, because of the way that I benefit from federal funding and higher education,” said Tajalle. “I hope someone more qualified for the department is confirmed — someone who doesn’t have ulterior motives like she does, as a millionaire.”

Annie Lederman, a comedian on “Chelsea Lately” and on MTV’s “Girl Code,” said that at the moment, DeVos’s policies primarily affect children in grades K-12, but because today’s children will become tomorrow’s leaders, these policies will eventually affect everyone.

“This affects our children; this is the future of this country, and there’s nothing more to it than that,” Lederman said. “This is not what Schumer says he stands for, and so it’s time to spine up.  I hope that Schumer votes ‘No.”

Public school teacher Emily Gadd said that teachers need to keep their eyes on elected officials and advocate for their students.

“As teachers, we know more than most about public education,” Gadd said. “We have politicians, like DeVos, who are trying to make decisions based on profit and not on what’s best for student learning.”

Email Miranda Levingston at [email protected].