After serving in the Navy, a San Diego veteran borrowed $50,000 from the federal government to attend a for-profit college that promised to deliver him a good, well-paying job, U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week.
But all he has now is $50,000 in student debt. “Should there be recourse for students like him who were enrolled under false pretenses?” Davis asked.
Advocates for students, including NEA leaders, say yes. But that Navy vet isn’t likely to find much support in the DeVos-led Department of Education, which has given the for-profit college industry “everything they’ve lobbied for and more,” Pauline Abernathy, executive vice president of The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), an advocate for stronger regulation, told Politico last month.
Reduced loan forgiveness for students who were defrauded by their for-profit colleges, like Yvette Colon, who told Time that she borrowed $35,000 to get a certificate in cardiovascular sonography from Stanford-Brown Institute, only to find out that the for-profit college lacked the accreditation for her to take the licensing exam or transfer her credits to a community college. Stanford-Brown has since been shut down. “This school has totally messed up my life,” Colon told Time. “I can’t do anything. I can’t continue my education. I can’t continue to go forward in my career.”
Hobbled the DOE office charged with investigating for-profit college abuses. The office, which was created in 2016 and included more than a dozen investigators, has been reduced to three people, the New York Times reports. This means several investigations into the nation’s largest for-profits have been abandoned, the Times reported. At the same time, the new investigations supervisor is Julian Schmoke, former dean at the for-profit DeVry University. “Secretary DeVos has has filled the department with for-profit college hacks who only care about making sham schools rich and shutting down investigations into fraud,” U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told the Times…
“It was a great feeling watching the returns come in!” said Jonas Knotts, a high school teacher and president of the Webster County Education Association, an affiliate of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA). “People and educators are really starting to see the power that they possess. We have a voting bloc that, if we turn out to the polls, can outvote anybody. Teachers are realizing this. It’s something that fills us with a very empowering feeling.”
Early this spring, WVEA members kicked off what NEA President Lily Eskelsen García has called an “education spring” with a statewide, nine-day strike that brought red-shirted educators from every one of the state’s 55 counties to the state Capitol.
Their massive show of solidarity, which ended with significant pay raises for all public workers, including teachers and education support professionals, and the establishment of a state task force to address public-worker health insurance, inspired educators across the nation and has been followed by statewide educator walkouts in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky, and huge Capitol demonstrations in Colorado and North Carolina.
Now, WVEA members are modeling what happens next: They’re taking their energy and passion for public education to the ballot box. In this May’s primary races, WVEA endorsed 115 pro-public school candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and the state’s House of Delegates and Senate. Of those, 99 candidates—or nearly 90 percent—won. One state lawmaker who had called union members “free riders” was shown the door.
This is exactly what public-school educators across the nation have promised to do in the mid-term elections this November. With this latest show of union strength, WVEA members have shown how it can be done—and how good it feels.
“This election was a huge vindication for the power of the movement because, of course, the opposition was saying ‘they’re going to forget, they’re going to stay home,’” said Knotts. “But we know it’s only one victory in a long war. We have to keep up those conversations, we have to keep people engaged, we have to show them how we’re working to improve everybody’s status—from teachers to support personnel to students to communities…”
Three words describe Carol Stubbs’ experience at the recent NEA National Leadership Summit: “Energetic, exciting, and inspiring,” said the school custodian from Fayetteville, N.C., who serves as her local association president. “It makes me want to go home and do even more!”
More than 2,000 educators, ranging from future teachers to college professors, from school counselors to custodians, attended the three-day summit in Chicago from March 16-19. “You’re not here so we can make a leader out of you,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García told the crowd. “There’s not anybody in this room who has not already demonstrated leadership.”
Summit attendees came to work on further developing the essential skills of union leaders, including advocacy, communication, and organizing skills. (Check out the six core competencies of NEA leadership development.) “What I’m learning is that my voice does matter, and I need to use it. I can’t sit back,” said California school counselor Erika Zamora. “Also, there is power in us doing this work together!”
The annual summit is the largest annual meeting of NEA educators, apart from the legislative NEA Representative Assembly, and it is an opportunity to “learn and to grow and to strengthen, and to gain a renewed sense of purpose and passion and perspective on how to lead more powerful and relevant associations,” NEA Vice President Becky Pringle told attendees. Powerful unions of educators are a necessity these days for public-school students to get what they need to succeed, she said…