Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "law firm of the Latino community," MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access.
The following statement opposing confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education is issued by MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz.
"Every high schooler knows that you ought not go into any critical exam without studying. Yet, Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's nominee to serve as United States Secretary of Education, went into her Senate Committee hearing without any apparent preparation on the basics of public education and the federal laws covering it. Our public schools deserve more than this arrogance of ignorance.
Ever since the United States Supreme Court infamously decided over four decades ago that education is not a fundamental right under our Constitution, it has been essential that the federal government play a critically important role of oversight and intervention to ensure equal opportunity for all students, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, primary language, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, poverty, or rural or urban residence.
History teaches quite starkly that some states and localities cannot be trusted to ensure equal educational opportunity, particularly for those student sub-groups viewed as politically powerless. We need an Education Secretary who, while respecting local and state autonomy, understands the need to monitor and step in promptly when vulnerable populations face neglect that perpetuates achievement gaps.
Beyond her refusal to educate herself about the federal government's statutorily mandated role, Betsy DeVos has demonstrated an active disinterest in acting as a critical monitor and guarantor of equal educational opportunity in public schools nationwide.
Abrogation of this role raises serious questions about what DeVos would otherwise do as secretary. Here too, the indications – promotion of privatization, abnegation of growing acceptance and safe environment for all students, and the like – are extremely troubling.
MALDEF has no choice but to oppose this Cabinet selection and to urge the United States Senate to reject the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education."