Oppose Confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education

Dear Senator,

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the numerous organizations listed below, we urge you to oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. All parents and students in this country – a majority of whom are of color or are low-income[i] – want the best education, support and dignity for their own children. We stand with them and cannot support a nominee who has demonstrated that she seeks to undermine bedrock American principles of equal opportunity, nondiscrimination and public education itself.

The Secretary of Education’s role as an enforcer of education and civil rights laws[ii] is central to advancing our shared vision of an inclusive and diverse system of high-quality public education that enables every student to live up to their potential. DeVos has demonstrated no previous commitment to ensuring equal educational opportunity in schools. Moreover, in her hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on January 17, 2017, she failed to demonstrate that she is capable of and committed to enforcing the law – as is required of the agency’s chief executive.

Betsy DeVos’ deference to state flexibility, even with regard to compliance with federal civil rights laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); her claim that demonstrating support for Title IX enforcement guidance would be “premature;” and her lack of support for accountability for all schools receiving federal funds only serve to reinforce our conclusion that her inadequate previous experience and missing record of support for students’ civil rights make her unfit to serve as Secretary of Education.

When compared with Secretaries of Education throughout the history of the department, DeVos’ lack of experience stands out. She has never been an educator or worked directly with children and families in public schools. She has never led a school, district or state agency tasked with educating students. She has never been a public school parent or a public school student. This lack of experience makes her uniquely unfamiliar with the challenges and opportunities facing the nation’s students, families, educators and schools.

The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for implementing and enforcing laws protecting students from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and disability and those laws that provide for educational opportunity from early childhood through graduate school. The person responsible for leading that department must absolutely be committed to enforcing federal laws on behalf of every single student in this country – without regard to LGBTQI status, family income, race, ethnicity, home language, gender, religion, disability or immigration status. Our nation’s Constitution, economy, future and children deserve no less.




Judith L. Lichtman

National Partnership for

Women & Families

Vice Chairs

Jacqueline Pata

National Congress of American Indians

Thomas A. Saenz

Mexican American Legal

Defense and Educational Fund

Hilary Shelton



Jo Ann Jenkins



Lee A. Saunders

American Federation of State,

County & Municipal Employees


Board of Directors

Helena Berger

     American Association of
     People with Disabilities

Cornell William Brooks


Kristen Clarke

Lawyers’ Committee for
Civil Rights Under Law

Lily Eskelsen García

     National Education Association

Marcia D. Greenberger

National Women’s Law Center

Chad Griffin

     Human Rights Campaign

Wylecia Wiggs Harris

     League of Women Voters of the

     United States

Mary Kay Henry

     Service Employees International Union

Mark Hopkins


Sherrilyn Ifill

NAACP Legal Defense and

Educational Fund, Inc.

Michael B. Keegan

     People for the American Way

Samer E. Khalaf


Anti-Discrimination Committee

Marc Morial

     National Urban League

Mee Moua

     Asian Americans Advancing Justice |


Janet Murguía

     National Council of La Raza

Debra Ness

     National Partnership for

     Women & Families

Terry O’Neill

     National Organization for Women

Rabbi Jonah Pesner

     Religious Action Center

     Of Reform Judaism

Anthony Romero

     American Civil Liberties Union

Shanna Smith

     National Fair Housing Alliance

Richard L. Trumka


Randi Weingarten

     American Federation of Teachers

Dennis Williams

     International Union, UAW

William Yoshino

     Japanese American Citizens League

Policy and Enforcement

Committee Chair

Michael Lieberman
    Anti-Defamation League

President & CEO

Wade J. Henderson

Executive Vice President & COO

[i] See: http://www.southerneducation.org/Our-Strategies/Research-and-Publications/New-Majority-Diverse-Majority-Report-Series/A-New-Majority-2015-Update-Low-Income-Students-Now

[ii] Department of Education Organization Act (Public Law 96-88)

Read the full letter and see the signers.