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On Long Island, Serious Concern About Public Schools Under DeVos

Carolyn Kaster
Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in January at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Over the weekend parents, teachers and school administrators gathered at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Port Jefferson, Long Island, to discuss the uncertain future of public education and how to harness the growing influence of the “opt-out” movement.

But the shadow of President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos to lead the U.S. Department of Education hung over the forum. DeVos is a billionaire charter school advocate whom critics say lacks any experience in the public school system.

Dr. Michael Hynes, superintendent of the Patchogue-Medford School District, said public school supporters need to be proactive about protecting public education.

“They don’t realize that if Betsy DeVos, or someone like her, is appointed as the next U.S. secretary of education, that a privatization movement will take place taking over public schools.”

Beth Dimino, president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association and an 8th grade science teacher, said, “This discussion today is about how do we make sure that not only opt-out but the rest of the discussion, where does it go from here? What else can we do? Because Ms. DeVos is not going to be the answer to this problem.”

Dr. Hynes fears that Trump might cut federal funding from districts based on their opt-out rates.

More than 24 New York State School Districts have publicly expressed their opposition to DeVos. More than half are from Long Island.

A Senate Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on DeVos' nomination.