KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Kary Mack’s 4th grade teacher had such a tremendous impact on her that she inspired her to go into education. Years later, she did. Now, she's hoping to have that same impact on her own middle school students today.
Mack believes in the power of public education, she said, and has seen its benefits. That’s why she’s wearing red.
“I’m wearing red for public education,” said Mack during an interview at the Michigan Education Association office. “I wanted to take a stand and show my support for public education.”
Mack, 32, is not the only one. Public school teachers and educators throughout the state of Michigan are wearing red in solidarity for their profession and more so against Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. Mack, like her peers, said DeVos is unfit for the job. She’s never attended public school, hadn't worked in one and did not send her own children to one.
“An interesting thought crossed my mind yesterday which is I am more qualified to be secretary of education than she is,” said Mack who teaches Spanish at Hillside Middle School. “It never would cross my mind to apply for the position of secretary of education because I’m not qualified to hold that position. But I’ve actually taught.”
She’s been doing it for seven years in both public and private schools. She and other teachers believe DeVos, if elected, will continue to drain schools of its resources.
“She is dedicated to smashing the public school system in this state,” said Christine Anderson, a UniServ director with MEA. “Her stated goal is to destroy public education in the state of Michigan. It’s not a secret.”
Anderson, 59, said she fears DeVos — a billionaire born in Holland — will monetize Michigan’s public schools by turning it into a voucher system, paid for by taxpayers. She's been a longtime supporter of private and religious schools.
“We are putting a price tag on the education of the children of this state,” said Anderson. “It does not serve them well.”
Under a voucher "school choice" system, parents have the option of pulling their kids out of public and neighborhood schools and sending them to academically-challenging institutions. Mack said this system creates segregation amongst all schools.
“School of Choice and vouchers are awesome when you have the ability to take your kids where they need to go,” said Mack. “But what happens with the leftovers. We don’t have that luxury. And I don’t even want to call it a luxury. Every one of our children matters.”
Teachers, educators and administrators said this fight is far from over. They will continue to combat DeVos' education plans as long as she's in office.
“As public educators, we’re doing everything that we can,” said Mack. “If wearing red is all that we can do today, then that’s what we’re going to do. But we’re going to fight for our kids no matter what happens.”