Thursday, January 20, 2022
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Protestors greet Devos in KC

Education secretary Betsy DeVos spent last week traveling six states and a dozen schools as part of her “rethinking school” tour.

She landed in nearby Kansas to visit Johnson County Community College on Thursday, then traveled to Kansas City Academy on Friday.

Both visits were not open to the public, but protesters faced DeVos at each location.

She planned the tour to bring attention to schools with innovative approaches to learning. DeVos, an unabashed proponent of a voucher program that would divert federal dollars to families of students who would prefer to attend religious or private schools instead of public

schools, has made millions from the charter school industry in her home state of Michigan.

DeVos also champions the Trump administration’s planned 13.5 percent cut to public education nationwide, and is preparing to reform Title IX guidelines. In fact, she may issue interim guidelines to universities across the country as early as next week.

State representative Judy Morgan, a democrat from the 24th district of Missouri, called DeVos an “out of touch billionaire” who is “unqualified” and “inexperienced.”

With more than 15 school districts in Missouri cutting school weeks to four days instead of five, and with $15 million in school transportation cuts coming, Morgan’s frustration is not hard to place.

Protestors gathered outside Kansas City Academy on Friday. (Source: Fox4).
Protestors gathered outside Kansas City Academy on Friday. (Source: Fox4).

The DeVos proposal “would leave students with nowhere to turn,” Morgan said, referring to the Secretary’s education plan.

When asked what more could be done to fight back, Morgan said that democrats in the Missouri State House and education groups like the NEA “really work well together.”

She argued that by “electing more pro-education representatives,” schools and students could be better protected.

Former Columbia, Missouri National Education Association President Susan McClintic said that teachers and schools were the “first line of defense” for students against harmful education reforms. We need to “educate people about what’s going on,” she said.

Coinciding with the “rethinking schools” tour is an open, public comment period regarding proposed changes to Title IX guidelines across the country. Current guidelines date back to a 2011 directive ordered by then president Barack Obama. They detailed standards that schools must follow when handling sexual assault cases on campus.

The guidelines, meant to increase the rights of victims and to help expedite the resolution processes at universities, are about to be rolled back.

UMKC Title IX coordinator Mikah Thompson expressed cautious optimism.

“We definitely want to keep our policies the way they are now,” Thompson said.

Thompson stated that she “hopes our students don’t feel less safe,” because of the rhetoric occurring on the national level.

When pressed for specific concerns about proposed rephrasing of current directives, Thompson said that she is “worried about changes particularly to the standard of proof” requirements.

This refers to the investigation standards of a finding based on the “preponderance of evidence” vs the proposed “clear and convincing” or “beyond a reasonable doubt” criteria.

She says this could make it hard for her office to make determinations on cases.

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