East Lansing School Board Denounces Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education

Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 8:52 am
Karessa Wheeler

East Lansing Board of Education has passed a resolution urging all U.S. senators to vote ‘no’ on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education as proposed by President Trump.

The motion, proposed by Karen Hoene and seconded by Erin Graham, mentioned DeVos’s lack of experience with public schools, and her history of support of non-public charter schools. They also mentioned her “troubling history of financially supporting organizations whose actions are detrimental to LGBTQ students.”

The full document can be found here

“I know this is a non-traditional thing for a school board to do but these are unusual times. It is a time when school board trustees need to speak out. I feel particularly strong about this,” said Hoene.

Hillary Henderson expressed concern that this would set a precedent of passing resolutions against individuals and suggested writing a letter from the Board instead. The Board agreed it could both pass the resolution and draft a letter outlining what the Board expected from a federal education secretary.

Yasmina Bouraoui agreed that this resolution was not against all proposed secretaries just DeVos who “is very threatening to many of our values,” she said.

The resolution passed with six votes in agreement. Trustee Kate Powers abstained from voting citing her work with organizations in the Grand Rapids area, including the DeVos’s business Amway.

Board President Nell Kuhnmuench urged Hoene and Graham to write and circulate the letter before the Jan. 31 vote on DeVos’s confirmation.

The Board also discussed the upcoming bond election. The Board will meet on Feb. 6 to adopt the language that will go on the May 2 ballot. The bond is proposed to rebuild six elementary schools and renovate Red Cedar Elementary. The Board is asking that for a 1.795 mill increase that will bring the overall millage to 7 mills.

Holding the bond election will cost the District $37,000 said finance director Rich Pugh. If the bond passes, the cost of the election will be included in the millage increase. If it fails, the District’s general fund will have to cover the cost.

In other action, the Board also:

  • Heard Xzavier Odom, ELHS Senior, read his award-winning essay from the Greater Lansing Area Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission’s Annual Luncheon. This award is worth a $5,000 scholarship.
  • Accepted an AP Honor Roll award for the district from Jason Feig of the College Board.
  • Recognized the Females in STEM Club who engaged Gov. Rick Snyder in August to advocate for more computer science in the State. They were mentioned in the governor’s recent State of the State Address.
  • Recognized MacDonald Middle School students who performed at the All-State Band and Orchestra in Grand Rapids, including Malina Oliver, Aidan Menzies, John Ahlin, Nina Largey, Elisabeth Baumann and Eliza Lane.
  • Recognized the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize to Farah Stockman in commentary for The Boston Globe. Farah is an ELHS alumna.


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