Rallying to Protect Public Education


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Interview by Erin Okuno 

Last Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at a gala dinner in Bellevue for the Washington Policy Center, a free-market think tank based in Washington. As the fundraiser was underway, about 1,500 people protested in an action organized by the Equity in Education Coalition and partners.

Sarah Lorimer, a South Seattle public school educator, attended the rally with her family and shared the following responses about why they showed up.

South Seattle Emerald: Why did you go to the rally against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos?

Sarah Lorimer: My family and I attended the DeVos rally because public education is crucial to the future of our country. I was there because my children’s education is important, and my students’ educations are important. I was there because we have to stand up to the Trump administration, which puts lining the pockets of the rich above the greater good. I was there because we cannot let lies and threats determine our country’s future. I didn’t go for Betsy’s sake; she doesn’t care what the American people think. I went to add to the numbers of people pushing back, because in numbers we can get news coverage and not let Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration monopolize the news with their lies and diversionary tactics.

Protesters at Friday’s rally. [Photo: Sarah Lorimer]
Emerald: As a public school educator teaching in a South Seattle school, what do DeVos’ positions mean to you?

Lorimer: DeVos knows nothing about education. She is not an educator. She doesn’t even have experience as a public school student or parent. She doesn’t care about our students’ successes or their futures. Her positions threaten our students’ safety and the funding of our schools. She threatens to divert our already insufficient funds toward for-profit businesses and private schools, entities that do not, and are not legally-required, to serve all students who wish to attend.

Only our public schools serve all students. Our students in South Seattle are particularly vulnerable to cuts in federal funding for public education through programs like Title 1, which provides additional funding support for schools serving high numbers of students from families with low incomes. Her intent is to destroy our public school system with no regard for the lives that will be damaged in the process.

Emerald: What was the experience of being at the rally like? Anything surprising?

Lorimer: As one might expect of a rally of educators, parents, and children, it was very peaceful. Speakers shared their stories of success as public school students and their experience as public educators. The crowd cheered in strong support of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and in continuing to protect our undocumented students and families.

Throughout it all, we were surrounded by police peeking down from surrounding rooftops and blocking the street with a large Seattle police bus. It wasn’t clear whether the presence was protective or a warning. Maybe it was a little of both, but it never felt threatening. The rally ended as peacefully as it began, and protesters filtered back out into Downtown Bellevue.

Emerald: Any final thoughts?

Lorimer: As long as our public schools are under attack, all of us need to do what we can to make our voices heard. We need to protect the future of public education. We need to fight for our country’s future.

Sarah Lorimer is a South Seattle special education teacher. She lives in South Seattle with her family.

Featured image by Sarah Lorimer 


One thought on “Rallying to Protect Public Education”

  1. That’s lovely. Where were all these people when Obama’s Secretary of Education and also a supporter of public school privatization Arne Duncan was in town? How are these folks defending public education by only fighting HALF a battle?

    “For the past seven years, Duncan has made the Obama White House the national headquarters for the movement promoting what critics refer to as “corporate school reform”: a neoliberal agenda of austerity, privatization and union busting via charter schools, merit pay and tying teacher evaluations and school closures to standardized testing.”