In a speech during the National Education Association’s (NEA) annual meeting in Boston over the weekend, Lily Eskelsen García—the organization’s president—delivered a searing rebuke to President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who she accused of pushing a “profoundly disturbing” agenda that could have devastating effects on children.
Addressing 7,500 educators, García declared that the NEA, the nation’s largest labor union, will not cooperate with the White House. She also implicitly criticized union leaders who have been persuaded by Trump’s seemingly pro-worker, pro-union rhetoric.
“I will not allow the National Education Association to be used by Donald Trump or Betsy DeVos,” García said.
She continued: “I do not trust their motives. I do not believe their alternative facts. I see no reason to assume they will do what is best for our students and their families. There will be no photo-op. We will not find common ground with an administration that is cruel and callous to our children and their families. And I don’t just judge them by their words; I judge them by their actions.”
García went on to denounce DeVos for making a “career trying to destroy neighborhood public schools, the very cornerstone of what’s made our nation so strong.”
“We stand between a profiteer and his profits,” García said. “They’re going to hit us with everything they’ve got because we are a threat to them. They will try to take away your freedom to organize. They will try to take away your freedom to negotiate with a collective voice. They will try to silence us because when we win, the entire community wins.”
“I do not trust their motives. I do not believe their alternative facts. I see no reason to assume they will do what is best for our students and their families.”
García’s speech was delivered on the heels of several moves by DeVos and the Trump administration that have deeply alarmed teachers and civil rights groups.
According to an internal Education Department memo, DeVos is aiming to significantly roll back efforts to enforce Obama-era civil rights provisions aimed at preventing systemic discrimination in public schools.
The department has indicated it will similarly scale back investigations into discrimination against transgender students.
As Common Dreams has reported, the education budget released by the Trump administration would inflict “manifestly cruel” cuts to public schools.
Science teachers have recently raised concern about DeVos’s commitment to science, specifically climate change.
In the face of these developments, García concluded, teachers must be prepared to fight back to rescue public schools from DeVos’s right-wing agenda.
“This is not a drill. We will be fearless. We will hold strong,” García said. “We will focus on growing even stronger—defending our students, our families, and our communities.”
Jake Johnson is a staff writer at Commondreams.org.