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Should Georgia teacher groups fight the Betsy DeVos nomination?

A GOP activist and Oconee County teacher is protesting a push by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators to torpedo the approval of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

In his letter, Kirk Shook, secretary of the Georgia Republican Party, tells the PAGE Executive Committee that it is becoming a tool of the Democratic Party.

PAGE has urged its members to oppose DeVos, asking, "please contact Senator Isakson's office and politely request that he block DeVos' confirmation and that he assist in the search for a more qualified Secretary of Education with a track record of supporting public schools. If you are a special education teacher, you might mention that fact, as well. Please remember to be courteous and professional in your communication, and be sure to mention that you are a Georgia resident."

Shook has written for the blog before, writing in March that he believed test scores have a role in teacher evaluations. He has been a social studies teacher in Oconee County for 10 years and has served at the Georgia Department of Education on the Social Studies Resource Committee and the Georgia Performance Standards Revision Team for Economics. He was a Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year finalist for 2016.

Here is the letter he sent to PAGE:

As I have mentioned in a previous email a few years ago to you, I am very concerned about the direction of this group using our membership dollars for political activities. The very reason teachers join PAGE over GAE is to prevent their membership dollars from supporting political causes they don't agree with.

GAE has long been a shill of the Democrat Party and you are becoming the same. As a Georgia public school teacher, I almost daily I receive emails that are promoting the Democrat talking points under the guise of improving education in the state. While this might be understandable since Republicans control the Georgia legislature and thus education policy, one would assume that you would also have been as critical of the Obama Administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan--two who have added more bureaucratic red tape to education than any administration in history with the likes of Race to the Top and Common Core, which necessitated the need for many of the policies to be passed by the legislature which you so lament today.

Of course, criticism of a Democrat administration which has placed undue burdens on teachers for the past 8 years has never been forthcoming, but now that there is a Republican President, you are now suddenly taking up the fight nationally.

This is disgraceful and I am ashamed to have my name associated with a group that claims to be supportive of education when instead they are only supportive of the Democrat Party. You are feeding Georgia teachers information to promote your own liberal agenda.

It is no wonder that your influence under the Gold Dome has diminished in recent years, and if this is the direction that you are trying to take Georgia, I hope the influence continues to diminish.

Kirk Shook

Secretary, Georgia Republican Party

2nd Vice-Chair, 10th Congressional District GOP

Member, GAGOP Executive and State Committees

PAGE is a non-partisan public education advocacy group that supports policies and initiatives that are best for our public schools. PAGE has a long-standing position against vouchers. This is based on our core beliefs and purpose and is confirmed by a high majority of our members as verified by internal polling. Ms. Betsy DeVos and the American Federation of Children are in strong support of vouchers and privatization efforts of public schools. PAGE promotes professionalism and competence within the education field. Ms. DeVos has been nominated to lead the highest education agency in the country, and yet has no experience with public schools having neither attended, worked in, served as a board of education member or sent her own children to public schools. While we are a Georgia-based professional organization, we have a responsibility to weigh-in on national issues when they will directly impact public education in our state and our members. Based on the concerns of our staff and our members regarding Ms. DeVos, we expressed PAGE's opposition to her nomination.

As a non-partisan organization, PAGE supports or challenges issues that affect public education and our members regardless of party affiliation. PAGE has been critical of federal education policy under both President Bush's and President Obama's administration for the negative effects of testing and evaluation under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. We supported SB 364 in 2016, which was a Republican-led, bipartisan correction to the state educator evaluation system and reduction in student testing.

PAGE will continue its strong advocacy for public education and our professional educators without regard to party.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.