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Syracuse residents to hold march against controversial Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

Jensen Stidham | Contributing Photographer

President Donald Trump nominated Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. DeVos was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 7 after weeks of heated debate over her nomination, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in the Senate.

Syracuse residents on Saturday are planning to hold a rally and a march to protest the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as United States secretary of education.

DeVos, former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, is known for her controversial support of school choice, voucher programs and charter schools.

According to a news release from the Alliance for Quality Education — a New York state public education advocacy group — participants will meet at Hanover Square in downtown Syracuse at noon Saturday for a rally to protest DeVos. Following the rally, protesters are planning to march to the New York State Office Building and leave messages for local representatives urging them to fight for education in Albany, per the release.

The march is called The Syracuse People’s March for Education Justice.

“Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos are threatening to take billions of education dollars from state public school funding,” the release states.

DeVos was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 7 after weeks of heated debate over her nomination, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in the Senate. DeVos founded and formerly chaired the American Federation for Children organization, which she has used to promote charters and vouchers.

Charter schools are schools that receive government funding but operate independently of a given state’s public education system. School vouchers are scholarships funded by states that parents can use to enroll their children at schools of their choice, including private schools.

The Syracuse area currently has two charter schools and a third will be opening for the 2017-18 school year.

The press release states that in central New York, the Alliance for Quality Education is asking for the “full and equitable funding of public schools,” an end to “systemic racism and economic injustice in school funding” and a block of the privatization of public schools.

The group also asks in the release for the protection of transgender students after President Donald Trump recently revoked federal guidelines specifying transgender rights in schools and all public schools to be “Sanctuaries … (that) will not aid federal officials in the detainment or deportation of students,” among other things.

The group also took aim at New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the release.

“Governor Cuomo has a history of woefully inadequate education investments, and his current proposal is his worst ever and would take cuts to the next level,” the release states.

Education advocates have criticized Cuomo’s proposed 2017-18 executive budget, saying it would repeal the state’s foundation aid formula that awards more money to school districts with high poverty rates, according to the Times Union.

Cuomo has also previously come under fire for his support of the Common Core education standards, a controversial standardized test system. Cuomo has since distanced himself from the standards, according to Politico.

Similar marches initiated by the Alliance for Quality Education are taking place across the state Saturday, according to the release, including in upstate cities like Buffalo, Kingston, Rochester and Schenectady. Rallies will also take place in New York City and on Long Island.

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