INDEPENDENT YOUTH | Gardner Sold Out Colorado Childrens’ Education

By Evan Vann | 3/13/17

Our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ nomination met with extreme controversy, namely because of her intense advocacy of charter schools. Her status as a billionaire, along with her awful track-record of heinous attempts to privatize Michigan’s public school system, has prompted many to label her as an enemy of public schooling, a title that fits well.

Her nomination was pushed through successfully by a tie-breaker vote from Vice President Mike Pence. Democrats held the nomination off as long as they could with the help of two courageous Republicans, who voted against their party in opposition to DeVos.

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner was not one of these two, in spite of a comprehensive movement of Coloradoans (myself included) who called him in the lead-up to DeVos’ nomination, urging his no-vote. (Gardner even tweeted about the high volume of calls his office was receiving.)

I thought, perhaps a little naively, Gardner would change his stance in light of the voices of the thousands of Colorado citizens who were contacting him about their concerns regarding aspects of public education like the arts, special needs, or just the entire system in general, that would be threatened under DeVos. Instead, he ignored us.

It didn’t take long to find out why.

In politics, all you need to do is follow the money to find the truth. The correlation between Gardner and DeVos revealed itself when the good folks over at the Center for American Progress blew the lid off of the situation, releasing records showing that DeVos and her family contributed about $4 million to current US Senators that support her.

Among these senators is Cory Gardner, who is estimated to have received just under $50,000 from DeVos and her family members. 

As a high school student in Colorado with three younger sisters who will inevitably go through the Colorado public school system, Gardner’s capitulation to big money more than rubbed me the wrong way, especially in lieu of the public pressure he ignored.

In Ouray, the budget situation for the school is dire. The budget is shrinking, and something’s gotta give. Gardner might have a hard time picturing the hardworking people that live in this community, their kids who wake up nearly everyday to attend a struggling school, and the teachers that work for shrinking wages to make sure that those in this remote mountain community have access to quality education. Hardworking teachers who work strenuous hours for unsatisfactory pay are fighting for their jobs in an overbearing school system that exploits their dedication. These teachers are community members who are considering leaving town as school jobs fall through. Other community members, folks who have generations upon generations of family history in this town, are also facing the reality that their kids won’t have the same opportunities that others will if they stay. Students interested in arts, manual trades, or other educational paths outside of the traditional STEM route will most likely be left high and dry as a result of an already flailing school funding system.

My little sisters, some of the most intelligent young minds I’ve seen, will be left to deal with whatever remnants of the public school system may remain as money is syphoned away from already struggling rural public schools such as ours to fund charter and private schools. With DeVos at the head, an already bleak situation risks becoming unrepairable.

Cory Gardner Gardner would like us to forget that he sold out our children’s education. We can’t forget. He has voted to strip Colorado citizens of their fundamental right to accessible, quality education. All for $50,000.

Politicians don’t work for the government, or big money interests, or for political cronies. They work for us. Unless they start acting like it, come November, we’ll remind them exactly who they work for. As Coloradans, we should never settle for any less than we deserve. If unemployment statistics include teachers, I want to see Gardner on that list too.

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About the Author

Evan Vann

Evan Vann is a student at Ouray High School in Ouray, Colorado. He holds interest in government, current events, and activism, and aspires to study political science in higher education.