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Opposition To Betsy DeVos In Utah Brings Unexpected Unity

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As Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos moves through confirmation hearings in Congress some Utahns are speaking out in opposition.

On Monday a group of about 150 protesters gathered in downtown Salt Lake City to voice their disapproval of DeVos.

 

Heidi Matthews, the president of the Utah Education Association—the largest teacher’s union in the state—was in attendance, and she was surprised by the variety of people who showed up.

 

"The newspaper said that it was mostly teachers but it really wasn’t," says Matthews.

 

Matthews says she chatted with a nurse, a med student, a Verizon specialist. All expressing concern about DeVos’ record as someone who has worked to privatize public education.

 

Along with DeVos' performance in senate hearings which exposed some ignorance about education law and the department’s role.

 

“And that might be the silver lining that comes out of all of this," says Matthews. "Who has ever paid attention, aside from educators, to who the Secretary of Education is in the past?"

 

Matthews says the skepticism toward DeVos is also shared by some unlikely partners, including anti-common core groups who typically oppose the teacher’s union.

 

The public protest was organized by Utah Indivisible, a group that aims to oppose Trump’s agenda through community involvement.

Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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