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Not Your Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton

Betsy DeVos, accepting conservative NYC think tank award, draws fire

Activists protested US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as she accepted an Alexander Hamilton Award from the right-leaning Manhattan Institute on May 1.
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“Alexander Hamilton/ My name is Alexander Hamilton/ And there’s a million things I haven’t done/ But just you wait, just you wait.”

There’s a million things US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hasn’t done either, but also a myriad of steps she has taken, most of them — in the eyes of progressives from teachers’ unions to LGBTQ advocates — destructive. And there’s no enthusiasm for waiting to see what comes next.

So, when DeVos arrived in New York on May 1 to accept the Alexander Hamilton Award from the right-wing Manhattan Institute, activists turned out in force to show their resistance.

Groups from Rise and Resist and Revolting Lesbians to the United Federation of Teachers and Raging Grannies took to the street opposite Cipriani 42nd Street and managed to hoist a sign on the second story bridge between Grand Central and the Grand Hyatt reading, “Hands Off Our Schools.”

Teachers are upset with DeVos not only because of her strident hostility toward their unions, but also for her championing of charter schools at the expense of a stepped-up commitment to supporting quality public schools. The education secretary’s lobbying on behalf of charter schools in her home state of Michigan has been widely criticized for damaging public education there while creating a network of private options that have fallen well short of her promises.

DeVos has also been a leader in the administra­tion’s reversal on the federal government guarantee of transgender students’ access to bathroom and locker room facilities appropriate to their gender identity, and she has weakened oversight of sexual assault and harassment cases, not only on college campuses but also in high schools and lower grades.

Dozens of protesters on East 42nd Street, marching in a well-organized oval, chanted, “Betsy Betsy full of lies/ We will never privatize,” “No hate, no fear/ Betsy you’re not welcome here,” “Keep God out of the classroom,” and “Hey hey, say what?/ Not a single budget cut.”

Jo Macellaro, a member of Revolting Lesbians, was able to bring her protest so close to DeVos as she entered Cipriani that she could have thrown a pie in her face. Ah, but where have all of New York’s neighborhood bakeries gone?

Updated 6:27 pm, May 5, 2019
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