By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – President Donald Trump’s most controversial cabinet pick is making her visit to Colorado, and teachers unions aren’t exactly rolling out the welcome mat.
Hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside an event where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is set to speak.
“This is not just about ‘We hate charter schools,'” said Tay Anderson, who’s running for Denver school board and organized the event. “We want equitable schools for every single student and not those who are just serving those at the top percent.”
DeVos is not just a proponent of charter schools but private school vouchers, which the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled are unconstitutional.
Many of the demonstrators were public school teachers like Yolanda Calderon.
“We stand for our students, for our communities and for equitable public schools, not the illusion of school choice,” Calderon said.
Devos is one of three cabinet secretaries who is speaking at the annual meeting of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s a conservative group with considerable influence at state capitols around the country, including Colorado’s — where education and labor union members protested what they say are anti-public education and pro-business policies.
“Stuff like, you know, regulations — having a safe, you know, place to go to work,” retired postal worker Tom Sullivan said. “I know at the post office we had to file OSHA complaints and all that. They want to do away with those kinds of things.”
ALEC’s COO Bill Meierling says they do support limited government and free markets — which includes school choice — but he says they also support free speech.
“Our organization is driven by legislators. ALEC itself has no positions. We’re merely a forum to bring legislators together where they exchange ideas. They share what worked in one state and maybe what didn’t work in another state, come up with a consensus opinion, and the result of that is model policy posted on our website for anyone to see,” Meierling said.
“We’re happy to have some of the folks come in. Come and attend a meeting. Come and disagree because if you can disagree during the model policy conversations with the legislators, the legislators will be better informed of what your perspective is.”
Denver police say several protesters tried to get into Wednesday’s ALEC meeting. After police asked them to leave, four refused and were arrested for trespassing. DeVos is set to speak there Thursday.