Kentucky’s 2019 teacher of the year skipped a formal ceremony at the White House on Monday — a snub Jessica Dueñas said was in protest of the Trump administration’s embrace of school-choice policies.
“I feel like the current administration is clearly attacking public education,” Dueñas told the Courier-Journal. “Why come to D.C. and smile and get an award and not stand up for my students?”
Dueñas, a teacher for Jefferson County Public Schools, joined Minnesota’s teacher of the year, Kelly Holstine, in sitting out the ceremony, held Monday at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Dueñas and Holstine, who teaches at an alternative high school, said the boycott was about standing up for marginalized students, including LGBTQ youth and students of color.
“It’s not enough to tell our kids, ‘It gets better,'” Holstine said Tuesday. “We need to make it better for them now.”
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a supporter of charter schools and private school vouchers, was present at the event. DeVos recognized Rodney Robinson, of Virginia, as the national teacher of the year.
Dueñas and Holstine weren’t the only ones to miss the ceremony.
President Trump also skipped out.
His decision to avoid the event came a year after the 2018 national winner, Mandy Manning, of Washington, wore several pins to silently protest the Trump administration’s LGBTQ and immigration policies. After the event, Manning also gave Trump a bundle of letters from immigrant and refugee students.
Dueñas said Tuesday she wanted to call attention to the administration’s “privatization agenda” and the need to first fully fund the country’s public schools.
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SOURCE: USA Today; Louisville Courier Journal, Mandy McLaren