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Keep Betsy DeVos away from the University of Baltimore's graduation

University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke's invitation to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ("Betsy DeVos to speak at University of Baltimore fall commencement," Sept. 8) to give the commencement address on December 18 is completely contrary to what the University of Baltimore has always stood for. As a proud UB alumna (MBA '81, Summa cum Laude), a former member of the UB Alumni Board of Governors (1998-2004), and a proud recipient of the Alumna of the Year and the H. Mebane Turner Services Awards (2002), I urge him to rescind this invitation, her acceptance notwithstanding.

The University of Baltimore is part of the public University of Maryland system. UB is a public undergraduate, graduate and professional university located in the heart of the state's largest city, an urban institution that is invested in and supportive of its surrounding communities. The school is rightly proud to stand for opportunity and "Knowledge that Works." These values are the antithesis of what Secretary DeVos represents. Betsy DeVos' guiding principles have been her conviction that any nontraditional public school is better than a traditional one, simply because it's not operated by government, and that public policy can be bent to the will of the wealthy.

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Regardless of the administration she represents— one that dismisses facts, research, evidence, and the "greater good" — Ms. DeVos isn't a role model, an educator, or an accomplished civic or business leader who would add to the luster of the university by her presence. She has no relevant credentials or experience for her job of setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation's public schools. President Donald Trump's nomination of her to lead the Department of Education was so divisive, it took the tie-breaking vote of the vice president to secure her appointment. She is so reviled as to require security escorts to visit the public schools whose programs and activities she oversees. This will be true in Baltimore as well.

What wise words could Betsy DeVos offer to UB graduates? How to marry or be born to wealth? How to lobby ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them? How to use self-interested political contributions to influence the conversation about education reform and undermine the public education that has lifted so many?

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There is no possible spin to explain this ill-advised invitation. I know I am not alone in hoping Betsy DeVos is not UB's fall commencement speaker.

Peta N. Richkus, Towson

Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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