We are writing today to express our frustration and disappointment with Sen. Richard Burr dismissing calls from his constituents about Betsy DeVos. On Jan. 31, during the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on SD-430, he made the following statement:
“This is a strategy that was hatched some time ago. Senator Franken on Rachel Maddow’s show on January 26 said we’ve talked about nominations and we talked about DeVos – she’s someone that there’s not gonna be one Democratic vote for. This isn’t about our responses to questions. This was decided a long time ago. … This is a strategy, let’s face it, that’s why Senator Scott got all the calls he did, that’s why I got all the calls, that’s why my wife gets calls, son gets calls on cell phones to deliver a message to me.”
We, North Carolinians who helped elect Sen. Burr, must set the record straight. Our telephone calls, letters, emails and tweets to Sen. Burr have absolutely nothing to do with Rachel Maddow or Sen. Franken. In fact, most of us have children in N.C. public schools, and many of them have Individualized Education Plans under the IDEA, a statute Ms. DeVos testified she was unaware of.
To dismiss our phone calls as merely “a strategy” is an attempt to silence the voice of North Carolina voters. We would like Sen. Burr to hear our message: We exercised our rights as his constituents to ask Sen. Burr to vote “no” on Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education because she is unqualified to lead this department. We expressed our concerns that Ms. DeVos has deep ties to for-profit education, which may put our children at risk. We are worried about where our children with disabilities fit in her view of the public school system, as her lack of awareness of federal law on disability rights is a major concern. Her hearing showed that she is unprepared for the position.
We told Sen. Burr’s staff our mailing addresses and Zip Codes to confirm we are his constituents. We called when no one answered. We called when his voicemail was full. We called and were hung up on by his staff, and we called again. We used our lunch breaks to write letters. We did everything we know how to be heard.
Many of us made calls to the senator’s office for the first time, exercising muscle we did not know we had. Like any muscle rarely used, it was hard for some of us. With time and exercise, that muscle gets stronger. We are getting stronger. The senator will be hearing from us on issues we, the people of this state, find important. If this is how the senator views input from his constituents, then perhaps the next act of advocacy is to work on finding a senator who is interested in hearing from those he or she is supposed to represent.
This is not strategy; this is what democracy looks like. It is the duty of an elected official to represent the people of this great state. We hope that Sen. Burr will do that at every opportunity.