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Inside the Classroom

Thousands sign petition calling for LeBron James to replace Betsy DeVos

| Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, 1:03 p.m.
LeBron James addresses the crowd during the opening ceremonies of the I Promise School on July 30, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. The School is a partnership between the LeBron James Family foundation and the Akron Public School and is designed to serve Akron's most challenged students.
Jason Miller/Getty Images
LeBron James addresses the crowd during the opening ceremonies of the I Promise School on July 30, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. The School is a partnership between the LeBron James Family foundation and the Akron Public School and is designed to serve Akron's most challenged students.

LeBron James or Betsy DeVos?

If you could pick from two candidates to be nation’s secretary of education and those were your candidates, whom would you pick?

That is the point of an online petition posted late Tuesday on Care2.com and titled “LeBron James for Secretary of Education.” By midday Thursday, there were more than 12,100 signatures, and the surge of signatures caused organizers to keep increasing their goal.

James, arguably one of the best professional basketball players around, has been in the news recently for more than just his move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers. His family foundation recently helped fund and open a public school for at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, a move public education advocates applauded.

James, who has been a strong, public voice for civil rights as well as a President Trump critic, last week found himself the target of a racist tweet, along with CNN’s Don Lemon, from Trump:

Trump tweeted on Aug. 4: “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”

Don Lemon responded: “Who’s the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages?”

Now, there’s the petition (reported on by The Hill), which nobody expects to result in a career move for James. But it can be seen as a new statement of discontent by critics of the Trump administration and DeVos, who has long been a critic of America’s public schools and who once called them “a dead end.”

James chose to open a traditional public school, not a charter school. Charters are publicly funded but privately operated and a favorite of DeVos.

This is how the petition presents James and DeVos:

“The first candidate is famed athlete LeBron James, a highly respected and extremely influential community advocate and activist who recently opened a state-of-the-art public school for at-risk children in Akron, Ohio - with community services on-site like job placement for parents, guaranteed college tuition for every student who graduates, and a score of other student services like a FREE bicycle and helmet.”

“The second candidate is Betsy DeVos, a scandal-ridden Republican donor who shows an inexcusable dislike for public education, wants to gut protections for women and minorities, and has advocated for teachers to be armed in schools.”

LeBron James for secretary of education?

The U.S. president is a former reality show host and businessman whose companies filed for bankruptcy six times. He opened up the for-profit, non-accredited Trump University that is defunct. The school triggered lawsuits amid accusations of fraud. Trump settled for $25 million.

DeVos is a Michigan billionaire who spent decades supporting alternatives to traditional public schools, never attended a public school, never sent her children to one.

You can decide how far-fetched it seems: Education Secretary LeBron James.

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