With the DeVos vote scheduled for Tuesday, the embattled nominee hangs by a thread

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by Félix Pérez

The full Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education as early as Monday, but the defection of two Republicans has put the political mega-donor and school privatization proponent’s fate in jeopardy.

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DeVos’ support among educators and public school advocates — especially from her home state of Michigan — was anemic to begin with. But her stumbling and confused responses at her Senate education committee hearing left Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike seriously doubting her qualifications for the job of overseeing the nation’s public schools.

The DeVos camp has been on a full-court press since then to ram the confirmation through and limit DeVos’s public availability. The opposition, however, has only grown stronger and more persistent. Reports of crashed Senate phone lines and full voice mail boxes, as well as spontaneous protests across the nation, are becoming more frequent.

As a result of the avalanche of public opposition, two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have announced they will vote against DeVos. That means if the vote were held today, it would b 50-50, leaving Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote.

“Educators, parents and students are grateful to senators Collins and Murkowski for joining the bipartisan chorus of voices speaking out against the nomination of Betsy DeVos, because she has demonstrated that she is dangerously unqualified to run our public schools. They join millions of voters calling on the senate through emails, calls, visits and social media to reject her nomination and protect the interests of the millions of students in our country. The nation is speaking out … senators need to listen,” said Utah elementary school teacher and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García.

DeVos, the primary force behind a failed and underperforming charter school system in Michigan, left even her supporters scratching their heads with her rambling answers at her Senate hearing. She said she was “confused” about the federal law for students with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. She could not articulate the difference between student growth and student proficiency. She refused to commit to enforcing the rights of students with disabilities in voucher and charter schools. And she would not pledge not to cut public school funding in order to fund vouchers.

After the hearing, matters took another turn for the worse when it was revealed DeVos may have plagiarized some of her written responses to her Senate questionnaire. In those same written responses, DeVos grossly inflated graduation rates at a Nevada web-based school that was almost shut down last year.

Reader Comments

  1. Even for supporters of the President-elect, this nomination should be disquieting. Trump campaigned on criticizing “pay to play” by the donor class and promises of draining the swamp in Washington D.C. By filling this post with Betsy DeVos, he’s guilty of the very thing he railed so passionately against. It would be one thing if she’s qualified, but everything on the face screams that it’s her loyalty and financial support for the President that got her there, and not any relevant qualifications for the job.

  2. Please stop Besty Devos!
    I have attended private schools all my life, but I know that public funds should not be used to run private or charter schools. Once you take public dollars, you should then be a public school and abide by all the legislation and rules that apply to public schools. Our public school schools run on the premise that all students are equal and turn no one away. Unfortunately, that is not the case for private and charter schools. Will they take our special needs students who rely on quality public education? I fear for our students and public schools loosing vital funds to run. I fear that the business world will take over education and turn it into a for profit organization and take only the best of the best students. Please watch out for all of our children. They need someone who cares about the well being of all students!

  3. I have written and called my senators and have gotten noncommittal replies and full voice mail boxes. Let’s keep hoping some of this gets through to some of these Republican Senators. I just saw a pro DeVos commercial on TV in AZ too so they are also pushing for her here. I will send more emails since the phone calls won’t make any difference at this point.

    1. Good luck Susan. Republican senator Jeff Flake from AZ. seems malleable. He’s up for re-election in 2018 but he’s already in the crosshairs for ouster by both the President-elect and groups who supported him since the senator has been one of Trump’s loudest critics. He’s my brightest hope for a last minute change of heart.

  4. Why have we not heard of any possible third Republican to oppose DeVos? I pray that there is a brave member of congress who has the courage to defy the party line and be the third vote against DeVos.

    As a woman of faith, I am concerned about my tax dollars paying for religious schooling because it is in direct opposition to the founding fathers wisdom of separation of church and state (and I am the product of private Catholic school as is my husband and my daughter). I am concerned about the lack of oversight and transparency for charters but required for public schools. But most of all I am concerned about IDEA and the ignorance of a potential secretary of education about educational law.

  5. Betsy De Vos should NOT be Secretary of Education. She doesn’t know anything about the education system. She is not a proponent of special education. Our education secretary has to be qualified to run this department successfully for the future of our children and therefore our great nation. She is not a candidate for this formidable job!

  6. Several senators have pointed out that rural states would suffer disproportionately from Betsy DeVos’ gutting of public schools because in rural areas many students don’t have access to anything other than a public school in a reasonable distance.

    With that in mind I send the following message to Republican Senators from states that are very rural.

    I am not from South Dakota, but I have an issue that is of great concern

    I believe that Betsy DeVos would do great harm to states like South Dakota which have many rural areas.

    Ms DeVos would gut public schools in favor of private and charter schools. Many rural areas don’t have a private or charter school in a reasonable distance and therefore students in those areas would be subject to schools whose resources have been gutted. Students who need intervention or who are in special education would be especially impacted.

    Senator Murkowski pointed this out in giving her reasons for her position.

    Some 90% of our students will be educated in public schools for the foreseeable future. We don’t need an education secretary with an agenda against public schools, but with no knowledge.

    Please reconsider your position.

    I think if we continue to send messages some of them may change their position.l We only need one more Senator.

  7. Every child has a right to Free and Appropriate Public Education, F.A.P.E. Sadly, Devos does not grasp this foundational premise of American education. Her basic (mis)understanding of public education is testimony that she does not comprehend the depth of her own ignorance.
    “Betsy, educating our children is an investment in America’s future, not edu-business for profit.”
    Devos is a product of privatized education, and that speaks to the abysmal failure of the very system she advocates. I ask the Unite States Senate to advocate for our children by voting no on her confirmation.

  8. Michigan schools have suffered under the DeVos “influences” especially her strong Choice Agenda. Here is a more in-depth of the power-brokers DeVos backed and how they have spread their influence, as well through her connections in donations to the National School Choice Week [Jan 25] partners that received money both from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and DeVos’s Alliance for School Choice.
    http://npeaction.org/2017/01/25/7197/

  9. When answering written questions for her confirmation hearing DeVos copied what was written previously by the head of Obama’s Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. When a student copies the work of another student, we know what happens to that student. We should hold the Secretary of Education to those same standards.

  10. Every undergraduate education major knows what IDEA is and what the law means for students with special needs. Yet Ms. DeVos seemed to not know the basics of the law. How Mr. Trump could nominate such an individual for this important post is beyond imagination.
    Even outside the education community, those who may not be well versed in the laws that serve to advocate and protect our students with the smallest voices must be appalled by her response to Senator Murphy from Connecticut when asked about her opinion of guns in schools. For her to speak about schools that fear harm from grizzly bears to Senator Murphy whose constituents include families who live in Sandy Hook is mind boggling.
    We can’t have such a person as the secretary of education.

  11. If public school Educators are held accountable and must be highly qualified shouldn’t the Secretary of Education? Betsy Devos is neither of these! It is time for Republican Senators to set aside their political opinions and ideals. It is time for all Senators to act on behave of all children. Public Education does not discriminate against the socio- economic status of children nor does it discriminate against children with disabilities. Public Education has fought for what is best for all students and continues to do so daily! The children are this country’s future. They deserve someone that understands Public Education and someone that will work with Public Education not against them. Betsy DeVos is not that person!

  12. “That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.” Noam Chomsky

  13. I don’t support her but I fear that short of a last minute miracle, Betsy DeVos will be confirmed as Secretary of Education. All the remaining Republican senators have indicated their desire to vote for her. If that happens, Vice-President Pence will cast the tie-breaking vote. Sadly, it will be a bad day for public education.

  14. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. My name is Betsy DeVos. I’ll be flying all of you in this Boeing 757 to Washington, D.C., this morning. I’ve had a few questions, which I’d like to answer, to set your minds at ease. In answer to these questions, I’d like to say that no, I’ve never flown an airplane before, and no, neither my family nor I have ever even ridden in one. However, I’ve read a book about how to fly an airplane, and it all seems pretty easy. Also, I have contributed millions to the Boeing corporation and its lobbyists in Washington. That should count for something. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. We should be on the ground in Washington in two hours and forty minutes (unless, of course, we hit the ground earlier). I want you to know that the people I’ve contributed to have developed a totally automatic navigation system for our aircraft, so there’s really nothing for me to do, and nothing can possibly go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong… . . . .

  15. Betsy DeVos has no experience in teaching in or running any kind of school–public, private, or charter. She has an agenda. Zeal without knowledge is dangerous and if confirmed we can count on her to make some very bad decision.

    1. I am a product of 12 years of Catholic Schooling. I also taught 31 years in Public schools. My children are the graduates of a Blue Ribbon Public School District. This public school district offered so many opportunities for learning in comparison to the local private schools. I firmly believe that the nomination of Betsy DeVos will destroy the educational system of our country! I have witnessed great public schools having their hands tied when funding cuts or new mandates without funding occurred. The taking of monies from a public school to be given to a private or charter school is not in the best interest of our youngsters in this land of opportunity. The colleagues I know teaching in charter schools here in Ohio have not received pay increase in several years and being told by administrators that they could go look for another job. Those teachers have shared that their turn over rate for staff is frequent. There is no commitment to the administration and CEO’s of the schools. Constant turnover is not good for students! Let’s rally together to defeat this nomination and save our schools by working on the problems of society that make it difficult for students to learn. Let’s fix the family structure and put children first in education without lining the pockets of Charter School CEO’s!

  16. Devon cannot be confirmed for the sake or all our children. The stake is too high. Our children need a true advocate of education. PLEASE STOP HER CONFIRMATION.

  17. 1. Betsy DeVos has supported the expansion of Charter Schools in Michigan, even when the group seeking to expand has been unsuccessful in their existing schools. Shouldn’t a chartering institution have to prove they can be successful before allowing them to expand?
    2. She has consistently opposed extending the same transparency rules to charters as must be followed by public schools. What have they got to hide?
    3. At least three school districts in Michigan have been left hanging when the chartering institution pulled out of the district, in some cases before the school year was over, because they were not making enough money. For the most part, public education is not a money making business.

  18. My senators are committed to voting no. I wish NEA would give us an easy way to send emails to senators in other states. Perhaps they would be swayed if they received emails from teachers throughout the country in addition to those in their own states.

  19. Please, we need informed leaders in education. DeVos clearly does not have a clue. Say No to DeVos. Say Yes, to our children.

  20. I’m heartbroken by so many acts of the Trump regime. As a mother of a young school aged child, this potential disaster is another horrible situation to add to the list.

  21. With her lame responses to IDEA, and the difference between student growth and student proficiency along with her refusal to commit to enforcing the rights of students with disabilities in voucher and charter schools receiving federal funds, DeVos is not a qualified candidate and should not be confirmed for secretary of education.
    The highest job for education in this country is NOT a learn on the job assignment!

  22. This is not about republicans or democrats, this is about qualifications. Bring us a republican that is qualified and we can accept that.

  23. Charter schools are nothing more than a business for the wealthy. These schools do not serve all children or meet the needs of most. Only the selected , easy to educate are permitted to attend. They are designed to make a profit for the top. Many of their teachers are uncertified and lack experience. Therefore, they can be underpaid and treated poorly, causing a revolving door for teachers. Students don’t receive the benefits of professional career teachers. Education is not a business . Charter schools are unregulated and lack community over site. Even with their designed to win structure , charters show meager academic successes over traditional public schools. Many charter schools have been closed due to fraud. Another taxpayer funded loophole for the wealthy.

  24. Please do not vote for DeVos for Secretary of education. As a public teacher, I feel she is greatly under qualified and would not help in improving our country’s education system.

  25. I am attending a teacher leadership conference for public school teachers today. Giving up my free time to improve on my education strategies.

    Besty Devos has made a career out making private investors rich at the expense of public students, parents, and educators. Please don’t make her my teacher leader. I do not own a private education company.

  26. My cat probably has a better understanding of educational issues than Betty DeVos. I hope that she is soundly defeated, but I fear that the Republicans will simply vote along party lines, instead of having the courage of their convictions.

  27. It is deeply concerning that Betsy DeVos has no knowledge of IDEA. She stated that it should be each states decision to follow it or not. She did not even know that it is federal law. IDEA was first implemented in 1975, so this should not be new information to her. In my first class, on my first day of college, l learned about IDEA, so basically a college student who has studied one day has more knowledge than the woman running for the Secretary of Education??? Now, as an educator for 12 years, who has an autistic son, I feel this is completely unacceptable.

  28. Public opinion should count for something and there has been a lot from people in Education and from parents.
    Please vote “no” to DeVos . Please find someone who is better qualified in all realms of Education.

  29. Please find someone better qualified for this job. Please vote “no” for DeVos on Monday or whenever it comes to a vote.

  30. I’m a retired teacher who does NOT WANT Betsy DeVos for our Secretary of Education.
    She has no knowledge of (and support for ) the public schools. If she were to be elected, it
    would be a slap in the face to – students, teachers, administrators, custodians – all who ARE invested in the public schools.

  31. Please GOP Senators! Do not vote for Devos! She is not qualified and she is not honest! As a former educator I feel it is imperative to have a well educated, EXPERIENCED, fair and honest person leading America’s education system. Our children are worth it! They need good role models, not one who pays for favors and deceives the public! Think of the children! That’s the number one concern here! Thank you for your cooperation!

  32. She has no idea how public schools are run! She only has an interest in charter schools! BAD CHOICE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS!

  33. Ms. DeVos is not credible. She has zero experience. She does not believe in public education and the work so many of us do, every single day, with all kids…not the “easy” kids …or the rich kids in isolation of …we work with ALL kids and need a valuable teammate who listens to reality and the voices of knowledge and reason. VOTE NO! NO DOUBT…VOTE NO!

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