Education Nominee Betsy DeVos Pledges to Support Public Schools

DeVos answers questions before Senate Health Education and Labor Committee. Former Senator Joe Lieberman spoke in her favor. (US Senate television feed)
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Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education told a Senate committee yesterday (Tuesday) that she will work to see that charter schools are transparent and held accountable.   State Impact Ohio’s Mark Urycki reports on the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos..

As in Ohio, charter schools in DeVos’s home state of Michigan have underperformed, with little oversight. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island worried the school choice advocate would promote charters and allow public schools to wither away.

“I think this is a good example of an issue that is best addressed at the state level by each state and acknowledge that each state will have unique circumstances in that regard.
Whitehouse:  “The problems is it will be hard to address that at the state level if you make the federal Department of Education a crusader for moving kids to charter schools.”  

DeVos told the committee she would only be a crusader for parents and students.

No one asked about DeVos’s PAC, All Children Matter, and its fine of over $5 million dollars for violating Ohio election laws in 2008.   The PAC has never paid the fine and says it now has no money.

DeVos has yet to finish a review with the Office of Government Ethics. Democrats wanted to know whether she would make policy that rewards one of the education-related businesses her family owns.  But she promised to divest her holdings and resolve any conflicts.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine wondered whether she could avoid making policy to profit Donald Trump’s businesses.  DeVos said she was not familiar with Trump's financial holdings.

“I don’t have any of that information, Senator."

Kaine: “So I take it you won’t have any way of knowing when asked by the President to take official action in your capacity as Secretary how those actions might affect his personal financial situation.”

DeVos:  “I’m not sure I can comment on that.”

Kaine:  “And this isn’t theoretical.  He owns a university.” 

DeVos and fellow Republicans on the Senate committee used the phrase "one size doesn't fit all" to argue that the federal government should not dictate educational policy to the states.  That same language was also used in a letter to the committee from 140 state legisators from all 50 states. That letter of support stated:

"Her support for an all-of-the-above approach to K-12 education – from charter schools, to public, private and online education – defines the school choice movement that has helped countless children across many of our states."

Among the signees are Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and State Representatives Nirasj Antrani and Keith Faber. 

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