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Tell Your Senators: Confirmation Hearing Proves DeVos Lacks Experience, Knowledge

Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump's nominee for secretary of education, appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee January 17, 2017.

January 18, 2017

Will Trump's pick for secretary of education keep public schools public and maintain education funding? Betsy DeVos wasn't willing to make any promises when questioned by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during her confirmation hearing last night.

"Can you commit that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny for public education?" Washington Senator Patty Murray asked.

DeVos refused to answer, saying only, "I look forward to working with you to talk about how to address the needs of all parents and students." Watch the remarks here.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy expressed concern about DeVos' willingness to maintain accountability for taxpayer dollars.

"Do you support companies and individuals profiting from public education dollars?" Murphy asked.

DeVos responded, "I think what is important is what the outcomes are."

Watch Murphy's questions for DeVos

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine pursued a similar line of questioning, asking whether all schools receiving federal funds need to be held equally accountable.

DeVos repeated, "I support accountability," but would not respond affirmatively when Kaine asked, "I think all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be equally accountable, do you agree with me or not?" Watch the exchange here.

Lacking experience

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, had many questions for DeVos.

DeVos has donated substantial amounts of money to school choice ventures and lobbied hard for vouchers, however she has no direct experience in public schools as a student or teacher. She and her children attended private schools, and she admitted that her only experience in a public school came as a volunteer tutor.

This extreme lack of experience led many senators to question why DeVos had been nominated to head the nation's public schools.

"Do you think if your family hadn't made millions of dollars in contributions to the Republican Party that you would be here today?" Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders asked.

Sanders said, "Mrs. DeVos, there is a growing fear, I think, in this country that we are moving toward what some would call an oligarchic form of society, where a small number of very, very wealthy billionaires control, to a significant degree, our economic and political life." Watch here.

Lacking knowledge

The confirmation hearing left no doubt that DeVos lacks not only experience in public education, but also knowledge of public schools and education policy.

When Minnesota Senator Al Franken asked for her thoughts on using assessments to measure proficiency vs. measuring growth, DeVos appeared not to understand the question. Watch the exchange here.

More troubling, in an exchange with New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan, DeVos appeared not to understand the implications of IDEA—or even to know that it is a federal law.

"Were you unaware that it is federal law?" Hassan asked.

"I may have confused it," DeVos said.

Watch DeVos struggle to answer Hassan's questions about the rights of students with disabilities to a quality public education.

A committee vote on DeVos' nomination is scheduled for Tuesday, January 24, however, Chair Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee told committee members he would hold the vote only "if the final Office of Government Ethics letter is received by this Friday in order to give senators a chance to review it before Tuesday."

If DeVos' nomination is voted out of committee it will go to the Senate floor for a majority vote.

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