By Analee Gentzel
February 8, 2017
Elisabeth “Betsy” Devos was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday as the nation’s education secretary after Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie vote 51 to 50. According to The New York Times, this is the first instance the vice president had been asked to come to the Capital to break a tie for a cabinet nomination.
Devos is a wealthy active republican party member who’s donated millions to several different causes and senators. The catch with Devos is that she has no experience in the educational system, unlike former Education Secretary John King who was a teacher and public school administrator. This has caused an eruption from the Democratic Party and teacher’s unions opposing her nomination. A “Democrats’ 24 hour talkathon” flooded the Senate’s phone system with phone calls rebuking Betsy Devos’s nomination. Though this isn’t the first time the people have voiced they’re against her. There have been weeks of ongoing protests from the Democratic Party and celebrities, though this had little success with the outcome.
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Republican Senator, one of the two Republicans who voted against her, said “I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and also what is broken and how to fix them.”
According to Fox News, Devos plans to give decisions back to the states, communities, educators, and parents to choose where their children attend school rather than the traditional public school model. In addition, she supports the voucher system, which would help the parents to pay for the schooling they choose whether it be private, public or chartered. According to Esquire, DeVos and Trump’s ultimate goal through the voucher program is to give every child $12,000 to use toward their education. Arguments have been voiced against this program claiming that students in poverty need more funding and this would give them less.
In 2015, Senator Patty Murray spoke against vouchers in a speech and said “Today, public schools across the country, and particularly those with high concentrations of students in poverty, need more funding, not less.” She continued, “We cannot afford to send scarce federal resources away from public schools to benefit private schools.”
In addition to federal funding, Tim Kaine, Democrat Senator of Virginia, asked during her confirmation hearing, whether public schools that receive federal funding should have to follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and to her response she said “that’s best left up to the states,” sparking another outrage. Since the confirmation hearing, according to Esquire she has sent a letter to Senator Johnny Isakson of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions expressing her views on the subject. The letter read, “Thank you for the opportunity to more fully explain my position on the importance of protecting the rights of students with disabilities and ensuring that they receive the quality education they deserve.” It continued, “I am committed to enforcing all federal laws and protecting the hard-won rights of students with disabilities.”