Betsy DeVos appears to have plagiarized quotes for Senate questionnaire

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's Education Secretary nominee, appears to have lifted quotes in at least two instances in written answers submitted to the Senate committee tasked with approving her nomination.

After DeVos' confirmation hearing was limited to one round of questions by Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Democrats submitted hundreds of questions to the nominee. In response to a question from Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, on bullying of LGBT students, DeVos almost directly -- and uncited -- quoted Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of Obama's Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department.

The questions -- which totaled over 1,000 -- were answered in DeVos' name, but it's unclear what role aides and staffers played in answering the queries.

"Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment where they can learn, thrive, and grow," DeVos writes.

Gupta was credited with nearly the same quotes in a May 2016 press release on ensuring the civil rights of transgender students.

"Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to thrive and grow," Gupta wrote.

The apparent plagiarism was first reported by The Washington Post.

Trump education adviser Rob Goad described the plagiarism allegations as "character assassination."
"To level an accusation against her about these words included in responses to nearly 1,400 questions -- 139 alone from the ranking member -- is simply a desperate attempt to discredit Betsy DeVos, who will serve the Department of Education and our nation's children with distinction if confirmed," said Goad, who sits on the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Sen. Patty Murray said Tuesday she is reviewing written answers the Michigan billionaire provided to the Senate that may include plagiarized material.

In another instance, DeVos' appears to have lifted language from the Department of Education website.

"Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has made a determination about the merits of the complaint," DeVos wrote in response to a question about publishing the list of schools under Title IX investigations.

The Department of Education guidance reads, "Opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to the merits of the complaint."

DeVos is one of a handful of Trump cabinet nominees that Senate Democrats believe they have a chance of upending.
In the hearing earlier this month, DeVos agreed that Trump described sexual assault in a leaked hot mic video from a 2005 entertainment show and turned a discussion of guns in schools turned on grizzly bears. She also appeared at times unaware of federal law governing education and admitted to a "clerical error" that left her as a vice president on her mother's foundation for nearly two decades.

She is also not the first Trump staffing pick to face plagiarism allegations since the President's election.
Conservative author Monica Crowley stepped away from her appointment to a senior communications role in Trump's then-incoming administration after CNN's KFile uncovered multiple instances of plagiarism.

Examples of plagiarism were found in her 2012 book, multiple columns for The Washington Times and her 2000 Ph.D. dissertation for Columbia University. The former Fox New contributor was chosen to be the senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council.

"After much reflection I have decided to remain in New York to pursue other opportunities and will not be taking a position in the incoming administration," she told the Times in a statement. "I greatly appreciate being asked to be part of President-elect Trump's team and I will continue to enthusiastically support him and his agenda for American renewal."

Getty / Chip Somodevilla


Senate committee approves nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education

On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education.

She was confirmed 12-11 along party lines.

The vote on DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor, was originally set to take place on January 24, but was delayed to give the committee more time to review DeVos’ financial disclosures.

An advocate for alternatives to traditional public schooling, DeVos championed charter school and school voucher initiatives in her home state of Michigan, where she served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. She has been one of Trump’s most controversial picks.

Democrats have argued that she is unqualified for the role of secretary of education, a position they doubled down on after a contentious confirmation hearing where DeVos was grilled on a number of issues, oftentimes demurring on answers, or stating she was currently unable to provide a response.

Nearly 250 civil rights and education groups have signed a letter opposing her nomination.

Her nomination will now go to the full Senate for approval.


Senate Panel Approves Betsy DeVos as Education Nominee

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary cleared a key hurdle Tuesday in the Senate, but her nomination faces a close vote after two Republicans said they hadn’t decided whether to support her.

The Senate committee that oversees education approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos by a vote along party lines, 12 to 11, with Republicans providing the support she needed to advance.

The vote allows Ms. DeVos’s nomination to head to the full Senate, where she needs the support of a simple majority before becoming the nation’s top education official.

Mr. Trump’s Republican Party holds a 52-48 Senate majority. But two GOP senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, said Tuesday they had concerns about Ms. DeVos and hadn’t decided how they would vote. Each supported advancing Ms. DeVos’s nomination to the full Senate.

Even if both oppose her, Ms. DeVos could win confirmation with the support of all other Republicans and Vice President Mike Pence, who would hold the tiebreaking vote. Advocacy groups, including teachers unions, were lobbying senators heavily to oppose Ms. DeVos’s confirmation. A final Senate vote would likely occur next week at the earliest, given the chamber’s busy schedule.

“This nomination is very difficult for me,” Sen. Murkowski said Tuesday before the committee vote. She added that thousands of Alaskans have called her office with concerns about Ms. DeVos, including her commitment to ensuring quality public schools. “I would not advise that she yet count on my vote.”

Sen. Collins said she had concerns about Ms. DeVos’s grasp of federal education-related laws, including one that ensures school access for children with disabilities. The nominee, asked during her mid-January confirmation hearing whether schools should face requirements under that law, replied it was a matter best left to states.

“I will continue to evaluate this nomination before it comes to the floor for a vote,” Sen. Collins said.

The nomination of Ms. DeVos has been among the most contentious of Mr. Trump’s cabinet picks, largely owing to her wealth and advocacy of charter schools. Ms. DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, has spent decades pushing for charters, which generally are publicly funded but privately run, and vouchers, which provide public funds for children to attend private schools.

Ms. DeVos and her supporters say many public schools have failed for decades to provide a quality education and that students deserve alternatives. Charters and private schools often use creative teaching methods and have more flexibility than public schools to fire bad teachers, their advocates say. Some Democrats have supported charters and vouchers.

“The real debate isn’t Betsy DeVos,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.), a DeVos supporter, at Tuesday’s vote. “The real debate is generations of kids…stuck in underperforming schools.”

He added that Ms. DeVos’s critics have greatly exaggerated the power of the education secretary to radically change schools and that the nominee’s mission would be to leave much of the policy making up to states.

Democrats on the Senate education panel and teachers unions say Ms. DeVos’s push for charter schools in her native Michigan has steered funding away from public schools, leaving more students harmed than helped.

Democrats have also said her family’s financial investments, which have included education-related companies, could sway her decisions as education secretary. Under an agreement released by government ethics officials, Ms. DeVos said she would divest herself of 102 entities that could pose a conflict of interest.

“Mrs. DeVos is a billionaire with extraordinarily complicated and opaque finances,” Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the Senate Education Committee’s top Democrat, said Tuesday. Sen. Murray said she still had questions about investments Ms. DeVos plans to keep.

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