Betsy DeVos Won't Rule Out Defunding Public Schools

Education pick Betsy DeVos will not rule out defunding public schools

Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of Education, faced tough questions on Tuesday from Democratic lawmakers at her charged confirmation hearing.

DeVos refused to promise that she would not privatize or strip funding from the public schools she would oversee if confirmed.

Asked bluntly by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington whether she would commit to keeping funding for public schools intact, DeVos dodged the question.

"I look forward, if confirmed, to talking about how we address the needs of all parents and all students," she said.

Murray also pressed DeVos on potential conflicts of interests that could arise from her family's long history of donating its vast wealth to Republican candidates and causes.

Trump's transition team said Tuesday morning that DeVos had last month submitted a certified ethics agreement and financial disclosure statement, which would reveal any conflicts of interests she might have if confirmed. However, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has yet to clear her.

"Where conflicts are identified, they will be resolved," DeVos said. "I will not be conflicted. Period. I commit that to you all."

Tuesday's hearing turned testy before DeVos had even said a word. Virtually every Democratic member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee repeatedly asked the chairman, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, for more time to question the cabinet nominee. But each time Alexander refused, citing a "precedent" of five-minute rounds of questioning for education secretary nominees. Multiple Democratic members said they'd never heard of such a rule.

DeVos has raised numerous concerns for her support of school choice and voucher programs that critics say would pull resources from struggling public schools and stifle diversity. DeVos' nomination has also been opposed for her family's ties to anti-LGBT groups and for her lack of experience in public education.

© Provided by NBCU News Group, a division of NBCUniversal Media LLC Image: Betsy DeVos testifies before the Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee confirmation hearing to be next Secretary of Education on Capitol Hill in Washington…

Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing

At her contentious confirmation hearing as Donald Trump’s nominee to be education secretary on Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was asked a question by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) about an important education debate involving how student progress should be measured. The query essentially rendered her speechless as she appeared not to know how to answer. When Franken told her he was upset she didn’t understand it, she did not protest.

That was just one of several moments during the hearing in which DeVos either displayed a lack of knowledge about education fundamentals or refused to answer questions that Democratic members of the Senate education committee believe are critical to her fitness for the job.

Here are some of the notable moments:
DeVos refused to agree with a Democrat that schools are no place for guns, citing one school that needs one to protect against grizzly bears. (She really said this.)
When Sen. Chris Murray (D-Conn.) asked her whether would agree that guns don’t belong in schools, she said: “I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

And when asked whether she would support President-elect Donald Trump if he, as he has promised, moves to end gun-free zones around schools, she said: “I will support what the president-elect does.” She added: “If the question is around gun violence and the results of that please know that my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence.”
DeVos seemed to have no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities.
Devos said that states should have the right to decide whether to enforce IDEA, but when Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) later told her that IDEA is a federal civil rights law and asked DeVos if she stood by her statement that it was up to the states to follow it, DeVos responded, “Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.” Hassan then asked, “So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” DeVos responded, “I may have confused it.” DeVos did not protest when Hassan said she was upset the nominee didn’t understand the law and urged her to learn about it.
DeVos refused to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) that all schools that receive public federal funds — traditional public, public charter or private schools that receive voucher money — should be held to the same standards of accountability.
Kaine: “If confirmed will you insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter or private?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Equal accountability?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Is that a yes or a no?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Do you not want to answer my question?”
DeVos: “I support accountability.”
Kaine: “Let me ask you this. I think all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be equally accountable. Do you agree?”
DeVos: “Well they don’t, they are not today.”
Kaine: “Well, I think they should. Do you agree with me?
DeVos: “Well no . . . ”
Kaine, interrupting her, said: “You don’t agree with me.” And he moved on to another topic.
DeVos said she would review gainful employment regulations without committing to enforce them.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked DeVos how she planned to protect waste, fraud and abuse from for-profit universities, citing Trump University, which President-elect Donald Trump founded; he ultimately paid $25 million to settle lawsuits by students who said they were cheated. Trump said he paid the money so he could focus on getting ready to run the country.

DeVos said, “If confirmed, I will certainly be very vigilant.” Warren persisted, “I’m asking how.” When DeVos said “individuals with whom” she will work in the department will ensure that federal money is properly used, Warren further dug in, and then explained to DeVos that there is actually a group of rules already on the books, the gainful employment regulations. “All you have to do is enforce then,” Warren said, asking DeVos if she would do so. She wouldn’t commit.

The gainful employment regulations are meant to protect students and taxpayers by withholding federal student aid to career training programs that leave students buried in debt with few opportunities to repay. Asked by Warren if she would enforce the regulations, DeVos said: “We will certainly review that rule, and see if it is actually achieving what the intentions are.”

Warren: “I don’t understand about reviewing it. We talked about this in my office. There are already rules in place to stop waste, fraud and abuse. . . . Swindlers and crooks are out there doing back flips when they hear an answer like this.”
DeVos appeared to have no idea what Franken was talking about when he referred to the accountability debate about whether to use test scores to measure student proficiency or student growth.
Franken noted that the subject had been debated in the education community for years, and said, when she didn’t weigh in and just looked at him without much of an expression on her face, “It surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”
DeVos did not answer Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) when he asked her what she had learned about the failures of the Detroit traditional public and public charter schools that would inform her decision-making as the secretary of education.
Bennet, a big supporter of charter schools, made the point that school choice isn’t much of a choice when schools aren’t held accountable and families have lousy choices wherever they look. He noted that the Detroit public schools — one of the country’s most troubled systems — has low student achievement, and charter schools in Detroit score only minimally higher.  He also cited a study that said charter schools across Michigan perform worse the traditional public schools do. But instead of answering his question, she told him she wanted to give him “context” about Detroit, to which he responded, “With respect, I’m not asking for a history of Detroit.” She also said, “I think there is a lot that has gone right” there, but she never answered his question.

And here’s a bonus:
DeVos said her name should not have been included on tax forms for her mother’s foundation, which has contributed to controversial causes. The forms say that she was vice president and a member of the board.

“That was a clerical error,” DeVos said. “I have never made decisions on my mother’s behalf.”

Elizabeth Warren Schools Betsy DeVos At Confirmation Hearing

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grilled secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos on Tuesday, making the billionaire philanthropist’s lack of experience painfully obvious.

DeVos’ controversial nomination has been met with opposition from Democrats and education activists who argue that her role leading the nation’s education policy could be a threat to civil rights. She’s been a longtime advocate of school choice and has donated millions to conservative politicians and causes, including programs that fight against marriage equality and LGBTQ rights.

During DeVos’ hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Warren took aim at the billionaire’s lack of experience with student loans, Pell Grants and public education.

“Tonight at her confirmation hearing, I asked Betsy DeVos a straight forward set of questions about her education experience and commitment to protecting students cheated by for-profit colleges,” Warren said in a message posted to her Facebook page. “If Betsy DeVos can’t commit to using the Department of Education’s many tools and resources to protect students from fraud, I don’t see how she can be the Secretary of Education.”

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