Senate Democrats, labor unions and civil rights groups voiced their opposition to President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education in a joint letter delivered to U.S. senators Monday, according to the Washington Post.
The letter comes one day before the relevant subcommittee is scheduled to vote on her nomination. Groups who are aggressively pushing to block DeVos’s confirmation have received $2.6 million from teachers unions and their allies, according to federal labor filings.
The National Education Association (NEA), The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which serves as an umbrella organization for dozens of teachers unions, have all fought desperately to block DeVos’s nomination.
DeVos faced intense scrutiny during her confirmation hearing Jan. 17 before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Senate Democrats, including former Democrat vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and vocal Trump critic and progressive leader Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, were among those who grilled DeVos. Reasons given for opposing DeVos center mainly on her alleged past involvement with charter schools advocacy.
“Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child,” DeVos said during her hearing. “They [parents] know other options exists, whether magnet, virtual, charter, home, faith-based or any other combination,” she said in an endorsement of alternatives to the traditional public school model.
DeVos, who served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996-2000 and then again in 2003, has been a strong advocate for alternatives to the traditional public school model. Her advocacy and philanthropy reportedly irks the education establishment, since she has been disrupting the status quo by fighting for “school choice” and pro-charter school laws.
“I don’t think you will find one human being who could actually point to something who could say, ‘Because she did this, it really improved those traditional, neighborhood public schools,” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the NEA, said. “What you’re seeing here is a train wreck waiting to happen,” the teachers union president said before Devos’s hearing.
“I believe she is in the mainstream of public opinion, and her critics are not,” Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander said of Devos’s advocacy for alternative school choices for students. Senate Democrats and liberal activist groups have made the calculation that a majority of Americans oppose school voucher programs.
DeVos has pushed for educational choice, whether charter schools, school vouchers, or tuition tax credits.
She was the champion of the charter-school law in her home state of Michigan. The billionaire philanthropist chaired the American Federation for Children, a group devoted to electing state legislators around the country who favor school choice.
Opposition to DeVos even claims that her nomination would threaten special education funding and aid to poorer schools and students.
The president of the nation’s largest teachers union nicknamed Trump’s pick to lead Education, “Betsy Absolutely-no-experience DeVos.”
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