Thursday, February 02, 2017

Bowling Green Area Residents Rally Against DeVos,Senate Committee Approves

This from WKMS:

A group of about 70 teachers, parents and other area residents rallied in downtown Bowling Green to voice their opposition to President Trump’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Education. 

The Jan. 30 protest was an attempt to persuade Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos at her scheduled Jan. 31 Senate confirmation hearing. 

Brian Pedigo of Glasgow said he listened to DeVos speak during a recent hearing held by a Senate committee he thinks she is unqualified to be secretary of education.    

“Well, the fact that she has never worked in the education system, she did not go to public school, she did not send her kids to public school. It seems to me that she is there simply to destroy the education department, not build it up and make it work for America.”

DeVos is a wealthy philanthropist who has spent decades supporting education reforms like vouchers and charter schools. 

Lynn Robertson of Bowling Green said she doesn’t think DeVos would guarantee students from all income levels a good education.

“I am not a teacher, I’m an artist. However, I believe in public education and it doesn’t sound to me like this person is going to support any kind of public education.”

The group marched to Senator Rand Paul’s office in Bowling Green, although he was in Washington, D.C. A spokeswoman for Senator Paul said he was unavailable for comment and has not said whether he will vote to confirm DeVos.

DeVos Clears Committee, Moves Closer to Confirmation

The Senate education committee approved President Donald Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos on a 12-11 party-line vote Tuesday, moving the school-choice advocate one step closer to becoming U.S. secretary of education.

But the gauntlet isn't over for the Michigan billionaire, as two Republicans said during Tuesday's committee session that DeVos hasn't yet secured their support, citing concern about her knowledge of education policy – particularly regarding students with disabilities – and noting opposition voiced by constituents.

"I have to acknowledge the thousands and thousands of Alaskans who have shared their concerns about DeVos," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. "And I have serious concerns about a nominee for secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation."

Murkowski continued: "She has not yet earned my full support. I would not advise that she yet count on my vote."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voiced reservations as well. 

"While it's unrealistic and unfair to expect a nominee to know all the details of such [education] programs, I was surprised and concerned about DeVos' apparent lack of familiarity with the landmark 1975 law [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] that guarantees a free and appropriate education for children with special needs," Collins said. "Therefore, I will continue to evaluate this nomination before it comes to the floor for a vote, even though I vote today to advance it."

Senate Democrats reportedly will vote en bloc against DeVos when her nomination comes to the Senate floor, and are trying to woo enough Republicans to block her. To be confirmed, nominees need the support of 51 senators – or 50 senators and the presumed tiebreaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence – and Democrats hold 48 seats.

Democrats on the Senate education committee showed Tuesday they are willing to go to great lengths to oppose DeVos' nomination, invoking a series of procedural tactics to further delay her consideration, though they ultimately failed to thwart the vote.

DeVos is among Trump's most embattled Cabinet picks, along with his choice for health and human services secretary, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, and treasury secretary, Goldman Sachs alum Steven Mnuchin. A boycott by Democratic lawmakers Tuesday forced Republicans to delay votes on Price and Mnuchin in the Senate Finance Committee.

On Monday, hundreds of civil rights and education groups released a letter to Senate lawmakers opposing DeVos for education secretary, calling into question her ability to enforce federal education laws for low-income students, students of color and those with disabilities.

And before Tuesday's vote, Democrats once again raised questions about DeVos' lack of experience in public education, her understanding of education policy issues, and potential conflicts of interest tied to political donations and her investments in education companies and other ventures.

"This nominee is different," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the education committee's ranking member. "And there are very good reasons why she has become so controversial – why she has been panned across the country, why offices are being inundated with calls to oppose her, and why so many Democrats are standing up to say they think she is the wrong choice." 

Potentially further complicating her nomination process, in responding in writing to questions from lawmakers, DeVos appears to have lifted sentences and phrases without attribution from various sources, The Washington Post reports. One sentence – in a response to questions from Murray – closely parallels a statement in a news release made by Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, the Post reports.

DeVos, who's been an advocate for school voucher programs in cities like Detroit, has the backing of conservative school-choice supporters, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the education committee and himself education secretary under President George H. W. Bush.

Alexander dug in his heels in support of DeVos on Tuesday, slamming Democrats for trying to stall her nomination and accusing them of fabricating reasons for why she's not qualified. 

"Suggestions have been made that we should hear more from her, that we should ask her additional questions," he said. "I believe she's already the most questioned education secretary in our history."
Alexander went on to say that the fact DeVos is a billionaire doesn't disqualify her from being education secretary and that as an outsider, she would be an "excellent" education secretary.
"Does anyone really expect President Trump to nominate someone to be education secretary from inside the education establishment?" he asked.

A full Senate vote on DeVos could occur on the floor as soon as this week, as Republicans try to close out consideration of Trump's Cabinet picks.

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