Too Late To Stop Betsy DeVos?
Tomorrow's the day. The full Senate will vote on Trump's nominee to destroy the American education system, crackpot Republican billionaire Betsy DeVos. Frequent DWT commenter, Hone, a retired school psychologist, told me she spent Friday at a teachers' union headquarters in upstate New York calling Republican Senate offices about DeVos. I told her that the only possible Republican who could be swayed was Nevada's Dean Heller, who lives in a swing state and is up for reelection in 2018. Hone, though, spent most of her time calling Thom Tillis' various offices trying to communicate the message about DeVos' unsuitability. I told her she was probably wasting her time. But as of yesterday, Tillis was actually claiming he was still undecided and wanted to hear from his constituents. His numbers, by the way, are (919) 856-4630 and (202) 224-6342.
Fortunately there was no need for Hone to call centrist New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan, someone who has supported some Trump nominees but wrote an OpEd in the NY Times Friday explaining why she's voting against DeVos today. It's pretty heavy-- particularly coming right on top of hypocritical Republican congressmembers defending their move to obliterate a rule preventing severely mentally disabled people from buying guns. The Republicans whined to the media about protecting the rights of the handicapped, not exactly something we ever hear from the GOP these days.
Our nation recognized early in its history that public education is a necessary foundation for a democracy. It’s critical that we continue to support a strong public education system that prepares our young people, all of them, to participate in our democracy and compete on a fair footing in the work force.
For this reason, our public officials should share a reverence for the importance of public education to our country’s success, both now and in the future. And they must show a commitment to enforcing our laws so that all students have the opportunity to succeed.
That is why I oppose President Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos. Throughout her confirmation process, Ms. DeVos has demonstrated a complete lack of experience in, knowledge of and support for public education. Instead, it is clear that she would pursue policies that would undermine public schools, in my home state of New Hampshire and across our nation.
At her nomination hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last month, I questioned Ms. DeVos on whether she would enforce the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, the law that ensures that all students receive a free and full education in our schools. Not only did Ms. DeVos decline to assure senators that she would enforce the law to protect students with disabilities, but she also demonstrated her confusion about whether the I.D.E.A. is a federal law.
Ensuring access to public education for every student is an issue that is personal to my family. My adult son Ben was born with cerebral palsy. Ben is bright and funny (and quite handsome, according to this unbiased source). He cannot walk, cannot use his fingers to type and can speak only in difficult-to-understand single words.
If Ben had been born a generation or two earlier, we, his parents, would have been pressured to put him in an institution. But Ben was able to go to a public school in his hometown, Exeter, N.H., because of the tireless work of the advocates, educators and public officials who came before us.
Ben had the opportunity to go to school and make friends in his own community-- something that all parents want for their children. And I was drawn to public service to ensure that all children have the same opportunities that Ben did.
Instead of supporting public schools, Ms. DeVos has supported voucher systems that divert taxpayer dollars to private, religious and for-profit schools without requirements for accountability. Voucher systems often fail to serve children who have disabilities. To use a voucher, families are sometimes forced to sign away their child’s legal rights, and the schools receiving the voucher often lack the experience or resources necessary to educate the child.
This is in sharp contrast to public school systems that focus on serving all students, including those with disabilities. In these public schools, educators are better prepared to recognize challenges faced by all students-- not just those who have a diagnosed disability-- and are empowered to tailor educational experiences to individual students.
That is the wonder of a public education system that reinforces the principle that every student counts. Too often, though, the voucher programs that Ms. DeVos advocates leave out students whose families cannot afford to pay the part of the tuition that the voucher does not cover; the programs also leave behind students with disabilities because the schools do not accommodate their complex needs.
I am also concerned about the number of unresolved conflicts of interest regarding Ms. DeVos’s finances, which call into question whether she will put America’s students before her own financial interests. Ms. DeVos has invested in numerous companies in the education sphere, and she has failed to answer basic questions about her finances, including which companies she would stay invested in if she is confirmed.
I will always fight to improve our public education system and ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential. This week, I voted against moving forward with Ms. DeVos’s nomination in committee, and I will vote against her nomination again on the Senate floor.
Thousands of my constituents have called my office about this nomination, and nearly all have voiced concerns that Ms. DeVos is completely unqualified to serve as secretary of education. Two of my Republican colleagues have also announced their opposition. This leaves just one more vote needed to defeat her nomination.
I hope there is another senator willing to break with the president and vote against this woefully unqualified nominee. We must listen to the thousands speaking up for our children and the public education system that serves all Americans.
The Washington Post described grassroots reaction to DeVos' nomination as a "groundswell of opposition" and over the weekend the whole country saw her portrayed as a clod on Saturday Night Live in a performance that closely mirrored her own jaw-dropping testimony before the Senate. Editorial boards across the country have urged her rejection. Even the Republican Chicago Tribune summed her up as representing all that is wrong with the charter movement. "DeVos," they wrote over the weekend, "is woefully unqualified and unprepared to lead the Education Department. DeVos has no direct experience at any level of public education. Her only true experience is using her family wealth to influence legislation aimed at expanding and protecting charter and voucher schools in Michigan and across the country. She brings the flaws of the charter/voucher movement into clear focus... [T]here is the lack of any transparency with respect to how tax dollars are used in charter/voucher schools. Taxpayers deserve to know how sponsors of charter/voucher schools are taking profit or using tax dollars for nonschool church purposes versus educating kids. Here again, DeVos has financially influenced decisions to avoid such transparency. No legislator or government official should falsely preach against the effectiveness of public education, reject responsibility for making all schools effective or endorse the use of tax dollars while avoiding accountability and transparency and visiting financial harm on existing public schools."
The intensity of opposition to DeVos seems greater than even the opposition to Scott Pruitt (EPA), Jeff Sessions (Justice) and Steve Mnuchin (Treasury), widely seen as his three worst appoints aside from her. Politico outlined the quixotic, furious last minute bid to sink the nomination.
Teachers unions, civil rights advocates and a ragtag assemblage of other opponents are bombarding congressional offices with tens of thousands of phone calls and more than 1 million emails-- a massive but almost certainly doomed effort to vanquish one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial Cabinet picks.
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, said on Twitter that the last three days had “been the busiest in Capitol switchboard history” by “almost double.” He urged opponents of DeVos to “keep it up.”
The campaign kicked into high gear this week after two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, announced their opposition, leaving the charter schools advocate hanging by a 50-50 thread. Just one more “no” vote and DeVos is done-- a prospect that seems tantalizingly close for Democrats but that GOP leaders say they’re confident won’t happen.
Author Stephen King, a Maine resident, tweeted to his 2.8 million followers: “Thanks to Susan Collins for saying ‘No’ on Betsy DeVos. Notice that it's possible to be a good Republican and still say no to Donald Trump.”
Trump doesn't even know her; she was Pence's pick. When Trump ran into her at event the other day, he seemed unsure of who she was and eventually said, in front of reporters, "You're the education lady, right?" Pence will have break the Senate tie tomorrow-- unless one good Republican is found to vote against her (or even just disappear for the day). Spicer claims the Regime is "100% confident" she'll be confirmed.
Teachers unions, who have long warred with DeVos over her support of charter school expansion and using taxpayer money for vouchers, among other things, are continuing to mobilize hundreds of thousands of their members across the country to call lawmakers.This has been circulating on Social Media this week, meant, primarily as a description of Trump, of course, but it seems to fit DeVos perfectly as well as the whole kakistocracy:
The country’s largest union, the National Education Association, says it has organized more than 80,000 phone calls and more than 1.1 million emails in the past four weeks.
But the opposition to DeVos mushroomed into something bigger after clips from her bumpy confirmation hearing exploded across social media, reinforcing questions about her qualifications for the job and turning the nominee into a punchline on late night television.
“Betsy DeVos teaches us that if you're born rich, never go to public schools, and hate public schools, someday you can run public schools,” tweeted comedian Mike Birbiglia.
Union organizers say that although they are still campaigning against DeVos, a good deal of the backlash comes from the general public. And they anticipate those efforts would increase over the weekend as activists share lawmakers’ phone numbers on Facebook and Twitter.
“This has become such a high-profile fight for our education system that there will no doubt be an enormous amount of activism over the weekend,” said Mary Kusler, senior director of the Center for Advocacy at the NEA.
Parent groups have become soldiers in the cause, incensed that DeVos has never been a teacher or school administrator and fearful she will put their children's education at risk.
Deena Mitchell, a parent activist in Anchorage, said she is disturbed by Devos' "absolute lack of experience for this job."
“I think anyone who makes a comment that public education is a ‘dead end’ doesn’t fundamentally believe that public education is the bedrock of our democracy,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and her group, Great Alaska Schools, cheered Murkowski's decision to oppose DeVos. This weekend, they’re organizing “a tie-breaker telethon,” collecting comments to deliver to their other senator, Dan Sullivan, who has said he’ll vote to confirm her.
The push against DeVos has also sparked some unlikely alliances.
Billionaire philanthropist and education reformer Eli Broad, a Democrat who has donated to both parties and pushed for charter school expansion, penned a letter this week urging the Senate to reject DeVos.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who is usually on the opposite side from Broad, shares his position on DeVos. Education secretary nominees are usually given great deference by both parties, she said. But “DeVos breaks the mold.”
The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.