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Vote Expected Today on Controversial Education Secretary Nominee

Public-education advocates are opposing the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)
Public-education advocates are opposing the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)
January 31, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – A vote is set today on the confirmation of Betsy DeVos, the billionaire education activist who is President Trump's pick for education secretary. The nominee is facing strong opposition from public-education advocates across the nation. Supporters say DeVos is a reformer who will stand up to unions and promote local control of education.

But, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia calls DeVos a dangerously unqualified nominee. Garcia says DeVos' experience is questionable, seeing how she has never attended or taught at a public school.

"That would be bad, but it's even worse because the experience that she does have is in finding very creative ways to funnel public-school money into for-profit corporations," she said. "That might be charter schools or voucher schools."

DeVos is a philanthropist and former head of the Republican Party in Michigan, who says she wants to give all parents the choice to send their children to private schools using taxpayer dollars. Opponents have argued against taking more money away from public schools.

Garcia says another issue is DeVos' significant campaign contributions to the people who are on the committee who will be approving her. She notes there are other ethics concerns as well.

"She actually has business connections and friends in the company that is up for a $20 billion contract with the Department of Education as the collection agency for all of those students who were talked into outrageous student debt," she explained.

Garcia notes more than one million letters have been sent to Congress opposing DeVos and that public-education advocates will need to keep close tabs on her if she gets the job.

"And it's not just the educators: it's the parents, it's the activists in those communities, and we are not going to have any secretary of education be able to hurt our students without us sounding the alarm," added Garcia.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will vote Tuesday, and experts believe DeVos will win confirmation despite the opposition.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA