Living in West Michigan, I opposed the political agenda Betsy DeVos long before she hit the national stage. (I also opposed her husband’s candidacy for governor of Michigan in 2006.) I opposed her even before her nomination hearing where she showed insufficient knowledge of education policy, and stood up for guns in schools for protection against grizzly bears. Therefore, while I fear it will not be enough to block her appointment, I am happy to see that two Republican Senators have announced plans to vote against her. The Hill reports:
GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski in back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor announced Wednesday that they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination to be Education secretary…
“I come to the floor to announce a very difficult decision that I have made, and that is to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos to be our nation’s next secretary of Education,” Collins said from the Senate floor.
Collins specifically pointed to DeVos’s “lack of familiarly” with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, saying she was “troubled and surprised.”Murkowski, speaking after Collins, said she had too many concerns to back DeVos.
“I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of Education … who has been so immersed in the discussion of vouchers,” Murkowski said.
Politico ran the story under the headline DeVos In Trouble but also reported:
But Republicans said privately that Collins and Murkowski waited to announce their opposition once the rest of the votes for DeVos were locked up. They said that the rest of the GOP is firmly behind DeVos.
“She has the votes and will be confirmed,” said a senior GOP aide.
DeVos needs a simple majority on the Senate floor, and there are 52 Republicans. If there is a tie, Vice President Mike Pence will be the deciding vote. That would make history: According to a list provided by a Democratic aide, a vice president has never broken a tie on a Cabinet confirmation vote.
For further background on Betsy DeVos I recommend the article How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics from Politico Magazine. Even here in conservative West Michigan, thinking people realize she is the wrong person for the job–even many of her fellow graduates of Calvin College. MLive recently reported on Why 1,000 Calvin College alumni, students oppose Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. A letter protesting her appointment included four main points:
1. No background in education
While many of us were inspired by our time at Calvin College to make education a professional commitment, Mrs. DeVos was not. She has never worked in any educational institution as an administrator, nor as an educator. If the position of the Secretary of Education requires the individual to have an intimate knowledge of the tools used by educators, which we believe it does, Mrs. DeVos does not qualify.
2. Lacks commitment to public education
Many of us entered Calvin College directly from Christian high schools and spent our entire elementary and secondary school years in these institutions, as did Mrs. DeVos. While we appreciate the opportunity to thrive and learn, as provided by these educational systems, we recognize that the vast majority of K-12 students are educated in the public school system. Because of this, we believe that any individual who is nominated to be Secretary of Education should have a strong commitment to public education, which Mrs. DeVos does not.
3. Limited to advocacy, campaign contributions
We believe that Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to education is limited to her advocacy of, and financial contributions to, religious and charter schools. Having the financial resources to promote one’s ideological point of view, and endorse elected officials who share that ideology, is not equivalent to the preparation that comes from being an educator or educational administrator.
4. Unwilling to support public school funding
Finally, in the first day of her confirmation hearing, Mrs. DeVos indicated a lack of support for federal policies regarding educational systems that receive public funding. This is especially concerning given that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title IX, which ensure that all students’ educational experiences are free of discrimination that impedes learning, are not of value to Mrs. DeVos.
“Our undergraduate education prepared us to be engaged and informed citizens who support public servants who seek to serve effectively and competently. This is precisely why we oppose the nomination of our fellow alumna, Betsy DeVos, for the position of United States Secretary of Education,” according to the letter.