News Release

Betsy DeVos Hearing “A Disaster”

DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr [at] gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

She said today: “At her Senate hearing, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos demonstrated her unfitness for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education. She seemed to know little about education policy or federal law. She is a lobbyist for public funding of private schools, privately managed charter schools, virtual schools, home schooling, in short, any alternative to the nation’s historic public schools.

“As a private citizen, she has poured millions of dollars into her personal crusade to privatize public schools. When a senator asked her if she would commit not to privatize public schools, she could not do so.

“Under questioning from Senator Bernie Sanders, she admitted that she had given $200 million to Republicans (including 10 of the 12 on the committee that interviewed her).

“When Senator Tim Kaine asked her whether all schools receiving federal funds should be subject to the same federal regulations, she was evasive.

“When other senators pressed her to commit to requiring charter schools and voucher schools to abide by federal laws protecting children with disabilities, she said that was a decision for the states. She seemed surprised to learn that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is federal law.

“Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut asked if she would support a gun-free schools law, and she waffled. She said it should be up to the states because some states might want a gun in school to protect against grizzly bears. Senator Murphy represents Newtown, where the Sandy Hook massacre occurred. There have been no grizzly bear attacks in schools.

“The most embarrassing exchange occurred when Senator Al Franken asked her views about accountability, and DeVos did not understand the difference between proficiency and growth scores.

“Not much was said about the dismal results of charters in Michigan, where 80% operate for profit, free of any accountability and do not get better results than public schools. DeVos said she supports accountability but there is no accountability in her own state for charters.

“Nor does DeVos care about separation of church and state. She is eager to send taxpayer dollars to religious schools, even though voters have always rejected vouchers whenever they were put to a vote. If religious schools do accept federal money, as DeVos hopes, they will be required to accept federal laws.

“The hearing was a disaster for DeVos, but she had the assurance of a billionaire who knows she will be confirmed because she is entitled by her great wealth.”