Washington, D.C. — Catherine Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement after the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, or HELP, voted to approve the nomination of Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as the U.S. secretary of education. DeVos’ nomination was approved by a party-line vote of 12 to 11.
By voting to move Betsy DeVos’ nomination forward, Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee ignored the fierce outcry of students, teachers, parents, principals, administrators, the civil rights community, and the disability community.
During DeVos’ abbreviated hearing, during which HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) refused to permit additional questions despite the protests of Democratic senators, the American public saw a glimpse of why Betsy DeVos is wholly unfit for the position of secretary of education. She was unaware of the functions of one of the largest programs implemented at the department—which serves 5 million students with disabilities across the country—and she refused to commit to keeping resources intact for 9 million low-income students. Shockingly, DeVos appeared not to know the difference between growth and proficiency and even suggested that schools needed firearms to protect against grizzly bears. Our country’s students and families, as well as everyone with a stake in our nation’s education system, deserve far better than this.
Despite being given numerous opportunities to elaborate in person and in writing, DeVos remains a complete blank slate on higher education. The only areas where she has provided any specificity result in taking protections away—from students harmed at career training programs to victims of campus sexual assault. She will not even commit to protecting foundational higher education programs such as the Pell Grant. Given the substantial federal role in funding and supporting higher education, the country needs someone with the knowledge and ability to ensure that federal investments in college provide opportunity for students who need it.
The record plainly shows that DeVos is unqualified, but her and her family’s campaign contributions worth more than $4 million to sitting senators responsible for her confirmation may be one of the reasons she was approved by the committee this morning. The full Senate will now have the opportunity to consider her qualifications for education secretary, and I urge them to vote no.
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