Senate Committee Begins Hearings on DeVos Nomination

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Jan. 18, 2017

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee began confirmation hearings on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.

As expected, much of the conversation focused on school choice and creating more options for students. There was some push back on that issue, especially in opposition to companies and individuals who profit off schools. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) stated he didn’t want to see for-profit charters like those in Michigan moved to a national level and that, while the desire for charters is sincere, their effect on traditional schools and the funding gap they create must be acknowledged and addressed.

Ms. DeVos also expressed support for more local control and less federal intervention.  She supports reducing burdensome reporting, especially for college financial aid.  When questioned by Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) about the Every Student Succeeds Act, she stated that she would work to implement the law as intended.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) questioned Ms. DeVos on her position regarding guns in schools. Ms. DeVos stated that she believed it was best left to the locals to decide but did support the President-Elect’s statement to end gun-free zones.

The need for quality teachers in our schools was discussed. Sen. Michael Young (R-Indiana) asked how we could make sure we have the quality of teachers that students need. Ms. DeVos expressed support for empowering teachers and removing regulations. She would like to empower teachers “in a new way.”

Other topics covered in the hearing included IDEA, public funding for private schools, assessments and measuring student growth, Pell Grants, LGBTQ students and sexual assault in schools and on college campuses. The entire committee meeting can be viewed on the Senate HELP Committee website.

Committee members were limited to one round of five minutes each. Many members complained that they had further questions and would have liked more time to ask them in a public forum. Chair Alexander stated that members with remaining questions may submit them in writing and Ms. DeVos will respond to a “reasonable” number of them. He also stated that he would like to hold a vote on the confirmation next Tuesday if the ethics report on possible conflicts of interest has been submitted and reviewed by the committee.

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