Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary, had her day before a Senate committee late Tuesday.
Not surprisingly, school choice was a recurring theme from the hearing. Committee Democrats grilled the billionaire Michigan school choice advocate, questioning her commitment to public education. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and former education secretary, praised the DeVos pick. Alexander’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee could vote on the nomination Tuesday, POLITICO reported, if the Senate’s Office of Government Ethics concludes its review of DeVos’ finances by Friday.
Here’s a roundup of coverage from Capitol Hill.
From Education Week: DeVos pledged to be “a strong advocate for great public schools,” but also said parents should be able to pull their kids from struggling public schools.
“If a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child — perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet — we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative.”
From The Detroit Free Press and USA Today: DeVos also was grilled over whether she supports debunked “conversion therapy” for LGBT students. She said she did not support such techniques, but said family members may have contributed “18 or 20 years ago” to groups pursuing the practice.
“I believe in equality and I firmly believe in the intrinsic value of each individual, and that every student should have the assurance of a safe and discrimination-free place to become educated,” she said.
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From POLITICO: When Democrats pressed her on the issue, DeVos declined to commit to maintaining federal funding for traditional public schools. From the article: “DeVos also stumbled when asked about enforcing federal special education law, eliciting gasps in the overflow room when she suggested leaving enforcement decisions up to the states.”
From The Washington Post: DeVos also took criticism when she struggled with a question on student achievement — and the debate over whether to focus on proficiency or growth.
“This is a subject that has been debated in the education community for years,” said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. “But it surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”
From NBC News: Many news reports cited one exchange over guns in schools. Paraphrasing Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., a committee member, DeVos said one Wyoming school has erected fences to protect students from wildlife — and might have guns on hand to ward off “potential grizzlies.”