Whether you follow politics or not, one thing is for certain, Tuesday’s confirmation hearing for Trump’s Education Security nominee, Betsy DeVos, was one for the books — and not in a good way. Live for the entire world to see, billionaire DeVos was ripped to shreds about her views on the public school system, higher education and student loans/grants.
In case you missed the circus side show, or maybe you’re just not into politics, here’s everything you need to know about Betsy DeVos’ hearing:
1. Betsy DeVos believes that guns should be allowed in schools, in the event that there’s a grizzly bear attack: When asked by Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut whether guns had any place around schools, DeVos replied,”I think that’s best left to locales and states to decide.” When pressed whether she could definitively answer whether guns should/should not be allowed in schools, DeVos referred to Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi who previously spoke about an elementary school erecting a fence to protect children from wildlife.”I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said.
2. Betsy DeVos can’t answer whether colleges should continue to have an established procedure for handling complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence: Sen. Bob Casey asked DeVos about sexual assault on college campuses, and while they could both agree that this was a major problem, DeVos couldn’t answer directly whether college campuses should uphold Title IX guidance. For those not familiar, Title IX protects against sexual discrimination in federal funded colleges. It also requires colleges/universities to have procedures set in place to handle complaints of sexual assault/rape and that they must take immediate action to ensure a victim can continue their education free of sexual violence or discrimination. It also says that the school can not retaliate against someone who complains of sexual discrimination, harassment or violence. Title IX does not only protect female students. When asked multiple times by Casey whether she would stand to uphold Title IX in colleges, Betsy DeVos finally answers, “It would be premature for me to do that today.”
Confusing answer for someone who says she agrees that sexual assault on college campuses is a problem.
3. Betsy DeVos doesn’t believe in tuition-free public colleges/universities: Sen. Bernie Sanders is all about tuition free college. Hillary Clinton was all about debt free college. Betsy DeVos believes “nothing in life is truly free,” but was shut down completely by Sanders during her hearing. “Right now we have proposals in front of us to substantially lower tax breaks for billionaires in this country while at the same time low-income kids can’t afford to go to college. Do you think that’s right?” asked Sanders. DeVos deflected. Bernie asked DeVos twice more, she deflected both times. Eventually she answered — sort of — by saying, “Senator I think we can work together and we could work hard on making sure that college or higher education in some form is affordable for all young people that want to pursue it and I would look forward to that opportunity if confirmed,” she said. In other words, “Chile, get out of my face asking me these questions. Next!”
4. Betsy DeVos believes public schools are a “dead end” and is open to defunding them. She also has no experience in public schools. She’s never worked in a public school, attended a public school or enrolled her children in a public school: Sen. Patty Murray of Washington asked DeVos bluntly and directly if she would commit to keeping funding for public schools intact. In true DeVos fashion, she dodged the question multiple times. “I take that as not be willing to commit to not privatizing public schools or cutting money from education,” Murray replied.
“I guess I wouldn’t characterize it in that way,” DeVos said.
DeVos was also grilled by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine about never enrolling or having taught in a public school, yet saying public school is a “dead end” and the government sucks. “The nation deserves a Secretary of Education who will be a champion for kids, parents, state and local control and outcomes. I also think the nation deserves a Secretary who is a champion for public education,” said Kaine. “I worry about the effect of a leader who thinks ‘government sucks’ on the morale of the workforce. Teachers and others do better when their morale is high.”
5. Betsy DeVos wants to leave it up the state whether or not they should follow federal laws protecting disabled students: DeVos doesn’t know which laws are federally mandated and believes that things such as treatment of disabled children should be left up to the state to decide — even though there are federal laws in place. Tim Kaine asked whether DeVos supported equal accountability standards and compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for all schools that receive taxpayer dollars. This provides a safe place for students with disabilities, requiring schools to meet requirements to report and handle instances of harassment, discipline or bullying. DeVos replies, “I think that is a matter that is best left to the states.”
Kaine asked, “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and, what then, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how kids are being treated?”
To which DeVos responds again, “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states.” Kaine then had to remind her IT’S A FEDERAL LAW!
“What about the federal requirement? It’s a federal law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act,” and he repeated his question.
6. DeVos doesn’t know whether student progress should be measured by growth or proficiency because she doesn’t know the difference between growth and proficiency: Measuring the progress of students is and always be a hot button issue in the education system. Should you measure a student’s test scores based on how far he’s come, how much progress he’s made or do you measure it based on how much he knows and whether he hit the benchmark. Sen. Al Franken asked DeVos to explain her thinking on whether test scores should be used to measure students’ proficiency or their growth.
“I think if I am understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would correlate it to competency and mastery, so each student according to the advancements they are making in each subject area,” she said.
“That’s growth, that’s not proficiency,” Franken replied.
Measuring schools and test scores by growth vs. proficiency has been an ongoing debate for years. Someone who plans to work in education should probably be aware of this and at least have an opinion on it.
7. Betsy DeVos has no experience with student loans. She’s never taken out a loan and neither have her children: As Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos would be in charge of running a $1 trillion student loan bank. She has no experience doing that. In fact, Betsy DeVos has no experience with student loans, Pell Grants, or public education at all. Hell, she’s never even ran a bank or any billion or trillion dollar loan programs. Thanks to Sen. Elizabeth Warren for pointing that out.
After watching DeVos’ hearing, I found that she appeared uneducated, inexperienced and often times confused about what she was being asked. When she didn’t know how to answer something, she would revert to saying “I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to…” instead of simply answering the yes or no question she was asked. I found that she also dodged questions two or three times until she was forced to gave and still indirectly answer them. Then, when you finally get some sort of answer out of DeVos, it’s a problematic one. I’m almost certain everyone is in agreement on voting “No” for Betsy DeVos. She’s a disaster.