Yesterday, January 31, the Senate Health, Labor, Education and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted 12-11 to advance the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be U.S. Secretary of Education to the full Senate for a vote.
“The Republican majority on the Senate HELP Committee made a critical mistake today. Betsy DeVos is simply unqualified and unprepared to be the nation’s Secretary of Education,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Her lack of experience and lack of fluency on current education and civil rights law was clear in her responses to senators’ questions at her confirmation hearing.”
The U.S. Department of Education plays a critical role as the primary federal agency protecting students’ civil rights. The agency is also in the midst of implementing the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a law intended to ensure equal educational opportunity for all students, which will be greatly impacted by whomever heads the department.
Betsy DeVos has never taught in or been an administrator of a public school. The extent of her involvement in education has been as a wealthy contributor to charter schools and voucher programs.
Based on her record and her performance at her confirmation hearing earlier in the month, civil rights groups say that DeVos is unfit to head the department. More than 250 organizations signed on to a Leadership Conference letter to the Senate opposing her confirmation on January 30.
“Betsy DeVos’ deference to state flexibility, even with regard to compliance with federal civil rights laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); her claim that demonstrating support for Title IX enforcement guidance would be “premature;” and her lack of support for accountability for all schools receiving federal funds only serve to reinforce our conclusion that her inadequate previous experience and missing record of support for students’ civil rights make her unfit to serve as Secretary of Education,” the letter states.
The full Senate is expected to vote on her nomination in the coming weeks.