Betsy DeVos wouldn’t commit to protecting students with special needs.
She wouldn’t commit to keeping guns out of school campuses.
She wouldn’t commit to holding charter and voucher schools to the same standards as traditional public schools.
She didn’t know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was a federal law.
And she couldn’t explain the difference between proficiency and growth.
That’s your nominee for Secretary of Education, America!
During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) tonight, DeVos showed herself to be hopelessly out of her depth.
She tried to cover her ignorance by being noncommittal. But it was obvious that she had no idea what she was talking about more than half the time.
And far from being a fair arbiter, Senator Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairperson of the committee, did everything he could to shield her from further embarrassment. He artificially limited each member of the committee to only five minutes of questions.
Why? Because in the past the committee had fewer questions for President Barack Obama’s nominees for the position, Arne Duncan and John King.
What a farce! Duncan and King were terrible Education Secretaries, but at least they had some experience in the field! Duncan was Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools. King started his own charter school and was New York Commissioner of Education.
Betsy DeVos was never anything. She has never held a real job. She’s never had a job interview, nor has she ever been hired by anyone!
Her entire portfolio is being a rich Republican mega-donor. All she’s ever done is use her and her family’s obscene fortune to push for school vouchers, remove charter school accountability, advocate for Common Core and persecute LGBT people.
Of course there will be more questions! It’s not because she’s a Republican or that she was nominated by GOP President-elect Donald Trump!
It’s because she’s a twit!
Moreover, she hasn’t yet been cleared of conflicts of interest from the ethics commission nor have her financial disclosures been made public.
But no worries. Big Daddy Alexander was there to protect her from Senators on both sides of the aisle who had pointed questions for her about her experience, knowledge and about what she planned to do to public education if confirmed.
Never in the history of this nation has a more unqualified candidate been presented for such an important job.
How ironic that under the Trump administration we’re presented with a potential Education Secretary so in need of education, herself!
It’s an insult to the nation’s parents, students and teachers.
So how did she even get here?
She’s given nearly $2.7 million in political donations to 370 individuals and causes over the past 20 years through 819 total contributions, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. A little more than $2 million of that has gone to Republican candidates or causes, while a mere $8,000 went to Democratic candidates or groups.
That includes at least five members of the HELP Committee who will get to vote on her nomination. Sen. Tim Scott (R–SC) has received $49,200 from the DeVos family and was a keynote speaker at DeVos’ American Federation for Children annual summit in May 2016. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has received at least $70,200 from the DeVoses. Two other HELP committee members, Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), each have received $43,200 from the family. Newly elected Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) got $48,600 from the DeVos family in 2016.
However, those are just direct donations. Ten members of the HELP committee have received donations from Alticor Political Action Committee, or ALTIPAC. This PAC belongs to Alticor, the DeVos family company and parent company of Amway ― the multilevel marketing giant that fueled the DeVos family fortune ― and receives nearly half of its funds from the DeVos family. This includes Sen. Alexander, himself, who received $4,500 from ALTIPAC.
Devos has been rather upfront in the past about why she’s donated so much money to politicians.
In a 1997 op-ed she wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, DeVos explained: “[M]y family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party… I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point… We expect a return on our investment.”
This is something she shares with Trump, who has also bragged about paying for influence with his own campaign donations. “I’ve given to everybody. Because that was my job,” Trump bragged at a rally last January. “I gotta give it to them. Because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”
That’s what we saw during DeVos’ appearance on Capital Hill. It wasn’t a confirmation hearing. It was a bunch of bought politicians lining up to kiss DeVos’ white privileged butt.
There was resistance, but to what end?
Reason, knowledge, ethics ― none of that matters here. We are truly in the age of the plutocrats, where money has arrogantly attempted to buy governmental power outright. Right in front of our noses.
Only time will tell if she is ultimately confirmed.
In the meantime, our system of public education hangs in the balance.
Originally published 1/18/17 on Steven Singer’s website, Gadfly on the Wall Blog.