A full-court press by the left and congressional Democrats failed to take down the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and the New York Times is bitter. Emmarie Huetteman and Yamiche Alcindor couldn't even finish their lead sentence without laying down an insult against the new education secretary in Wednesday's front-page report, “DeVos Confirmed for Education by Pence’s Vote.”
Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor with almost no experience in public education, was confirmed by the Senate as the nation’s education secretary on Tuesday, but only with the help of a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence after weeks of protests and two defections within her own party.
The 51-to-50 vote capped an all-night vigil on the Senate floor, where, one by one, Democrats denounced Ms. DeVos to a mostly empty chamber. But they did not get a third Republican defection that would have stopped Ms. DeVos -- a billionaire who has devoted much of her life to promoting charter schools and vouchers -- from becoming the steward of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools....
Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, demanded before the vote that Republicans explain how they could support Ms. DeVos. “If we cannot set aside party loyalty long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president’s nominees, what are we even doing here?” Mr. Franken asked.
The paper was so impressed with Franken’s outburst that they made it the Quote of the Day.
The two Republicans who voted against the nominee, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said Ms. DeVos was unqualified because of a lack of familiarity with public schools and with laws meant to protect students.
The Times found it bizarre that a political figure would not place their children in public schools, although stalwart rhetorical defenders of public schools like the Clintons and Obamas did so without media criticism. (The last presidential offspring to attend a D.C. public school was Amy Carter.)
<<< Please support MRC's NewsBusters team with a tax-deductible contribution today. >>>
For many educators, Ms. DeVos’s support for charter schools and vouchers -- which allow students to use taxpayer dollars to pay tuition at private, religious and for-profit schools -- reflected a deep disconnect from public schools. Neither Ms. DeVos nor any of her children attended a public school.
Of course, DeVos’s job is to oversee the education of America’s children, not to protect the status quo administered by the public school bureaucracy.
Most Republicans described Ms. DeVos as committed to what is best for children. In a fiery speech moments before the vote, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and a former education secretary himself, criticized his Democratic colleagues for opposing Ms. DeVos, he said, simply because she was nominated by a Republican president.
Teachers’ unions and even some charter organizations had protested Ms. DeVos’s nomination across the country. Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee that approved Ms. DeVos -- and a former educator herself -- urged disheartened advocates on Tuesday morning before the vote not to think of their efforts as a waste.
Shortly after Ms. DeVos’s confirmation, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union that protested the nomination, said the public would now have to “serve as a check and balance” to her policies and be “fierce fighters on behalf of children.”
David E. Kirkland, an education professor at New York University who has studied Ms. DeVos’s impact in Michigan, said he feared she could badly hurt public education and pull resources out of schools in need of federal funding. “Her extensive conflicts of interest and record of diverting money away from vulnerable students and into the pockets of the rich make DeVos completely unfit for the position she was just confirmed to,” he said.
Ms. DeVos has focused on expanding parental choice in education and on embracing charter schools and vouchers. Her ideology was a good fit for Mr. Trump’s education platform during the campaign, which called for a $20 billion voucher initiative aimed at low-income children.
But freeing such an enormous sum would most likely require the reallocation of federal education money, as well as a realignment of congressional priorities. Vouchers were not part of a sweeping education overhaul passed in 2015, and lawmakers from rural areas, where schools tend to be farther apart, are particularly wary of such initiatives.
Democrats have also expressed concern about her family’s contributions to groups that support so-called conversion therapy for gay people and her past statements that government “sucks” and that public schools are a “dead end.” Opponents have also focused on the poor performance of charter schools in Detroit, which she championed.
(As if Detroit public schools were just lapping the field before DeVos messed things up.)
The paper rehashed the left’s favorite moment before letting Sen. Franken again take potshots:
In a bizarre moment that made her the butt of late-night TV jokes, Ms. DeVos also suggested that states should decide whether to allow guns in schools, citing in part concerns about protection from grizzly bears in Wyoming.
“I think probably there, I would imagine there is probably a gun in a school to protect from potential grizzlies,” she said.
Before the vote Tuesday, Mr. Franken said, “It was the most embarrassing confirmation hearing that I have ever seen.”