This week, the Senate held the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education. During the course of the hearing it became clear that DeVos – who has never attended a public school, taught in a classroom, or served on a school board – is woefully unprepared to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Education. Particularly troubling were her responses to questions about the rights of students with disabilities, and what steps she would take to protect the one in five women who will be victims of sexual assault during their time at college and women ages 18-24 who are college students are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.
DeVos would not commit to enforcing current Title IX guidance to protect student victims, keeping guns out of schools, or preserving funding for public education.
Betsy DeVos faced senators on Tuesday at her confirmation hearing before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. It was the only time President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education will be questioned publicly prior to the vote next week. The 59-year-old billionaire Republican donor lacks any experience working in education but has pushed for voucher programs for over 20 years. During her hearing, DeVos revealed gaps in her knowledge about education policy and laws, prompting some on social media to say that it was like a job interview gone wrong. Here were some of concerning moments from the proceedings.
FIRE has also historically offered representation to students accused of campus assault — but not the survivors of assault — as a means of guaranteeing those individuals fair representation during the adjudication process. Which is why when DeVos was asked about upholding “that 2011 Title IX guidance as it relates to sexual assault on campus,” her answer was pretty shocking: “Senator, I know that there's a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance — and if confirmed I would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinion and understand the issues from the higher-ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them and I would look forward to working together to find some resolutions,” DeVos said. When Casey pushed DeVos for a yes or no answer regarding whether or not she would uphold the 2011 guidance, she replied, “It would be premature for me to do that today.”
Betsy DeVos would not commit in a Senate hearing Tuesday to keeping federal rules in place for how schools must address sexual violence if she’s confirmed as secretary of education, or that she wouldn’t scale back federal Title IX investigations. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) used all of his time during a Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pension Committee hearing to ask DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, about what she’d do to address campus rape.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate began the confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. The appointment of the Michigan billionaire, who has been a substantial donor to the Republican party throughout the years, has been met with some concern, mainly because DeVos has no past government experience nor has she ever attended a public school or university in the United States—important factors if you’re going to be tasked with handling the education of millions of American children.
…DeVos confirmed that she’s never attended a public K-12 school, nor have her children. She’s also never taught at a public school. DeVos also struggled to answer Kaine’s questions about the federal civil rights laws that requires states to use federal funding to provide special services to children with disabilities. “Should all k-12 schools receiving governmental funding be required to meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act?” Kaine asked. In response, DeVos said, “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states.” Later… New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) asked DeVos if she understood that the aforementioned law was a federal civil rights law. DeVos told Hassan – who, the Post, noted has a disabled son – that she “may have confused it.” Further, DeVos told Kaine only “I support accountability” when asked if she thinks all schools that receive federal funding – whether public, public charter or private – should be held to the same accountability standards.
They worry that a woman who doesn't seem to support the very concept of public education may not be the best person to head the department that controls it. DeVos has never taught in a public school or been on staff at one. Her children have not gone to public school. She is not only a fierce advocate of the charter-school movement, but a proponent of school-choice voucher programs, which redirect precious federal dollars from public schools to private and charter schools.
To start, when asked for her thoughts on using test scores as a measure of student proficiency or growth by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, DeVos didn’t seem to understand the difference, much less provide an informative response about which she would prioritize as head of the Department of Education.
Proficiency, achieved when a student reaches a specific benchmark in a subject, differs from growth, which measures a student’s progress in a subject. The debate is a common one in the education community and plays into schools’ ability to receive federal funding because legislation, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, often emphasizes proficiency.
Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, weathered an unusually contentious confirmation hearing Tuesday night, where she stumbled over several basic questions about education policy and denied she served on a board of a private foundation that donated to anti-LGBT causes, despite years of tax filings that indicated otherwise. DeVos, a Republican megadonor who has worked for decades to expand school choice, said she would wanted to end “one-size fits all education,” steering taxpayer money away from traditional public schools and into charter schools, as well as private schools, religious schools and online charters.
President-elect Trump stated during his campaign, “Under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them.” Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats urge him to keep this promise to American workers by making a commitment to preserving critical workplace protections.
The Overtime Rule
Pursuant to a directive from President Obama, on May 23, 2016, the Department of Labor issued final regulations to update the salary threshold under which most full-time salaried workers are automatically eligible for overtime.The final rule would allow most workers who earn under $913 per week – or $47,476 annually – to be automatically eligible for overtime pay. This standard will cover a little over 30 percent of the full-time salaried workforce. The previous standard covered less than 10 percent of the full-time salaried workforce. The rule also automatically updates the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time.
President-elect Trump stated during his campaign, “under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect themand fight for them.” Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats urge him to keep this promise to American workers by making a commitment to preserving critical workplace protections.
The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order
All too often, federal contractors with histories of serious, willful or repeated violations of our nation’s labor, employment and workplace safety laws continue to be rewarded with federal contracts, or gain a competitive advantage over those who play by the rules. President Obama signed Executive Order 13673 on July 31, 2014 requiring companies seeking federally-funded contracts to disclose labor law violations. Ensuring that federal contractors follow the law is critically important given that an estimated one in five American workers are employed by federal contractors.
An investigation by the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee revealed that in 2012, 49 federal contractors engaging in significant labor law violations received $81 billion in federally-funded contracts. A 2010 GAO study found that, of the 100 companies who received the largest sanctions for violating worker wage, health, and safety laws, 33 percent were awarded federal contracts in 2009. According to the Center for American Progress, companies with the worst compliance records also performed poorly on government contracts. The rules and guidance implementing the Executive Order help ensure that labor law violators that receive federal contracts have a process for coming into compliance with the law..Studies show this approach promotes efficiency and effectiveness in government.
If this Executive Order is dismantled…
Law-abiding companies could be forced into unfair competition with lawbreakers and corner cutters.
Workers would be at greater risk of working on taxpayer-subsidized contracts with repeated labor law violations, unsafe working conditions, and discrimination.
Last night the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education. During the course of the hearing it became clear that DeVos – who has never attended a public school, taught in a classroom, or served on a school board – is woefully unprepared to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Education. In case you missed it, we’ve outlined some of the most troubling things from her confirmation hearing:
On Defunding Public Schools: DeVos would not commit to preserving funding for public education.
On IDEA and the Rights of Students with Disabilities: DeVos asserted that services and legal protections for students with disabilities is a matter that should be left to the states. She also appeared to be unaware that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law.
On Proficiency and Growth: When asked for her thoughts on using proficiency measures vs. growth measures for the purpose of K-12 assessments, DeVos did not know the difference.
On Protecting Student Borrowers: DeVos could not say whether she would enforce critical protections for students at for-profit colleges – institutions required to prepare students for gainful employment after graduation.
On Sexual Assault and Title IX: When pressed for an answer, DeVos would not commit to upholding the Department of Education’s current guidance on Title IX which helps colleges and universities combat campus sexual assault.
The Secretary of Education must ensure all students have access to safe, diverse, high-quality public schools. Betsy DeVos has actively worked to stack the deck against public schools, teachers, and students by fighting to gut public education funding and even working against proposals to increase accountability and transparency at for-profits schools that put taxpayer dollars into the pockets of corporations. DeVos’ privatization campaign in Michigan has been a failure for the students and their families. Her track record, combined with her testimony at yesterday’s hearing that demonstrated her lack of knowledge of federal education law and the programs within the Department of Education, show how out-of-touch, unqualified and unprepared she is to serve our nation’s students, teachers and families.
Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Labor put rules in place to make the economy fairer for everyone. As a result of these efforts, Americans will be safer and more secure on the job and in retirement. President-elect Trump stated during his campaign, “Under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them.” Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats urge him to keep this promise to American workers by making a commitment to preserving critical workplace protections.
President-elect Trump and House Republicans Have Repeatedly Threatened to Gut Critical Workplace Protections
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pledged in his first speech before the 115th Congress to “remove harmful regulations and change the structure of Washington, draining the bureaucratic swamp.” House Republicans advanced legislation in January designed to either make it easier to gut regulations or harder to put them in place. The House Freedom Caucus pledged to roll back 16 workplace protections.
Supporting these rules and actions means supporting workers. Before President-elect Trump takes office this week, Democrats urge his administration and the Republicans in Congress to take a close look at the devastating impact that dismantling worker protections would have on American families.