Durbin & Duckworth Aren't Happy About Betsy DeVos Confirmation Either
By Stephen Gossett in News on Feb 7, 2017 8:36PM
Dick Durbin / Getty Images / Photo: Alex Wong
Updated 3:00 p.m. It took a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence—not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in GOP wheel-greasing—but uber-controversial "school choice" advocate Betsy DeVos was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday afternoon, despite the efforts of Democrats, including Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.
Both lawmakers had publicly declared their opposition to DeVos as Secretary of Education ahead of the Tuesday vote, with both candidates criticizing DeVos' lack of experience and "extreme" eduction-policy leanings.
In the wake of the narrowest of defeats (two Republican senators broke rank on Tuesday and voted with Democrats after constituents voiced their opposition), Durbin and Duckworth—along with local education advocates—didn't mince words in airing their disappointment.
"I was hoping Ms. DeVos would ease my concerns about her qualifications at her confirmation hearing and prove that she was up to the job," Duckworth said in a statement. "Instead, Ms. DeVos failed to study, showed up unprepared and appeared unfamiliar with a foundational civil rights law that guarantees every student, including those with disabilities, the right to a quality, equitable education."
"Unfortunately, our children and our nation will suffer the consequences of this decision for decades to come," she added.
Sen. Durbin echoed the common concern that DeVos' preference for voucher systems will ultimately damage public school students' eductions. "Our children deserve an Education Secretary who will choose students over corporate and for-profit interests; who understands and cares about the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, and students of color; and who is willing to do what is necessary to avoid conflicts of interest," Durbin said in a statement. "Clearly, Ms. DeVos is not that person."
In their opposition to the confirmation, Illinois Federation of Teachers noted that residents of the state stand largely opposed to DeVos' school-choice advocacy. “Today’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary is deeply troubling,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery in a statement. “Instead of selecting someone with a deep understanding of and proven commitment to our public schools, President Trump selected a billionaire Republican donor who wants to expand charter and private schools. Here in Illinois, voters don’t want more so-called ‘choice.’ They want fully-funded, vibrant public schools where their kids will get a well-rounded education in their own neighborhood."
Duckworth said in full in her statement:
"I do not believe the President nominated the best candidate to serve as Secretary of Education; I do not even believe he nominated a qualified candidate. I was hoping Ms. DeVos would ease my concerns about her qualifications at her confirmation hearing and prove that she was up to the job. Instead, Ms. DeVos failed to study, showed up unprepared and appeared unfamiliar with a foundational civil rights law that guarantees every student, including those with disabilities, the right to a quality, equitable education. I would not be here today were it not for strong public schools and civil rights protections, so there was simply no way I could support her nomination. It is a shame that someone who has never been a teacher or administrator, and who holds no degree in education policy, will now helm the agency tasked with educating our children and training our workforce. Unfortunately, our children and our nation will suffer the consequences of this decision for decades to come."
And here's Durbin's full statement:
“More than 50 years ago, Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into law, guaranteeing every child a free and equal, quality public education. By confirming Betsy DeVos, Senate Republicans have entrusted our children’s success to an individual whose experience with public education is limited to using her considerable wealth to undermine it.
“I share the concerns of parents and educators that Betsy DeVos is unfit to serve as Secretary of Education. Our children deserve an Education Secretary who will choose students over corporate and for-profit interests; who understands and cares about the needs of low-income students, students with disabilities, and students of color; and who is willing to do what is necessary to avoid conflicts of interest. Clearly, Ms. DeVos is not that person.
"Our efforts may have fallen short today, but we must continue making our voices heard. I am proud to stand with the tens of thousands of Illinoisans who voiced their opposition to this nomination, and I will do everything in my power as a United States Senator to ensure that we continue to deliver on our promise of public education for all."
Update: The Chicago Teacher's Union has also put out a statement decrying DeVos's appointment, referring to her as a "billionaire public education novice."
“Choosing Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education was one of the first in what will surely be a series of horrific decisions made by the Trump administration. Throughout the confirmation hearings, she proved to be completely unqualified for the position due to her lack of experience in public schools—which she has called a “dead end”—and through her support of charter schools, which have weakened districts like Chicago Public Schools (CPS) throughout the country."
The Teachers Union also compared DeVos to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, saying that both "cater to billionaires who dabble in destroying public education in areas of high poverty inhabited by Black and brown people."