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DeVos Declared a "Disaster" by Public-Education Advocates

Public education advocates in New England and across the nation are opposing the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos, who comes up for a confirmation hearing on Tuesday. (Keith A. Almli/wikimedia)
Public education advocates in New England and across the nation are opposing the nomination of billionaire Betsy DeVos, who comes up for a confirmation hearing on Tuesday. (Keith A. Almli/wikimedia)
January 16, 2017

BOSTON -- Tuesday's confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, the billionaire education activist who is President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Education secretary, is facing strong opposition from public education advocates in New England and across the nation.

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni was blunt; she called the Betsy DeVos nomination a disaster. She said Trump has nominated an education secretary whose record in her home state of Michigan shows she is not a supporter of public education.

"More than not being interested in public education, she actually has an interest in privatizing public education,” Madeloni said. “She has really undermined the schools in Michigan with for-profit charter schools, with no accountability for charter schools."

DeVos is a strong advocate for school vouchers, which Trump has said can make school choice available to all poor students. Her hearing originally was scheduled for January 11, but the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions delayed it until Tuesday, January 17 after Democrats raised concerns that DeVos' financial disclosure was incomplete.

Madeloni cited a New York Times report that DeVos and her husband, Dick DeVos, have investments in some 250 companies registered to a single address in Grand Rapids, Mich. She said the government ethics office needs time to look in to those investments.

"There are questions about her involvement with student loans, that would be for profit,” Madeloni said. “And then there is the issue of her having contributed significant amounts of campaign funds to the people who are on the committee who will be approving her. "

Madeloni said they may not have the votes to stop the nomination, and that means public education advocates will need to keep close tabs on DeVos if she gets the job.

"We need to continue to dig into her finances to expose her absolute disinterest in public education, her interest in privatizing,” Madeloni said. "We're going to need to be on high alert and pushing back. "

Tuesday's confirmation hearing is set to begin at 5 p.m. EST.

Mike Clifford/Cynthia Howard, Public News Service - MA