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Today’s news highlights several issues: a new era in U.S. – Arab relations? The Catholic church commits to major fossil fuel divestment before G-7 meetings. And some farmers are accused of using immigration threats to discourage legal claims.

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NV School Leaders Slam DeVos' Confirmation as Education Secretary

Nevada education leaders are concerned about the future of public-school funding with Tuesday's close vote confirming Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education. (Melpomenem/iStockphoto)
Nevada education leaders are concerned about the future of public-school funding with Tuesday's close vote confirming Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education. (Melpomenem/iStockphoto)
February 8, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Leaders of the state's largest public employee union are slamming the Senate confirmation Tuesday of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos is a wealthy Republican donor who has been active for decades in the school choice movement that promotes vouchers that can be used for tuition at private or charter schools.

Natha Anderson is president of the Washoe Education Association, an affiliate of the Nevada State Education Association. She says DeVos seemed unfamiliar with major issues affecting education during her Senate confirmation hearing.

"It was very obvious that she had not done her homework," she said. "I expect my kids to do their homework; as an educator, I'm expected to do my homework. When Senator Franken asked the question about proficiency versus growth, and she did not understand that? That's a huge issue for us as educators."

DeVos has said she is committed to excellence in all forms of education. However, opponents fear that her policies will divert badly-needed funds from public schools and weaken educational quality for the vast majority of students who attend them.

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto voted against DeVos, while Senator Dean Heller supported the nomination. Anderson says her members will make sure voters remember that when Heller is up for reelection next fall.

"On the one hand, we're disappointed that all of our phone calls and emails to Senator Heller's office went unanswered and basically ignored," she added. "At the same time, he fired us up - and it got us ready to go, and we are ready to continue the fight for our kids."

Nevada has been at the center of the school-voucher debate for some time. Recently, the state Supreme Court declared the governor's plan to offer Educational Savings Accounts unconstitutional, because it would take away funding from public schools.

Suzanne Potter/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - NV