WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement today on the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education:
“I will oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination. She failed to meet three requirements I consider essential to serving as Secretary of Education – someone who is pro-public schools, pro-accountability and pro-civil rights. Over 90 percent of our nation’s children attend public schools. Anne and I and our kids have all been the beneficiaries of great public schools. Mrs. DeVos has said that public schools are a ‘dead end’ and that ‘government really sucks’ when it comes to education. This statement betrays the commitment of thousands of public school teachers who work hard every day in our public schools, many in tough working conditions, to ensure our children are educated. I could support a nominee who is for expanded options and improvement for all schools, public and private, but I cannot support a nominee who has a reflexive and ideological bias against public schools.
“I am also concerned that Mrs. DeVos does not recognize that accountability for all schools is essential to closing achievement gaps in our country. It has to be about student performance, and any school receiving government funding should be held to the highest standards for its students. During her confirmation hearing, I asked Mrs. DeVos whether all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be held equally accountable for outcomes, particularly because President Trump has proposed allocating $20 billion to private schools in a nationwide voucher program. Mrs. Devos repeatedly refused to say there should be equal accountability between public, public charter, and private schools receiving tax dollars.
“Mrs. DeVos also left me in doubt about whether she would uphold critical civil rights laws, including the rights of thousands of students with special needs. She demonstrated little understanding of - or support for - the primary fundamental law regarding education of kids with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), which if confirmed as Secretary she would be in charge of enforcing. Our Secretary of Education must be committed to upholding the principle of the federal IDEA to provide ‘a free and appropriate public education’ for all. When I asked whether schools receiving taxpayer dollars should all be required to follow federal law, guaranteeing these students an education appropriately tailored to their abilities, she declared that was a decision for the states.
“I don't think it's too much to ask for a Secretary of Education who will champion our public schools, support equal accountability for all schools receiving taxpayer funding, and support the national consensus that kids with disabilities should have fair learning opportunities. I'm disappointed President Trump didn't nominate such a champion and I will be opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos.”