On Feb. 5, the United States Senate confirmed Elisabeth “Betsy” DeVos’ nomination for the position of Secretary of Education by a narrow 51-50 vote, after a 50-50 tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence in favor of the nomination. All 46 Senate Democrats, two independents, and two Republicans voted against the confirmation, and the remaining 50 GOP congressmen voted in support.
The vote came around three weeks after DeVos’ Jan. 18 confirmation hearing in which several members on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions grilled the nominee on her perceived conflicts of interest, lack of experience within the public education system and support of educational voucher systems for non-public schools. Several committee Democrats, including Pennsylvania’s own Bob Casey Jr., criticized the absence of a complete ethics review of DeVos prior to her hearing in front of the group.
Though most opposition to DeVos came from Senate Democrats, unease stemmed from members of both parties. Included were Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who crossed party voting lines when the time came to vote for the now-Secretary-of-Education’s seat. Collins expressed concern over DeVos’ lack of knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities act, a bill that ensures schools meet the needs of eligible disabled students.
Apprehension over Betsy DeVos’ newly-confirmed position comes not only from Washington, but also within the Emmaus High School community. Members of both the faculty and student body alike have openly disagreed with President Trump’s pick to lead America’s educational policy-making.
Said sophomore Analise Edwards, “I think she is extremely unqualified. She has no degree or experience in the education system.”
Edwards also highlighted her disapproval of the motivation behind DeVos’ nomination by President Trump.
“I also think it’s a little shady, knowing that she apparently donated about $9.5 million to Trump’s campaign and is [now] the new lead of the department,” Edwards said.
Junior Paige Thomas also mentioned her disappointment in what she deems to be DeVos’ misguided perceptions of what should and shouldn’t be accepted in national education systems.
“She [seems to think] that guns are okay to have in schools, which blows my mind,” Thomas said. “She also believes in transferring disabled students, which goes against federal law that protects the disabled in public schools.”
Yet students alone do not represent the public school backlash towards the newly-appointed cabinet member. Social studies teacher John Gallagher states that he is “adamantly opposed” to DeVos’ agenda, taking issue with her stance on funding for education.
“The worst part…is her support of ‘For-profit schools,’” Gallagher said. “They’re using tax dollars — dollars required by law to be paid by each family — to make money for the few who can afford to invest in [the school].”
Fellow Social Studies teacher Tom Warnke echoed several of Gallagher’s other concerns, calling DeVos’ job qualifications “severely lacking,”
“This has nothing to do with Democratic versus Republican. It has to do with experience, knowledge, and advocacy,” said Warnke. “I’m, frankly, not confident that she’ll be the type of advocate for public education that I would expect from the Secretary of Education.”
Though the Republican majority in Senate did manage to pass DeVos into her appointed position, 13 of Trump’s 22 nominees that require Congressional confirmation await their approval votes. Only time will tell if any remaining candidates will present the same controversy as DeVos in what is shaping up to be the slowest cabinet approval in United States’ history.
Photo courtesy of cnn.com.