DETROIT (WWJ) – A U.S. Senate committee has approved Grand Rapids Michigan’s Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
The vote along party lines Tuesday morning — in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions — sent the nomination to the full Senate for consideration — but a Senate hearing ended Tuesday afternoon without a vote.
She will need a simple majority to be confirmed.
While Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted yes in committee, she said she still has concerns about DeVos’ qualifications.
“Her concentration on charter schools and vouchers raises the question of whether or not she fully appreciates that the Secretary of Education’s primary focus must be on helping states and communities, parents, teachers, school board members and administrators strengthen our public schools,” Collins said.
Michigan Charter School Association president Dan Quisenberry calls DeVos an inspired choice — despite all the talk about her love for charters.
“I think (that is) an unfair criticism,” Quisenberry told WWJ Newsradio 950. “Let’s give her a chance because she is supporter of public education, and she’s proven that in Grand Rapids — charter schools are public schools.”
“But she’ll bring a parent’s point of view,” he added, “which I think is important. She thinks kids are the focus, not institutions. She’s going to look for performance and success.”
Quisenberry expects that DeVos, a member of the billionaire Michigan-based Devos family, will be confirmed.
Clark Durant, who founded Cornerstone Charter Schools, believes Devos can bring some new ideas to a public school system in dire need of them.
“She’s willing to challenge the status quo for the sake of better outcomes for kids,” he said.
In contrast,U.S. Congressman Sander Levin (D-MI) said that position should be held by a champion of public education; not, as he characterized Devos, by “a leading proponent of undermining it.”
“In Michigan, Betsy DeVos advocated for lower standards for charter schools than other taxpayer-funded schools, as well as for diverting public funds to private schools,” Rep. Levin said, in a statement out Tuesday.
“We need an experienced and knowledgeable administrator for our educational system, but DeVos’ comments at her confirmation hearing demonstrated a lack of familiarity with a number of key issues, including special education laws that go back to my days in the State Senate.”
Both Michigan U.S .Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, have also voiced opposition to DeVos.
In a sometimes contentious confirmation hearing two weeks ago, Devos pledged that she would not seek to dismantle public schools amid questions by Democrats about her qualifications, political donations and long-time work advocating for charter schools and school choice.
DeVos said she would address “the needs of all parents and students” but that a one-size fits all model doesn’t work in education.
Others in Congress who have said they would vote against DeVos include U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who said “hard to imagine a less qualified or more dangerous person to be entrusted both with our country’s education policy and with a trillion-dollar student loan program.”
Also making their voices head about the pick are educators in Detroit.
Detroit Teachers Union President Ivy Bailey said Devos’ policies have hurt Detroit Public Schools. Speaking to WWJ’s Vickie Thomas, she recalled Devos helped squash legislation that would have brought money to DPS last year.
“She came in at the last minute. Some of those House members originally supported the Senate bill. And when she came in — and I believe it was around midnight or 1 o’clock, they turned a lot of people, and they turned them because they had the money to do it,” Bailey said, adding that she’s not a fan of Devos’ voucher movement.
President Donald Trump, meantime, has called Devos “a brilliant and passionate education advocate.”
Stay with WWJ and CBSDetroit.com for the latest.
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