Mark your calendars for Tuesday, January 17. That’s the date the Senate will hold their hearing on Betsy DeVos, the President-Elect’s pick to head the U.S. Department of Education. The hearing has already been rescheduled once after DeVos failed to include all potential conflicts of interests in her ethics paperwork.
Most students would get an F for handing in incomplete homework—Betsy got an extension.
Not a lot is known about DeVos. Since Trump named her as his nominee, she’s declined to give any interviews, instead issuing glib statements through her spokesperson attacking anyone who raises questions about her sketchy record on public education or civil rights. But looking at the causes DeVos has championed and donated to, it looks like students have cause for grave concern.
DeVos aggressively lobbied against commonsense oversight of charter schools in her home state of Michigan—with detrimental results in Detroit. In addition, DeVos’ foundation has donated to organizations that oppose Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault, groups that oppose marriage equality and efforts to curb LGBTQ harassment in schools, and efforts to shame young or unwed parents and restrict access to birth control and abortion. All of these donations call into question whether DeVos will protect Title IX rights for survivors, LGBTQ students, and students who are pregnant, parenting, or have had an abortion.
DeVos’ limited, but troubling record against charter and private school oversight and her support of controversial organizations that undermine the protections of students covered by Title IX have led the National Women’s Law Center to oppose her nomination.
And that’s not even getting into her potential conflicts of interest in student lending, her proud history of using her family’s wealth to bully and buy politicians, or the $5.3 million fine her lobbying group owes Ohio for violating campaign finance laws, which remains unpaid almost a decade later.
We’ll be watching the hearing and intently listening for DeVos to give specific answers to important questions, including:
- If confirmed as Secretary, how would you ensure that charters and private schools funded by vouchers and taxpayer money follow federal anti-discrimination and school accountability laws?
- Will you commit to preserving and enforcing the Department’s 2011 and 2014 letters that clarified schools’ duty to respond to sexual violence in a fair and equitable manner—including by basing student sanctions on whether it’s more likely than not that sexual misconduct occurred?
- If confirmed as Secretary, how would you ensure that students who are pregnant, parents, or have had an abortion have the same opportunity to continue their education as other students?
- Will you commit to preserving and enforcing the Department’s 2010 and 2016 letters that made clear what schools must do to protect LGBTQ students from harassment and other forms of discrimination in schools?The Secretary of Education sets federal policy on a whole set of education issues—from college access and affordability, to career and technical education programs, to elementary and secondary schools, and equal access to education. Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has done a lot to level the playing field and give more Americans equal access to quality educational opportunities.
We’ll be watching not only on Tuesday, but also for the next four years to protect these important gains in educational access, opportunity and accountability.