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Public school students condemn Education Secretary confirmation

By Molly Mahoney ’18

Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary Feb. 7 when 50 senators voted in favor of her confirmation and 50 opposed it, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to cast his vote as a tiebreaker.

Despite party alliances, Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski voted against her confirmation, which is when Pence was called in to break the tie.

Suzanne Kammerman, an Advanced Placement Government teacher at Staples High School, said the fact that this was the first time a vice president has ever been called in to vote on a cabinet nomination “indicated how divisive the political climate is today.”

Both senators Collins and Murkowski cited DeVos’ lack of knowledge of the public school system and the numerous laws which exist to protect the rights of students as their reasons for voting against DeVos’ confirmation.

Similarly, Ethan Lindenbaum ’17 said that DeVos was “clearly unfamiliar” with significant laws protecting students as a central reason for their condemnation of the pick for Education Secretary.

Alex McMahon agreed, and asserted that “the only reason she was confirmed is because she’s donated millions of dollars to the Republican Party.”

Creighton Kerr ’18 also expressed his concerns. “I’m really skeptical of how she can relate to, and improve public schooling,” Kerr said. “She’s never held a position in that field.”

DeVos has instead spent the majority of her career focusing on educational choice, or the provision of private school education vouchers to students who would not have the means to attend private school otherwise.

Republican Michael Petrilli cited DeVos’ “decades of involvement in politics, with policy makers and in the trenches of the parental choice movement”, the same factor which prevented half of Senate from confirming her, as the reason she had his support.

Despite senators Collins and Murkowski’s historic decisions to oppose a nominee of their own party, DeVos will begin to fulfill her duties as Education Secretary immediately.

Photos used under Creative Commons License

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