Education Week - February 15, 2017 - 14
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
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need 60 votes to clear procedural
hurdles, and support from Democrats,
and even some Republicans, doesn't
appear to be forthcoming
And Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on
the Senate education committee
who led the fight against DeVos,
said ahead of the vote that the secretary will enter the agency as a
"She would start her job with no
credibility inside the agency she
is supposed to lead," Murray said.
"With no influence in Congress. As
the punchline in a late-night comedy show-and without the confidence of the American people."
But Sen. Lamar Alexander, RTenn., the education committee
chairman, who helped shepherd
DeVos' nomination through the
chamber, said she would be an effective leader-a champion for both
school choice and local control.
"She will implement our law replacing No Child Left Behind the
way we wrote it," Alexander said
during debate. "She has worked tirelessly to give low-income children
more of the same kind of choices
that wealthy students have."
DeVos hasn't been specific about
her agenda and didn't get into the
details during her speech to department employees. But President
Donald Trump pitched a $20 billion
initiative during the campaign that
would enable public funds to follow children to the schools of their
choice, including private schools.
That proposal would have to go
Working With Critics
Hundreds of education organizations-from teachers' unions, to civil
rights organizations, and even some
charter school supporters, such as
philanthropist Eli Broad-sent letters to Capitol Hill in the past few
weeks either urging senators not to
support DeVos' nomination as education secretary or raising concerns
Some of those groups say they
now stand ready to work with
DeVos on areas of common interest.
Kati Haycock, who recently announced she's stepping down as the
leader of the Education Trust, which
advocates for poor and minority
children and opposed DeVos' nomination, said of the new secretary,
"I think she's a grown-up. We have
always managed to work with folks
on things we agree on and to oppose
them on things that we don't."
But Lily Eskelsen García, the
It's the rank-and-file
parents and teachers
that I think she
should spend her first
Center for Education Reform
president of the National Education
Association, which vehemently opposed DeVos, told Politico recently
that she doesn't see an opening.
And civil rights advocates wasted
no time in letting DeVos know that
they'll be watching her closely.
"The fact that her confirmation
vote was the first in American
history to require a tie-breaking
vote by the vice president speaks
to the widespread concern about
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 15, 2017 | www.edweek.org
T.J. Kirkpatrick/Redux for Education Week
After Lengthy Battle,
Ed. Secretary Settles In
her qualifications raised by the
civil rights community, concerned
parents and educators from across
the country," said Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the
Leadership Conference on Civil
and Human Rights in a statement
released shortly after the vote.
"Working with partners at the federal, state, and local level, we will
hold this new secretary accountable to faithfully executing our
nation's education and civil rights
The Every Student Succeeds Act
has stripped away many of the department's powers, making the secretary's bully pulpit-and credibility
within the education community-
all the more important.
Jeanne Allen, the founder and
CEO of the Center for Education
Reform, which supports vouchers
and other forms of choice, suggested DeVos start by convening
small groups of teachers, parents,
school choice advocates, home
school proponents, state chiefs,
school board members, and faithbased organizations and listening
to what they have to say.
"Yes there's been a firestorm of
people writing and yelling and
screaming, but it's the rank-and-file
parents and teachers that I think
that she should spend her first hundred days talking to," Allen said.
Getting some of that rank and file
on board may be a tall order.
"I have a fundamental objection,
like a deep-in-my-core objection,
that somebody who is so grossly
unqualified and incompetent is
going to be the leader of our nation's schools," Nate Gibbs-Bowling, Washington state's teacher of
the year, said recently on a panel
sponsored by the Council of Chief
State School Officers and the
State chiefs generally didn't take
public stances for or against DeVos.
But Pedro Rivera, the education
secretary in Pennsylvania, harkened back to his teaching career in
describing what it might be like to
work with her.
"As a classroom teacher, I've
worked with principals that I didn't
necessarily care for and [under]
school policies that I didn't like, but
... at the end of the day, we're in this
role because we care about kids, and
nothing that happens above us is
going to change that."
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:
Vice President Mike Pence
arrives at the Senate on
Feb. 7 to be ready to cast
the tie-breaking vote for
Education Secretarydesignate Betsy DeVos.
DeVos is sworn in at
the Eisenhower Executive
Office Building, joined
by her husband,
Dick DeVos, center.
Protestors gather outside
the U.S. Department of
Education the day after
DeVos took charge of the
agency and as she prepared
to address Education
Department staff members.