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The contentious DeVos debate will end tomorrow

The following is a rewrite that I was assigned in Editing & Copyediting class. We were told to rewrite this article with more details: Six astonishing things Betsy DeVos said — and refused to say — at her confirmation hearing

A last-ditch effort to derail Trump’s pick for education secretary will end at Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing on Tuesday. The controversy over DeVos nomination began during her first confirmation hearing on Jan. 17 and has since escalated into protests, petitions, and candlelit vigils to sway Republicans to reject the confirmation.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, limited the questioning to one round of five minutes for each senator. Democrats argued that previous hearings allowed two rounds of questioning.

Ms. DeVos, a billionaire whose trail of investments stand to win or lose from federal education policy, was the first Trump nominee to have a Senate hearing without completing an ethics review of her plans to avoid conflicts of interest.

Alexander denied a request from Democrats to hold a second hearing after DeVos’ paperwork was approved by the Office of Government Ethics citing that, “Mrs. DeVos has spent considerably more time answering questions of committee members than either of President Obama's education secretaries," Alexander wrote in a letter to Sen. Patty Murray.

With little time to spare, Democrats grilled DeVos with questions regarding her lack of experience with public schools, contributions to the Republican party totaling $200 million, documented involvement in funneling millions of dollars into anti-LGBT causes, support to end no-gun zones in school, and the poor performance in Detroit charter schools where she resisted legislation that would have blocked failing schools from expanding.

DeVos’ ill-advised responses to questions derived from key debates among educators has prompted many to question her competency as the head of federal education.

  • DeVos backed Trump’s move to end gun-free zones citing one school that needs a gun to protect from potential grizzlies.
  • DeVos did not know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is federal civil rights law, which requires public schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with disabilities.
  • DeVos refused to agree with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) that all schools that receive public federal funds — traditional public, public charter or private schools that receive voucher money — should be held to the same standards of accountability.
  • DeVos said she would review gainful employment regulations without committing to enforce them. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked DeVos how she planned to protect waste, fraud and abuse from for-profit universities, citing Trump University, which President-elect Donald Trump founded; he ultimately paid $25 million to settle lawsuits by students who said they were cheated. Warren explained to DeVos that the gainful employment regulations are already in the books, and asked if DeVos would enforce them but DeVos would not commit. The gainful employment regulations are meant to protect students and taxpayers by withholding federal student aid to career training programs that leave students buried in debt with few opportunities to repay.
  • DeVos appeared to have no idea what Sen. Al Franken was talking about when he referred to the accountability debate about whether to use test scores to measure student proficiency or student growth. Franken noted that the subject had been debated in the education community for years, and when she didn’t weigh in and just looked at him without much of an expression on her face he said, “It surprises me that you don’t know this issue.”
  • DeVos did not answer Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) when he asked her what she had learned about the failures of the Detroit traditional public and public charter schools that would inform her decision-making as the secretary of education. Bennet, a big supporter of charter schools, made the point that school choice isn’t much of a choice when schools aren’t held accountable and families have lousy choices wherever they look. He noted that the Detroit public schools — one of the country’s most troubled systems — has low student achievement, and charter schools in Detroit score only minimally higher.  He also cited a study that said charter schools across Michigan perform worse than traditional public schools. But instead of answering his question, she told him she wanted to give him “context” about Detroit, to which he responded, “With respect, I’m not asking for a history of Detroit.” She also said, “I think there is a lot that has gone right” there, but she never answered his question.
  • DeVos denied involvement with her mother’s controversial foundation that backs anti-LGBT causes, citing that a “clerical error” named her as the Vice President and member of the board for over a decade.

All 48 members of the Senate Democratic caucus are expected to oppose DeVos during the final confirmation hearing on Tuesday, along with two Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Democrats are hoping their 24-hour speech-a-thon will muster up the support to sway one more Republican. A deadlock vote of 50-50 will mark the first time a vice president’s tie-breaking vote is required to confirm a Cabinet nominee, according to the Senate Historical Office.

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Friday, 18 August 2017

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