News & Event
Senator Whitehouse Opposes Betsy DeVos Nomination
January 27, 2017 - Yesterday Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who sits on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, released a statement opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education:
“Every Rhode Island student deserves the chance to learn and gain the skills they need to get ahead. The mission of the U.S. Department of Education is to give them that chance. Promoting quality education for children no matter where they live requires a firm grasp of education policy and experience confronting complex issues. It requires an understanding that programs like Pell Grants, established by Rhode Island’s legendary Senator Claiborne Pell, often make higher education possible for aspiring college students. The Secretary of Education needs to understand what the Department can do to help make schools safe for all kids and how vital federal laws support children with special needs. Our Education Secretary must have this baseline knowledge and background. Mrs. DeVos’s record and testimony before the Committee show that she does not.
“Moreover, the brand of ideologically driven education reform Mrs. DeVos has championed is not what Rhode Islanders want. I have received thousands of letters, calls, and emails in opposition to her nomination, many of them citing the school voucher and privatization agenda Mrs. DeVos and her allies imposed in Michigan. Rhode Island parents, teachers, and students have seen the poor results of that agenda and do not want it in our schools.
“I am also deeply concerned with this nominee’s potential conflicts of interest and lack of transparency. Mrs. DeVos has failed to address these issues, despite numerous requests for information from me and other members of the Committee. We still do not know the extent of her ties to shadowy organizations designed to shield special interests from public scrutiny or whether she has disentangled herself fully from knotty investments. She needed to put these concerns to rest with thorough disclosures to us, but she hasn’t come close.
“This is why Mrs. DeVos is wholly unqualified for this role and I cannot support her nomination.”
January 27, 2017 - Today Senator Jack Reed released a statement in opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. Senator Whitehouse yesterday announced his opposition to DeVos. Reed's statement follows:
“Ms. DeVos flunked her confirmation hearing and is not the right person for the job.
“Our Secretary of Education should be a champion for all children – not someone like Ms. DeVos who suggested that a landmark civil rights law should be left up to states.
“As a lobbyist, Ms. DeVos helped reduce school oversight and accountability in Michigan and promoted the diversion of taxpayer dollars toward private schools.
“Given her ties to for-profit education companies that will be directly impacted by Department of Education decisions, it is hard to fathom how she could fully untangle herself from a thick web of conflicts.
“Neither her background, nor her testimony before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee inspire confidence that she has the experience or vision necessary to oversee national education policy, including higher education and the management of a $1 trillion student loan portfolio.
“When our students have access to good schools, quality teachers, and high quality college and career education opportunities, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
“But if Ms. DeVos is confirmed, I fear she will take resources away from public school students and direct them to for-profit schools and institutions that share her views. I don’t think that is fair to students and I don’t think Ms. DeVos should be confirmed to lead the U.S. Department of Education. I will vote no.”
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. Below is a statement from NEA Rhode Island (NEARI) President Larry Purtill:
"Betsy DeVos is the most exceptionally unqualified cabinet nominee in history with zero experience in public education, administration or even as a parent of a public school student. Unfortunately, the Senate chose to ignore the thousands of voices from across the country who joined together to clog phone lines and flood inboxes in opposition to her and the Trump-DeVos agenda.
"The DeVos confirmation does not magically silence our voices. The massive nationwide public outcry by educators, administrators, parents, students, civil rights groups, special education advocates and others is just the beginning. The level of activism we have seen is incredibly encouraging and we will continue to resist policies detrimental to public education and work together to protect our students and educators.
"On behalf of our 12,000 members, I’d like to thank Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline who, with their Democratic colleagues, fought tooth and nail to quash this nomination.
"They never gave up and neither will we."
WASHINGTON - On November 23, 2016, the Trump administration announced its plan to nominate Betsy DeVos, best known for her anti-public education campaigns, for the position of Secretary of Education. The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:
NCLB - No Child Left Behind - is the federal education law that has imposed unrealistic mandates on states for the last 14 years. Specifically, its "test, blame, and punish" approach tied federal education aid into standardized test performance. Now, thanks to members' activism, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are poised to make significant improvements.
There stands an excellent chance that by the new year, President Obama will have signed a new, vastly improved national education law – the seventh reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Ending NCLB and replacing it with a law that focuses on opportunity for all students is a goal that NEA has been focused on throughout the process.
In July, both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives passed ESEA reauthorizations – the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) and the Student Success Act (SSA), respectively. The two bills are similar in some ways and different in others. It is these differences that Senate and House education committee staff and leaders are ironing out to produce a joint, bipartisan ESEA bill that President Obama can sign into law.
Specifically, NEA believes that the final bill should:
The Senate, in particular, addressed all these key issues. Unfortunately, the current House version includes so-called "Title I Portability," which permits federal funding for disadvantaged children to "follow" students to a public school of their choice (essentially a backdoor to vouchers), which NEA strongly opposes. Read more about the voucher expansion.
Nothing is certain with Congress – bills can be easily derailed – but the finish line for ESEA reauthorization is in sight, and educators and parents have been urging lawmakers to stay focused and deliver a new law. In early November, a coalition of ten leading education and parent organizations, including the NEA, launched a digital campaign urging Congress to "get ESEA done."
Our Rhode Island Congressional delegation - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, and Rep. Jim Langevin and David Cicciline - has been 100 percent in agreement with NEA's position, and has been working to achieve a new ESEA. Thank them for their efforts on behalf of all students.
Thanks to members' unprecedented, year-long advocacy on behalf of students, the era of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) finally ended when President Obama signed the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) December 10. Students and educators lived with the unintended consequences of the failed NCLB for more than 14 years, including an over-emphasis on standardized testing.
Continuing to advocate for an effective law, more than 9,000 NEA members submitted comments this summer on the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations on accountability under ESSA, far more than any other single group. Now it’s time to submit comments on the proposed regulations on another provision of ESSA: “supplement not supplant,” which requires federal dollars to add to, not replace, state and local dollars. Comparing expenditures among schools tells us little about the resource needs of the students in those schools—what matters is sufficient funding, equitably distributed, to ensure that every student has access to meaningful opportunities to learn. The comment period on “supplement not supplant” ends November 7. Check out the proposed regulations, and then submit your comments.
ESSA furthers all three of NEA's core goals:
"This new law is a well-deserved victory for our nation because the Every Student Succeeds Act will create greater opportunity for every student regardless of ZIP Code.
"Now our work begins in earnest as we shift our attention toward implementation. We look forward to working closely with state and local policymakers, as well as other key stakeholders, to raise our voice to deliver on the promise of ESSA and to provide opportunity for all students."
"ESSA returns decision-making for our nation's education back where it belongs - in the hands of local educators, parents and communities - while keeping the focus on students most in need.
"Educators will have a seat at the table when it comes to making decisions that affect their students and classrooms. This legislation begins to close the opportunity gaps for students by providing a new system that includes an 'opportunity dashboard' with indicators of school success and student support. It reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools so students have more time to develop critical thinking while educators do what they love — teach.
"Senators Reed and Whitehouse, and Congressmen Langevin and Ciccilline have always advocated for educators and students. We thank them for their support in passing this important bill."
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