Yesterday evening’s U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for education secretary nominee was both a lesson in partisan politics and the unusual with Democrats mounting a fierce opposition to the Trump nominee on several grounds including experience and partisanship while erstwhile nominee Betsy DeVos was left lost on questions related to federal education policy and law. At one low point, she refused to support gun-free zones on public school campuses citing Montana’s need to defend its schools from Grizzly bear attacks.
Even more troubling was her facile understanding of federal funding for student loans and unwillingness to hold private, for-profit schools to the same accountability standards as their public school counterparts, particularly on full-inclusion of students with disabilities mandated by the federal government guaranteeing equal access to a free and public education for every student. An overriding body of evidence shows charter schools use tactics to minimize inclusion of special needs students, and at least one state allows parents to waive their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act
While Democrats on the committee continued to raise objection to the limitation by the Republican committee chair Lamar Alexander to a single round of questions for Mrs. DeVos, the hearing was abruptly ended, unfortunately with many questions about DeVos’s nomination still unanswered.