EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 20
(Senate - February 06, 2017)

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[Pages S763-S824]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                     EXECUTIVE CALENDAR--Continued

  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lee). The Senator from Pennsylvania.
  Mr. CASEY. Mr. President, I rise this now-early morning, on a new 
day, to talk about this nomination, which has been the subject of so 
much debate, so much contention and, I believe, so much concern across 
the country and in my home State of Pennsylvania.
  I spoke earlier today of some of the basic history of my State that 
principally involves public education. In the 1830s--the early 1830s, 
to be exact--a debate started in Pennsylvania about public education, 
the culmination of which led to the enactment under State law of the 
Free School Act in 1834 in Pennsylvania. We have had a bedrock 
foundation of free public education all these generations. It is part 
of who we are as a State.
  In our Commonwealth, even today with all of the changes in education 
and all of the change in policy over time, we are still a State where 
92 percent of our schoolchildren are educated in public schools. That 
is the State we are. We don't have any for-profit charter schools, and 
that has been the subject of debate in this nomination.
  We have, by law, public nonprofit entities as charter schools. It is 
a significant point of difference between what is law in Pennsylvania 
and what is part of our education traditions and what the nominee has 
stood for in her time as a private citizen. We will get to that a 
little bit later.
  I wanted to start tonight with a basic assessment, and then I will go 
through a series of issues. The basic assessment and determination that 
I have made is that I should vote against the nomination of Betsy DeVos 
to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. The principle reason for 
that is her views on public education--what I believe to be a lack of 
total commitment to public education and what that would mean for the 
  I have heard from people across my State--urban and rural, suburban, 
Democrats, Republicans, all kinds of people--who have spoken with one 
voice against this nomination. That is one of the factors that I have 
to consider when making a decision, but even I could not have imagined 
the scope of that response from people across Pennsylvania.
  I know we still have a number of hours left before the vote, but, to 
date, if you count all of the contacts that have been made with my 
office--or I should say offices in Pennsylvania and here in 
Washington--it is over 100,000 contacts, whether made by telephone or 
email or by letter or otherwise.
  I have been in the U.S. Senate for more than 10 years now. This is my 
11th year. No nomination has even approached that number of contacts 
from individuals who felt that they had to speak up and speak out, 
literally, in the context of a nomination.
  I wanted to start with one particular issue and develop it rather 
fully; that is, the issue of sexual assault on our campuses. This is 
the line of questioning that I pursued with Mrs. DeVos when she came 
before the HELP Committee--the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions 
Committee--just a couple of days ago.
  I want to start with the stark reality of sexual assault on college 
and university campuses across the country. Here is what the Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention tell us: One in five women on 
college campuses experience attempted or completed sexual assault--one 
in five. That is an abomination. That is a stain on our country. That 
is something we should not allow to continue.
  In the last couple of years, we have just begun to tackle that 
horrific problem, that insult, that outrage for young women and their 
families all across the country. We passed legislation that I will talk 
about in a moment, but this is a matter, I believe, of basic justice.
  Hundreds of years ago, St. Augustine said: ``Without justice, what 
are kingdoms but great bands of robbers?'' If we don't get serious 
about this problem--the problem of sexual assault and what happens to 
young women on our college campuses--we are robbing them of basic 
justice. We are robbing them of an opportunity to get a higher 
  In many instances, because of that assault, that young woman's life 
is destroyed or largely compromised or harmed in some fashion. 
Sometimes she cannot finish her higher education, so she is robbed of 
that opportunity because the rest of us didn't do enough to prevent 
that assault.
  When we remember those words of Augustine about a basic definition of 
justice, we should remember and decide whether we are doing enough to 
prevent her from being robbed of her dignity, robbed of her safety, 
robbed of the ability to move forward with public education, and, of 
course, robbed from her basic pursuit of happiness as a young person on 
a college campus who should have a reasonable expectation of safety and 
  Too often, the college or the university has failed her. Often--too 
often, I should say--our society has failed her. This is a serious 
issue. As I said, some young women never recover, and others struggle 
for the rest of their lives.
  Let me say this about the young men who engage in this kind of 
conduct: Any young man who engages in this kind of conduct on a college 
campus is a coward, and we should call them on it. They are cowards. 
They should be brought to justice--swift and certain justice--when they 
engage in this kind of a crime. It is happening too often on our 
college campuses.

[[Page S764]]

  As we seek to hold these young men fully accountable for sexual 
assault on college campuses, we better have a Secretary of Education 
who is fully committed--fully committed--to making sure that we are 
holding these students accountable. That is the least we can expect 
from a Secretary of Education and from a President and an executive 
branch and a Congress of both parties and both Houses that are 
committed to protecting young women on our campuses.
  What have we done about it? First of all, we haven't done enough. 
That is the basic foundation of what I will say, but we have made some 
progress the last couple of years. I introduced legislation a couple of 
years ago, the Campus SaVE Act, known more fully as the Campus Sexual 
Violence Elimination Act. That became law in 2013 as part of the 
reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
  As the process works around here, you pass a law in 2013 and the 
regulatory process starts. The regulations didn't go into effect until 
the summer of 2015. We are into our second college school year of those 
regulations being part of our law.
  Here is what they do, and I will summarize my legislation in short 
order. Basically, what Campus SaVE does is two or three things: One is 
make sure that we are taking steps--and colleges and universities are 
required to take steps pursuant to this law--to bring about strategies 
of prevention so that we are doing everything we can on that campus to 
prevent these kinds of assaults.
  Second, we want to make sure that more and more students and faculty 
and administration are aware of the problem. It is everyone's problem. 
It is not just the problem of that victim, not just the problem for 
young women. It is everybody's problem. If you are a young man on the 
campus, you can't just be a bystander. You have to be a bystander who 
does something about this problem. If you are in the college 
administration or otherwise, you have to be part of the solution.
  We passed legislation, got the regulations in effect, and now 
colleges and universities have to abide by them. This act is now 
helping improve how campus communities at large respond to sexual 
assault, to domestic violence in those circumstances, to dating 
violence. That is a third category.
  The fourth category is stalking.
  All of those circumstances are covered. All of that behavior by a 
college student is covered. We want to make sure that institutions have 
clearly defined policies, and they let the victim know way ahead of 
time that she has not just rights but she also has opportunities to 
pursue justice in more ways than one. She can leave that campus and 
seek the help of local law enforcement if she wants to.
  She has to be informed of her right to do that. If she wants to go to 
a court and seek a protective order, not only must the college tell her 
about that right, but the college or university has to help her do it. 
Also, of course, there are the procedures for conducting hearings in a 
fair and appropriate manner.
  We have a long way to go to hold perpetrators accountable. There is 
still more work to do on that. Too many young men over many generations 
have been protected in one way or another. Some institution, some 
individual on the campus or off the campus has protected them and swept 
these issues and these crimes under the rug.
  We are going to continue to work on this issue, but that leads me to 
the nominee for Secretary of Education. I asked Betsy DeVos in the 
hearing if she would commit to upholding title IX, which is a 
nondiscrimination statute that includes important protections against 
sexual assault. Specifically, I asked her to uphold the guidance from 
2011 of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which 
advises institutions of higher education to use the preponderance of 
the evidence standard for campus conduct proceedings.
  Some people know the difference between one level of evidentiary 
standards versus others. They made a determination that preponderance 
of the evidence was the right standard. I asked her a very specific 
question as to whether she would uphold that basic evidentiary 
standard, and she said it was ``premature to make such a commitment.''
  I also asked her whether she would enforce the law as it relates to 
sexual assault, and she didn't seem to believe that she had to answer 
that question in a manner that would be give us confidence that she 
would uphold the law.
  To say that it is premature to answer questions like that, instead of 
saying ``Yes, it is my duty as Secretary of Education to uphold the 
law, to enforce the law, to hold perpetrators accountable, to protect 
victims''--if she had said that, and then said ``Well, but I will have 
to review some of these policies,'' that would be different. She just 
said that it was premature to make a commitment.
  She has a duty--not a duty that she can escape if she were to be 
Secretary of Education--to uphold the law to protect victims. I believe 
that the Secretary of Education not only must comply with the law, but 
the Secretary of Education as it relates to those victims on college 
campuses or potential victims has to be, in my judgment, not just an 
advocate but an unyielding advocate, a determined advocate, a champion 
for those students to substantially reduce the likelihood that we are 
going to continue to see one in five women being victims of sexual 
assault on our college campuses.
  To say that her answer alarmed both survivors and the great advocates 
who have been in the trenches helping those survivors for years is an 
understatement. I will just read two reactions.
  One survivor, Jess Davidson, wrote an open letter to Mrs. DeVos as 
part of a ``Dear Betsy'' campaign. She said:

       I haven't always felt that I had the space or safety to 
     tell my story and stand up for survivors. However, I was 
     lucky enough to attend college under a government 
     administration that fought for survivors of sexual assault.
       It was only because committed government leaders believed 
     that it was important to uphold Title IX and address campus 
     sexual violence that I was able to overcome what happened to 

  Later in her letter, Jess Davidson said:

       Ms. DeVos, certainly my education, if not my life, was 
     saved by committed leaders standing up and fighting for the 
     rights of survivors of sexual assault. So today I am writing 
     you to ask, that if confirmed, you do the same.

  Jess goes on from there. She says:

       Because if survivors do not feel their government is 
     fighting for them, they won't speak up. I almost didn't.

  That is one survivor telling us how difficult it was for her to speak 
out or to speak up about this issue because of the pain and the horror 
that she lived through. Mrs. DeVos may not have to answer my questions 
fully, as much as I pursue an answer, but she does have to answer the 
questions of those survivors like Jess and so many others because if 
she is confirmed as Secretary of Education, she is not some independent 
operator. She is a servant of the people. The people are her boss. Jess 
is her boss. If she is confirmed, she better understand that she is a 
public servant. The private sector would be in the rear-view mirror. 
You can't treat people the way that she might have treated people up to 
this point in time.
  She is a servant of the people if she is confirmed, and she better 
have an answer for Jess every day that she is on the job if she is 
  Another survivor, Sofie, works for an organization called End Rape on 
Campus. She wrote:

       Our country has finally begun to shatter the silence on 
     sexual violence, and survivors nationwide are refusing to go 
     back to how things were before. Students, parents, and 
     survivors nationwide deserve to know whether Betsy DeVos is 
     truly committed to keeping all students safe in school. 
     Betsy, we are counting on you.

  Betsy DeVos, if she is confirmed as Secretary of Education, has to 
answer those questions that Jess posed, that Sofie posed, and so many 
others. She may try to avoid questions posed to her by Senators or by 
the media, but she has a sacred duty that she cannot escape to give 
answers to these survivors and to the advocates who so bravely support 
them day in and day out, year in and year out. It is about time the 
Congress of the United States did a lot more to support these victims 
as well.
  Maintaining protections for victims of campus sexual assault is not 
part of some negotiation. This has to be mandatory work that we do 
together. In reference to her answer to my question

[[Page S765]]

about it being premature to commit to enforcing a law on sexual assault 
and fully embracing the guidance that the Department put forth in 
2011--and by the way, the same guidance put forth in the Bush 
administration--if she is going to change that guidance on the 
evidentiary standard, thereby making it harder for victims and better 
for the perpetrator, by the way, when you raise the standard of 
evidence, she better have a good explanation for that.
  She will have to have a good explanation for the victims and the 
survivors as to why she changed a policy that has been in place for two 
administrations, not just one, two--a Republican administration and a 
Democratic administration.
  I would apply the same test to the entire administration. Now the 
Trump administration has an obligation, as well, not just Mrs. DeVos if 
she were to be confirmed. They must commit as an administration to keep 
strong campus sexual assault protections in place and not go back to 
the dark days when this scourge was not a priority--not a priority here 
in Washington and not a priority on college and university campuses 
across the country.
  If they want to fight on this, I am ready to fight for a long time 
against anyone who is going to try to weaken these protections. We are 
not going to allow this administration or any Secretary of Education to 
turn back the clock and allow young men to continue to prey upon young 
women with impunity and without consequence as they often have been 
able to do over the years.
  Let me move to a second issue--students with disabilities. It is 
often overlooked in our debates about education. We have debates about 
funding, debates about philosophy, debates about who has the best idea, 
and sometimes we forget students with disabilities, who have a right 
under Federal law to have the opportunity for a full education, an 
appropriate education. Ensuring that all students receive high-quality 
education is absolutely critical, and it is something that is 
particularly important for students with disabilities and their 
  In my judgment, Mrs. DeVos displayed a total lack of knowledge 
regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. That is a 
1975 law. The so-called IDEA is four decades old, and its predecessor 
was the so-entitled Education for All Handicapped Children Act, the old 
version of it many years ago. Together they have been the bedrock civil 
rights and education laws that guarantee that students with 
disabilities receive the same educational opportunities as their peers 
who do not have a disability.
  According to the Department of Education, prior to 1975--prior to 
IDEA--U.S. schools educated only one in five children with disabilities 
and many States have laws excluding students, including those who are 
deaf, blind, and emotionally disturbed or intellectually impaired.
  Since the passage 40 years ago of IDEA, the vast majority of children 
with disabilities are now educated in public schools with their peers. 
We know that high school graduation rates are higher today than they 
have ever been. Students with disabilities are going on to higher 
education in greater numbers.
  In the last two decades, reading and math scores on the National 
Assessment of Educational Progress have increased substantially. We 
have seen this from the beginnings of the debate in Pennsylvania. Way 
back in 1971, the PARC vs. Pennsylvania case--PARC standing for the 
acronym P-A-R-C, one of the cases that helped establish the right of 
all children to have an appropriate public education. We know that in 
the hearing, Senator Kaine from Virginia asked Mrs. DeVos whether all 
schools that have received Federal funding should have to meet the 
requirements of IDEA. She said: ``I think that's a matter that is best 
left to the States.''
  That is obviously the wrong answer when you are talking about a 
Federal statute. States don't have an option of not complying with 
Federal law. Given the opportunity to clarify her answer, Mrs. DeVos 
continued to insist that States should be able to determine whether 
they provide services to students with disabilities.
  Let me say it plainly. That is dead wrong. That is unambiguously, 
definitively wrong. States can't decide not to comply with the IDEA--
the law that 4 years ago enshrined that basic right for students with 
disabilities to get an appropriate education. I hope by now, on the eve 
of her confirmation vote, that she has done some studying and learned 
that IDEA is the law of the land. If she wants to change it, she better 
line up votes in the House and the Senate to overturn the law that made 
sure that students with disabilities have those basic guarantees.
  Once again, the best words are from people who write to us and 
contact us about these issues.
  Kristin, who is from Southeastern Pennsylvania, wrote the following 
with regard to her son:

       Being parents of a high-functioning autistic child, we 
     value and cherish our public school system. In fact, our 
     public school experience has been life changing for our son. 
     He's getting a great education, and has made remarkable 
     strides. He not only benefits from the resources, caring 
     attention provided by teachers, administrators, assistants 
     and school staff and an Individualized Education Plan--
     accommodations afforded by IDEA that private schools can 
     simply ignore, and charter schools do a poor job of meeting--
     but he has also had the opportunity to meet all sorts of 
     kids. I am proud and thrilled that his small group of friends 
     include kids whose parents were born in other countries or 
     who practice other religions. This is the benefit of a 
     quality, well-funded, public school education; an informed 
     citizenry and an introduction to the cultures and 
     perspectives beyond our own neighborhoods.

  No one has said it better, in my judgment, than Kristin, about the 
value of public education; the value of that public school to her son 
who has autism, but he is a high-functioning autistic child. The vistas 
of opportunities for learning that have been opened to that child 
because of that school and because of the IDEA that helps that child 
with a disability--any kind of disability--to get an appropriate 
education under our system--and a lot of that started way back in the 
1830s in Pennsylvania when the Free Schools Act was passed.
  So, again, I say very directly to Mrs. DeVos as a nominee and if she 
is confirmed as the Secretary of Education, that Mrs. DeVos must 
guarantee Kristin and her son that she will support public schools and 
children with disabilities without exceptions, not with equivocation, 
not with some bizarre, erroneous argument about what States might want 
to do but full commitment, full compliance with the IDEA, full 
compliance with the law as it relates to any child with a disability. 
She has an obligation once she takes the oath of office, a sworn duty 
as a servant of taxpayers, as a servant of those parents like Kristin, 
to make sure she meets Kristin's expectations, not the expectations of 
a President and not the expectations of insiders here in Washington. 
She has to answer to the expectations of Kristin and taxpayers like her 
and her son. So she has a heavy burden of proof based upon her 
testimony to date.
  Mr. President, I am going to move to another topic, a topic that has 
been the subject of much attention lately, but frankly not enough 
attention over many years. It is an issue that affects all kinds of 
children in our schools at various ages and at various circumstances. I 
am talking about bullying, something that sometimes people in my 
generation somehow conclude has always been a problem and is just a 
continuing problem from one generation to the next. They are wrong on 
the facts. It is a much worse problem today than it has ever been, and 
that is largely caused by the failure to deal with it. It is also 
caused by the ability of the bully to follow the bullied student home 
and to torment them and sometimes to aggravate other bullies around 
them to torment them all day long in school and at home all through the 
night, day after day, week after week.
  In addition to ensuring equal protection of students with 
disabilities as we just talked about, I am also concerned that Mrs. 
DeVos will not be fully committed to enforcing civil rights protections 
for students, including those who identify as LGBTQ.
  This is obviously connected as well to the issue of bullying, because 
often the most likely victims of bullying, we know, are LGBT students 
and students with disabilities. It affects all students. There is no 
question about that. But there are too many stories and too many 
newspaper stories, in particular,

[[Page S766]]

about someone who was bullied persistently over time. That has led to 
suicides and lead to some terribly tragic outcomes for students and 
their families.
  Bullying, when you think about it--or I should say, when we consider 
the tolerance we have built up, I guess, over years to allow bullying 
to continue--in many ways is the ultimate betrayal of our kids. We say 
to our kids: Go to school. You have to go to school and stay in class 
and pay attention and do your homework and study hard for quizzes and 
tests. If you do that, you are going to progress and you are going to 
be a person who has opportunities in the world. But you have to stay in 
school and you have to concentrate on your work.
  It is the ultimate betrayal for us as parents, as a society, to tell 
that to a child, and then we put them in schools where the efforts 
against bullying are not a priority. So it is a real betrayal of our 
children to send them to schools and then not protect so many of them 
from bullying. So in so many ways, as adults, we fail our kids when we 
allow that to happen.
  For many LGBTQ students, schools are anything but safe. The Centers 
for Disease Control in 2016 put out a report called the ``Youth Risk 
Behavior Surveillance'' annual report, which looks at the health and 
well-being of our 9th through 12th grade students. Students who 
identify as gay are almost twice as likely to have been threatened or 
injured by a knife or a weapon on school property--twice as likely.
  Students who identify as gay are almost three times more likely to 
stay home from school because of safety concerns. Sixty percent of 
students identifying as gay had felt so sad and hopeless almost every 
day for 2 or more weeks in a row that they had stopped doing usual 
  Finally, the most sobering of all, the rate of suicide attempts is 
four times greater. Let me say that again. Suicide attempts are four 
times greater for young people who happen to be gay, and two times 
greater for young people that are questioning than that of a straight 
young person. With the advent of text messaging and social media and 
social networking, many children find they cannot escape the harassment 
even as they go home at night.
  It follows them from the moment they wake until the moment they go to 
sleep. I will give you one example from Pennsylvania, right in the 
heartland of our State, Snyder County. You can't get much more small 
town and emblematic of the rural and smalltown communities in our State 
than a county like Snyder County.
  The story of Brandon Bitner, a teenager from that part of the State, 
in central Pennsylvania, is a chilling reminder of the horror--the 
absolute horror--of bullying. This is what one news account wrote:

       Brandon Bitner, 14 years old, of Mount Pleasant Mills, PA, 
     walked 13 miles from his home early Friday morning in 
     November of 2010 to a business intersection and threw himself 
     in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer, after leaving a 
     suicide note at his home. There seems to be little doubt in 
     students' mind why Brandon did what he did. ``It was because 
     of bullying,'' this friend wrote to the Daily Item, a paper 
     in central Pennsylvania. It was because of bullying. ``It was 
     not about race or gender, but they bullied him for his sexual 
     preferences, the way he dressed. Which,'' she said, ``they 
     wrongly accused him of.''

  We know that Brandon's suicide note reportedly explained that he was 
constantly bullied at Midd-West High School in Middleburg, which is 
also Snyder County, where he was a freshman. Bullies allegedly called 
Brandon names. He stated in the note that a humiliating event in school 
this past week was ``the straw that broke the camel's back.'' Brandon 
was an accomplished violinist, having been a member of the Susquehanna 
Youth Orchestra in 2009.
  That is smalltown Pennsylvania, Snyder County, right in the middle of 
our State. So you have a 14-year-old who is driven to suicide because 
of bullying--persistent, pernicious, violent, evil bullying--that drove 
him to throw himself in front of a tractor-trailer 13 miles from his 
  Now, we know that laws cannot wipe out human behavior or the darkness 
of human nature sometimes. While we do have Federal laws that promote 
school safety, there is currently nothing in place to comprehensively 
address issues of bullying and harassment. It is critical that anti-
bullying and harassment laws and policies enumerate or list 
characteristics that are most frequently the subject of bullying and 
harassment, such as race, color, natural origin, sex, sexual 
orientation, gender identity or expression, disability and religion--
sometimes known in the law as protected classes.
  It is important that in any bullying policies, those categories are 
so enumerated. This is the most effective strategy for preventing and 
prohibiting both bullying and harassment. Research shows the 
effectiveness of these policies, and even the American Bar Association 
agreed, passing a resolution unanimously in 2011 supporting enumerated 
protections, not vague references to protecting young people from 
bullying but very specific enumerated policies.
  Now, we have made progress in developing legislation, but we have not 
gotten the support we need to get it passed. We tried this during the 
debate on the Every Student Succeeds Act, which, as many of you know, 
is the reauthorization and the many changes made to the No Child Left 
Behind legislation. But we did not get this policy as part of that. So 
we have a ways to go.
  Now, I had hoped that the next Secretary of Education would be 
interested in tackling these issues. While Mrs. DeVos has expressed a 
desire to work on preventing bullying, her record and financial giving 
seem to suggest otherwise, especially as it relates to LGBTQ students.
  Mrs. DeVos and her family's foundations have given millions of 
dollars to organizations that are expressly opposed to this work--much 
of the funding coming from the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, which 
is one of her family foundations. So, in other words, she is supporting 
groups that do not want to pass anti-bullying legislation that 
enumerates the protected groups of students.
  I think that is a big mistake. I think it is wrong. We will continue 
to fight them. But I hope that those donations that the family 
foundations have made will not prohibit her from taking strong action 
against bullying as Secretary of Education. Once again, I will say it: 
When she becomes Secretary of Education--if she is confirmed--she is no 
longer a private citizen engaged in fights about ideology or fights 
about policy or fights about politics. She is a servant of the people 
if she is going to be Secretary of Education.
  So I would hope she would rethink that original predisposition to be 
against those policies. I will move on because I know we are limited in 
our time.
  Now, I wanted to conclude with a couple of remarks about questions 
regarding ethics and potential conflicts of interest, because that 
seems to be a persistent theme with regard to a number of the 
  We know that a lot of questions have been asked lately of Mrs. DeVos. 
I wanted to review some of those. There are at least potential 
conflicts of interest if she became Secretary of Education. We know 
that we have a tradition not only here in Washington in the Federal 
Government, but it was very much a part of State government in 
Pennsylvania when I served there. It is part of the tradition in our 
State that we opt on the side of more transparency for candidates and 
for public officials about disclosure of information, especially 
information that could compromise an individual in public office--tax 
returns, for example, when people run for office. Providing Mrs. 
DeVos's tax returns would be a small price to pay to become Secretary 
of Education as part of that transparency. It would also go a long way 
to ease the public's discomfort around some of the potential conflicts 
of interest in the assets and family trusts that DeVos will be 
retaining if she were to be confirmed.
  The letter of agreement between Betsy DeVos and the Office of 
Government Ethics is necessary but not sufficient to alleviate her and 
her family's financial conflicts of interest. The HELP Committee has 
always used its own requirements for vetting a nominee, which are and 
always have been a step beyond those gathered by the Office of 
Government Ethics.
  The committee requires full disclosure of all assets over $1,000 in 
the two-

[[Page S767]]

part committee questionnaire required by the committee rules. So there 
is a lot more to do. I know we are running out of time. There is a lot 
more to do, I believe, in terms of her fully disclosing information 
about her family's or her own financial transactions, what stakes they 
will maintain in some of these entities if she were to be confirmed.
  This is not about probing someone who has a lot of personal assets 
and is wealthy. This is about the taxpayers' right to know what their 
Secretary of Education, or even a nominee for this job, has in her 
portfolio and her family.
  So I will conclude with this. Our children and our families and our 
taxpayers deserve a Secretary of Education who is fully committed to 
being a champion for public schools and public education.
  I will harken back to what Kristin said in part of the letter I read: 
Their public school experience has been ``life-changing.'' They ``value 
and cherish our public school system.'' I hope that Betsy DeVos, if she 
were to be confirmed, would value and cherish public education and make 
it a live-changing experience for every student in those public 
  For the many reasons I have outlined, I will vote against her 
nomination tomorrow.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Carolina.
  Mr. SCOTT. Mr. President, I appreciate the time.
  I think we have had a very interesting debate on Betsy DeVos and 
frankly on public education. Listening to my friends on the left, I 
have been encouraged, encouraged because I am excited that for the 
first time in a very long time, we are actually having a conversation 
about the important role of public education in America. This is a 
necessary component to success in life.
  I have been inspired, inspired by Senators who have spoken eloquently 
and passionately about the importance of our public education system, 
the challenges they fear might come with the appointment of Betsy DeVos 
to be Secretary of Education.
  I have also been disappointed and frustrated by some of the 
statements made by my friends on the other side. What this is not, what 
this should not be is a partisan issue. This is not an issue of 
Republicans versus Democrats. That is not what this is about. This is 
not even a political issue, nor is this an issue about teachers.
  I, for one, am so very thankful for incredible teachers. I think of 
Mrs. Lynch, Mrs. Greenberg, my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Wynn--God 
bless her soul. I was a handful. I think of Coach Roberts and Mr. 
White. We called him Mighty White, Mr. White. What an amazing English 
teacher I had in my senior year. Ms. Barry and Ms. Myers, wonderful 
Spanish teachers.
  This is not about teachers. It is not necessarily about Betsy DeVos, 
not even Betsy DeVos. For me, the issue is simply an issue of quality 
education. I will, without any question, have a very specific 
conversation on Betsy DeVos. For me, however, this is simply about 
quality education and how we get there.
  My story is familiar to many people in this Chamber. I have spoken 
about it a number of times. I will tell you that my entire time in the 
Senate--the 4 years I have been here--I have been talking consistently 
about the power of education and the necessity of quality education. I 
call it the opportunity agenda.
  The opportunity agenda, which has been my focus for the last 4 years, 
focuses first on education, making sure that every single ZIP Code in 
America has a quality choice for education. This is so important to me.
  As a poor kid growing up in a single-parent household, I was not 
doing very well. From 7 to 14, I drifted in the wrong direction. As a 
freshman in high school, I basically flunked out. I failed world 
geography. I may be the first Senator to fail civics. I even failed 
Spanish and English. When you fail Spanish and English, no one 
considers you bilingual, no one. They did call me, by the way, ``bi-
ignant'' because I could not speak in any language, and that is where I 
found my unhappy self.
  I have two major blessings in my life: a wonderful mother who 
believed in my future, who encouraged me, who inspired me, who did 
everything necessary to try to keep me on the right track, and I had a 
powerful mentor.
  I am so thankful that during the hardest times of my life, I found 
myself in the position to receive a quality education, and I learned 
from my sophomore year forward to take advantage of that positive, 
strong opportunity for a quality education, but that was not always the 
  I remember by the time I was in the fourth grade, I had gone to four 
different elementary schools because there is something transient about 
poverty. So we moved around some. Picking the right school was 
difficult, challenging. So, for me, when I think about this topic, when 
I hear my friends on the left, when I think about the debate around the 
Nation, this is simply a clear debate and discussion around education. 
It changed my life for the better.
  I will tell you, this is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. Both 
Republicans and Democrats around this Nation--maybe not in this Chamber 
but around this Nation--support Betsy DeVos to be the next Secretary of 
Education, and that is good news.
  Let me just talk for a few minutes about Betsy DeVos. I have listened 
to the concerns as we have heard from the Senator from Pennsylvania. 
Tens of thousands of folks have called the offices of all Senators, to 
include mine. I have been on the phone, answering the phone in my 
office so I could have a chance to chat with my constituents who called 
in from inside the State. I certainly had a ton of calls from outside 
the State.
  Here are some of the concerns I heard from my constituents that I 
know were serious concerns and important parts of the conversation. One 
serious concern was the lack of experience she has.
  I will tell you, she brings with her a fresh set of eyes; that, yes, 
she has no official experience, but she has invested the last 28 years 
of her life in improving public education. She has supported, without 
any question, the creation of public charter schools.
  I had the privilege of speaking at a charter school in Michigan 
started by Betsy DeVos and her husband 3 or 4 years ago, an aviation 
high school that focuses on making sure the students are prepared to be 
competent and to qualify for good jobs in the aviation transportation 
sector. It is a phenomenal school. I enjoyed my interaction with the 
  I will tell you that not only has she spent the last 28 years in 
public education, not only has she spent millions of her own money 
focusing on education, but she has a set of fresh eyes. I will explain 
to you in a few minutes why that is so important if we are going to 
improve the quality of education experienced in the rural areas, like 
West Virginia or in South Carolina, as well as the inner cities, from 
Chicago to Detroit and parts of South Carolina as well. So that will be 
an important part of the conversation as we move forward.
  The second thing I have heard from my constituents that I think is 
really important is that she doesn't support accountability equally for 
charter schools and other public schools.
  I had a chance to talk to Betsy DeVos, and I would not support her if 
she was not going to treat all the schools the same as it relates to 
accountability. That is important, and that is a place where she has 
been crystal clear, from my perspective.
  The third issue I have heard is that supporting Betsy DeVos will 
somehow ruin public education. I will tell you, I have had the chance 
to sit down and chat with her about the role of public education. She 
agrees with many on our side of the aisle, when she said very clearly, 
she supports public education. She supports quality public education. 
She supports charter schools. She supports school choice.
  I do not believe there is a binary choice between public education 
and school choice. I think that is not an accurate description that we 
face. I think she will help to improve public education.
  One of my friends on the left said that public education is a right, 
but for too many of our children quality public education is not. It is 
simply not happening.
  I will tell you, as I think about the numbers around this concept, I 
look at those schools around the Nation that

[[Page S768]]

meet or exceed our national standard in the area of English or language 
  In my home State, in the county where I was born, Charleston County, 
if you break it down--and this is a debate that has become a debate so 
often about where you live and what you look like so I wanted to break 
it down by the demographics I have heard so often from my friends on 
the left because these are important demographics. It is very important 
for us to understand and appreciate the necessity of improving quality 
education for all of our students.
  I see in Charleston County meeting or exceeding the English standards 
that we have set, that 78 percent of our White kids are doing just fine 
in meeting and/or exceeding those national standards, but, 
unfortunately, only 24.4 percent of our Black students meet or exceed 
those standards. I heard that of the Hispanic students in Charleston 
County, only 27.7 percent meet or exceed those standards.
  I will tell you that if you think about where we are, as a nation, on 
the issue of public education and if you drive into some of the inner 
cities, like Chicago or Detroit or Philadelphia, you have to ask 
yourself: What is the experience of that child in public education? 
Because I think this is the central debate for our country. It is 
around education because a poor education has a strong correlation with 
our incarceration rates. A poor education has a strong correlation with 
high unemployment rates. A poor education has a correlation with low 
lifetime income.
  So the importance of the issue of quality education--particularly in 
those places in our country that seem to be under tremendous stress--we 
should drill into the numbers so we can appreciate what the future 
looks like for those kids. This is such an important issue.
  In Chicago, 65 percent of our majority students meet or exceed the 
standard in English or language arts, but only 22 percent of our 
African-American kids meet or exceed the standards; 29 percent of our 
Hispanic kids in Chicago meet or exceed the standards.
  What are the numbers in Detroit? Well, in Detroit, only 13 percent of 
our majority students meet or exceed those English standards; 9 
percent--1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 percent--of the African-American 
kids meet or exceed those standards; 12.5 percent of our Hispanic kids 
meet or exceed those standards. Just correlate those numbers to the 
incarceration rates, to the employment rates, to the lifetime income 
rates, and to the rate of hopelessness in those communities.
  I know we are having a debate about the Secretary of Education. It is 
an important debate, but a more important debate centers around the 
educational experience of our students all over this Nation and what 
that means long term for this Nation and for the students and for our 
communities all over the country.
  Philadelphia is another place. For 53 percent--barely half of the 
majority students--meet or exceed the standards; 24 percent of African-
American students and 23 percent of Hispanic students meet or exceed 
the standards.
  What does that mean? That means that while we are having a debate 
about education, while we are having a debate about Betsy DeVos, maybe 
it is not about Betsy DeVos. Maybe it is not about the great teachers I 
have had and others have had. We should all celebrate quality public 
education. I do. I am a tremendous supporter of it, but there is a 
place in this Nation--from Appalachia, the rural areas in West 
Virginia, the rural areas of South Carolina, inner cities that I have 
just named--where a quality education is not the norm. As a matter of 
fact, the exact opposite is the norm, and that means we all will pay a 
hefty price, not financially because that is secondary. We lose human 
potential when it is not developed, and that is a travesty, one that we 
can ill afford as a nation.
  While I am seriously concerned about our debate on Betsy DeVos and I 
am seriously concerned about public education, I am very concerned 
about the quality outcomes not being experienced by our rural kids and 
our inner-city kids, and far too often we forget to have a debate about 
the children in the system. We have a debate about the system, we have 
a debate about the Secretary of the system, but we haven't thoroughly 
vetted the accomplishments or the lack of accomplishments within that 
system. So we ought not cast a shadow over all public education. We 
should, however, illuminate or cast a bright light into problem areas 
and look for options to improve the outcome for those kids not only 
trapped in a failing system but for the rest of their lives playing 
catchup. That is where our focus should be.

  We have heard a whole lot of hyperbole about what the next Secretary 
of Education can do, as if that person could somehow with a magic wand 
change education. That is patently false. It would take action by this 
Congress to have that happen. The reality of it is that while it is an 
important position, she cannot act unilaterally, and the one commitment 
that I made sure I had from her--she viewed the world of education in 
the same paradigm as I do, which is we don't want a top-down approach 
to education; we actually want school districts and local communities 
and counties and States to lead the charge, because about $550 billion 
that supports public education doesn't come from the Federal 
Government, it comes from the States and the local school districts. 
That is where the decisions should be made.
  I am a supporter of school choice; however, it would just be an 
option under the best-case scenario where States would have more 
options at the cafeteria. I don't want to mandate and she is not going 
to be able to mandate school choice. That will be our decision, and I 
have decided I don't want to make it happen. I want to give the States 
and the local school districts the opportunity to make their own 
decisions, which does lead me, of course, to my support and her support 
of school choice.
  I would submit that most of us in this Nation support school choice. 
I know that is a controversial statement and one you have to back up 
with facts. Here is a fact: The fact is that we as a nation 
consistently support school choice. It is called a Pell grant. A Pell 
grant is a Federal subsidy that oftentimes goes to private schools--
colleges. Unfortunately, many kids who do not meet or exceed the 
standards in English, math, and science will never experience the Pell 
grant because they don't go on to a 2-year or a 4-year education. They 
don't go to a technical school or to a college. They don't find 
themselves experiencing what we as a Federal Government provide--a 
clear and specific option to take your Federal dollars to your private 
  We all seem to support school choice; we just don't seem to support 
it for those kids trapped in failing school districts and 
underperforming schools. Those kids will not see the Pell grants so 
often. Too often, too many of those kids will not see a Pell grant, 
which is absolutely, positively, unequivocally school choice.
  I will state that I am hopeful. I am hopeful because I believe that 
men and women in this Chamber are sincere and serious about the debate 
around public education. And I will tell you there are reasons to 
believe that in spite of the dismal performance that I have read, there 
are reasons to be hopeful that the future for those kids in public 
education can get better--significantly better.
  As I wrap up my comments, let me reflect upon what is possible for 
kids who were underperforming to become high-achieving. So often we 
label those kids as at-risk kids. I prefer to call them high-potential 
kids. There are examples in this Nation where those kids who were 
performing so poorly, according to the third grade statistics, around 
meeting or exceeding expectations, according to ESSA, those kids, later 
in life and in different programs and in New York City specifically, 
are doing incredibly well. Let me give a couple of examples, and I will 
close with this good news and more to be continued later this morning.
  There is a group of schools called Success Academies which are public 
charter schools that are performing at the highest levels in the State 
of New York. Here is the good news: These kids are 87 percent African 
American and Hispanic. And I went through the numbers earlier--dismal 
numbers meeting or exceeding standards in English. The numbers are very 
similar in math. They are very similar in science. But here is what is 
possible: In all the New York State schools, the top-performing schools 
in the State--

[[Page S769]]

looking at their performance, 94 percent success rate in math, 82 
percent in English, 99 percent in science. To break those numbers down 
as I did earlier with the African-American and Hispanic students, in 
math, here is how you reverse the achievement gap: 93 percent of 
African-American Success Academy scholars outperform the majority of 
students in New York City. Eighty percent of them are African Americans 
and 80 percent of them are Hispanic. They are at 80 percent.
  You see, Mr. President, with the right focus, with the right 
emphasis, with options like a cafeteria, when parents have a choice, 
the students have a chance not just in education but a better chance in 
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Sasse). The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rubio). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, the hour is late, or early in the morning, 
and my colleague from Hawaii is here. Before I leave the floor, I want 
to say how pleased I am to see the Senate actually debating the state 
of education in America.
  I said earlier today when I was here that if you are born poor in 
this country, you arrive at kindergarten having heard 30 million fewer 
words than your more affluent peers, and if you are born poor in this 
country, by the time you get to the fourth grade, only about one in 
four kids is proficient in mathematics, fewer than that are proficient 
readers. What it all adds up to is that if you are poor in the United 
States, your chances of getting a college degree by the time you turn 
25 are about 9 in 100.
  I often think about that when I am in this Chamber because there are 
100 desks here, and if we were poor kids living in America, the desks 
that would be occupied by college graduates would be the three desks 
that my colleague from Hawaii is sitting at in the front row over 
there, the four desks behind him, and then two more desks in the 
following row. Every other desk in this Chamber if they were occupied 
by poor children in this country, would be occupied by somebody who 
didn't have a college degree.
  Sometimes people say to me: Well, don't you know that not everybody 
will go to college. College isn't for everybody. I find that when 
people say that, they are often talking about other people's children, 
not their own children. Even if that is true--and I do believe we 
should build a robust system in this country that is not about a 
college degree but is about acquiring skills and knowledge that can put 
people on the path to acquiring a salary that is actually worth 
something. In fact, the Presiding Offer and I have a bill together that 
would allow students to use Pell grants for those kinds of educational 
opportunities that may not get you to a college degree but will put you 
on the pathway to acquiring greater skills.
  I think it is very important that we have a system where people are 
acquiring that kind of knowledge, but it also is true that it is, I 
think, completely at war with who we are as Americans; that there is a 
class of people in the United States, in the land of opportunity, who 
because they are unlucky enough to be born poor, are unlucky enough to 
go to schools that nobody in this Chamber would ever be content sending 
their kid or their grandkid to.
  In fact, if we had the results that we have for poor children in 
America for the children and grandchildren of the Members of this body, 
I am sure we would all leave and go back home and fix this problem. We 
don't talk enough about the State of public education in this country. 
We almost don't talk about it at all.
  We just had a Presidential election in this country where the issue 
didn't come up almost at all. I am glad we are having the debate, and I 
strongly believe that the person President Trump has nominated is ill-
equipped to help the country overcome the challenges we face in public 
education and put us on the path we need to be on, which is a path that 
says that we are going to provide in the United States robust, high-
quality early childhood education for every family in America that 
wants it.
  We are going to have a system of public education in this country 
that provides a K-12 school for every single child in America that is a 
school that any Senator would be proud to send their kid. We are going 
to make sure that every young person in the United States, and maybe 
even people who aren't so young, has the ability to graduate from 
college or acquire the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the 
21st century and do that without acquiring a mountain of debt that 
requires them--in the case of people graduating now from colleges in 
Colorado--to take 22 years of their lives to pay that debt back. It 
doesn't make any sense.
  This is the land of opportunity. The gateway to opportunity is a 
high-quality education, and too many of our kids in this country in the 
21st century don't have access to it. My hope is that when we get 
through this debate, we can focus on the work that is happening in 
places like Denver, CO, where we have seen, in just a 10-year period, a 
60-percent increase in the number of kids who are graduating from high 
  I am the first to say that we have a long way to go in Denver in 
terms of making sure that a kid's ZIP Code doesn't determine the 
education they get. I said earlier tonight and I believe if we could 
say that every single city in America, every single urban district and 
every single rural district where there are poor children and kids of 
color going to school that we had increased the graduation rate over 
the last 10 years by 60 percent, I think we would feel a lot better 
about where we are headed as a country.
  That is a fundamental challenge for this country. It is the most 
important domestic issue we face, and I hope this debate tonight, this 
24 hours we are spending on this nominee, is not the end of our debate.
  As I said the other day in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions 
Committee, I think it would be a useful exercise for that committee to 
spend the next year studying what is going on in public education in 
this country, what is working well, what is not working well, and 
figure out how we can work--the Federal Government can work--with 
States, local governments, and local school districts to provide the 
kind of opportunity that every kid in America deserves.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHATZ. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Daines). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. SCHATZ. Mr. President, I wish to tell a story about Evelyn, a 
young woman I met from Molokai, which is a small rural island in the 
State of Hawaii. It is the kind of place that has one radio station, 
one high school, and everybody knows everybody. Of course, everyone in 
town knows Evelyn.
  They were all so very proud of her when she invented a pH sensor that 
can detect even small changes in the ocean's environment. Her device is 
nothing short of groundbreaking. It is actually more accurate than the 
devices that marine scientists at our Federal agencies have been using, 
and it is way less expensive. It is an estimated \1/42\nd of the price, 
and it requires half the maintenance.
  This invention makes Evelyn an accomplished scientist, an innovator, 
an entrepreneur, and a passionate ocean steward, but she is also a 
junior in public high school, Molokai High School. She is proof that 
our public school students can compete and innovate at the highest 
levels and that public schools can be a path to just about anything, 
which is why public schools and public education are to be held up and 
supported and understood as the great equalizer, the bedrock of our 
democracy, our civil society, our country. You can trace back the 
history of public education in America to the Original Thirteen 
Colonies. In 1635, boys in Boston could get a free education, and by 
1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony

[[Page S770]]

required every town to provide boys a basic education.

  Some 340 years later, our public education system has come a long 
way, but some things don't change. Our communities still understand how 
public education lays a foundation for success. It gives every American 
the chance to pursue their dreams. But the nominee for Secretary of 
Education doesn't seem to understand that, which is why we see 
constituents flooding the phone lines, Facebook and Twitter, faxes, and 
the in-boxes of U.S. Senators.
  In terms of pure volume, this last week has been the highest point 
for American interaction with the U.S. Congress in our history. Think 
about that. Think about what we have been through as a country 
together, and yet, this week and last, more people have called their 
Members of the Senate than literally ever before because that is the 
level of passion people feel for public education and because Americans 
across the country are concerned and worried about what will happen to 
public education under Betsy DeVos. My office alone has received 
thousands of messages about her nomination.
  I just want to be clear about this. There are certainly advocacy 
organizations that make it easy for you to contact your Member of 
Congress. They have form letters. They have Web forms. They make it 
easy. They populate the thing. They pop off an email, and you just sign 
at the bottom. That isn't what I am talking about. These are 
organically generated, individual letters from across the State of 
  Talking with colleagues, that is what is happening. People are, on 
their own, calling because everybody has a story about public 
education. Everybody has a reason to be passionate about public 
education. Let me share a few of these concerns.
  A parent on the Big Island of Hawaii wrote:

       As a mother of two, and as a woman who went back to 
     graduate school in her 50s, I understand the importance of 
     free education in public schools as a fundamental American 
     right, one which can create a lifelong love of education and 

  A constituent from Kihei, Maui, wrote:

       Public schools are not failing. We, as in our American 
     culture, are failing them.

  Another one from Kahului, Maui, wrote:

       Children are not a business, they are not a commodity. 
     Public education has its issues (of course it does), but 
     privatizing teachers and turning education into an 
     opportunity for the rich to get richer on one of the last 
     social services we provide to everyone in this country is not 
     the answer.

  Here is one from a teacher on the island of Molokai:

       The nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has 
     zero experience serving in public schools and is not 
     qualified for the job. I do not believe she understands the 
     needs of our students and what effort it has taken to move 
     our schools as far along as we have. Public education is a 
     great responsibility and cannot be left to those who have 
     never worked directly with children in need.
       These are children who experience school as a safe place 
     when they are valued, fed and educated. This serious 
     responsibility of public education in no way can be left or 
     replaced by a voucher system.

  Here is another message from a constituent on the Big Island:

       My family has very strong ties to the education community--
     many of which are or were educators. My husband is an English 
     as a second language teacher, and my mother-in-law is 
     currently a third grade teacher, so this issue cuts deep in 
     our beliefs. We at a minimum deserve a leader with some 
     experience and who knows at least some of the laws already in 
     place as well as how to enforce them.
       Mrs. DeVos has never known what a child from Milolii has to 
     do just to get a good education. She has never had to make 
     the choice to go to college or to stay home, try to save 
     money while also helping to support her household. Neither 
     her nor her children had to question if she can afford out of 
     state tuition. She does not represent our plight and she does 
     not know our challenges.
       I ask you from the pureness of my heart as a mom who wants 
     what is best for not only my child, but for every mother's 
     child, to please demand an educational representative with 
     experience and our values in mind.

  Here is a message from another parent:

       This is not about which side of the political arena you 
     fall upon. I believe there are many Republicans and Democrats 
     who are far more qualified and knowledgeable than Mrs. DeVos. 
     Our kids deserve better.

  She is right--our kids do deserve better. But right now, not all of 
them are getting the education they deserve. A 2016 report found that 
half a million 15-year-old students in the United States haven't 
mastered the basics in any subject--not math, not reading, not 
science--and more than a million scored below the baseline level in 
  U.S. News and World Report noted that if we could pull those kids up 
to a basic understanding, our economy could grow by an estimated $27 
trillion over the time period that these students are in the workforce. 
Set aside the human impact for a moment. Set aside the family impact. 
If all you care about is economic development, we are leaving $27 
trillion on the table because we are not lifting up every child to 
learn as much as they possibly can and reach their potential.
  In too many places, we are failing these kids. The impact is both 
negative and far reaching. Our failure impacts their ability to go to 
college or learn a trade, to make a decent paycheck, to provide for 
their family, and to pursue the American dream. But we don't have to 
fail these children. This Congress can make choices that will improve 
education for all. We can make, instead of break, the future for our 
kids. We can decide to increase funding for disadvantaged students. We 
can decide to protect our students from bullying, sexual harassment, 
and gun violence. We can decide to set up children for success with 
universal access to early childhood education.
  There is abundant brain science now that confirms every parent's 
instinct, which is that the first 5 years of a child's life--of an 
infant's life into being a toddler, then to being a little kid--those 
first 5 years are the most important years for a child. Now we don't 
have to just use our instincts because there is abundant brain science 
and data that have come in that have shown, in terms of the efficacy of 
a Federal dollar spent, there is nothing that has a greater impact in 
terms of reducing social service spending, in terms of economic 
development, than investing in early childhood education.
  We can decide to adhere to commonsense accountability standards to 
ensure a high-quality education to all children, regardless of who your 
parents are or where you live. We can decide to invest in wage-boosting 
apprenticeship careers and technical education. We can make college 
more affordable so our students can access higher education without 
taking on crushing debt.
  But to accomplish these goals, we need an excellent Department of 
Education to make it happen because the agency is responsible for 
implementing Congress's decisions. It is up to the executive branch to 
ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence 
throughout the Nation. That is literally the mission statement of the 
U.S. DOE--to ensure equal access to education and to promote 
educational excellence. And that is the way I look at the Secretary 
nominee. Is she committed to ensuring access--equal access to education 
and promoting educational excellence?
  The Secretary of Education is responsible for the mission of 
overseeing a $36 billion budget in K-12 and about $150 billion in 
higher education funding. This person is responsible for enforcing key 
civil rights protections for our students. This person advises the 
President on all things education in the United States, whether it is a 
policy that will affect a local public school or a policy that will 
impact millions of student borrowers.
  Up until this moment, every Secretary of Education who has served in 
the President's Cabinet has had the resume required to take on these 
  Shirley Hufstedler was the first Secretary of Education to be in the 
Cabinet, serving under President Carter. As the daughter of a 
schoolteacher and a part-time teacher herself, she was also a 
trailblazing lawyer who was considered a favorite to be the first woman 
nominated to the Supreme Court.
  Terrel Bell was a teacher, a professor, and then a superintendent of 
a school district in Utah before he served under President Reagan.
  William Bennett was a professor at three universities who released 
research about higher education curriculums before heading the 
Department to serve under President Reagan.

[[Page S771]]

  Laurel Cavazos was dean of Tufts Medical School before becoming 
president of Texas Tech University. He would go on to be the first 
Secretary of Education for President George H.W. Bush.
  The esteemed Senator Alexander served as Governor of Tennessee and 
president of the University of Tennessee before becoming President 
Bush's Secretary of Education.
  Richard Riley championed funding and support for education as 
Governor of South Carolina before leading the Department of Education 
under President Clinton.
  Rod Paige was a professor, a dean, an innovator in education, and the 
superintendent of the Houston school district before he served under 
President George W. Bush.
  Margaret Spellings advised then-Governor George Bush on education in 
Texas before becoming his second Secretary of Education.
  Arne Duncan served as the CEO for Chicago's public school system 
before joining the Obama administration as Secretary of Education.
  John King, Jr., was the commissioner of education for New York and 
Deputy Secretary of Education before he led the Department as Secretary 
for President Obama.
  Every Secretary who has led the Department came to the job with a 
history in government or in the classroom. They served as elected 
officials or as policy advisers in the executive branch or worked as 
administrators or educators. But now this administration is asking us 
to make an exception by confirming someone who really doesn't have any 
relevant experience. She has never served in the government, never 
taught in the classroom, never managed a school district.
  One woman from Oahu wrote me to say:

       She is supremely unqualified to lead the department. As a 
     retired public school teacher--30 years both in regular and 
     special education--I am aghast that she is even being 
     considered. When one is being nominated to uphold Federal 
     education laws and is ``confused'' by what IDEA entails, it 
     becomes very apparent that this person is a poor choice for 
     this position.

  Another letter I got from an educator reads:

       I taught in both public and private schools for 10 years on 
     the mainland before moving to Hawaii and teaching for more 
     than 15 additional years. Watching video clips on the news of 
     her Senate hearings, it is appalling to see how little she 
     knows about the topic of education. I worry for all of our 
     children. I worry for our country. Please, if you can, do 
     what you can do to see that we get someone more qualified to 
     help guide our children and our country. HELP!

  Everything that has happened since Mrs. DeVos has been nominated has 
unfortunately only confirmed the concerns I heard from constituents. 
Because her hearing was so short, Senators followed up with written 
questions, and in some cases, her responses lifted language from other 
sources without citing them. In one response, she wrote, ``Every child 
deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment, where they 
can learn, thrive and grow.'' Fine. Well, an Obama official used the 
exact same language in a press release regarding the rights of 
transgender students, but she did not cite that official or the press 
  In another example, she answered a question about title IX 
investigations in the following way: ``Opening a complaint for 
investigation in no way implies that the Office of Civil Rights has 
made a determination about the merits of that complaint.'' That is the 
exact language the Department of Education uses in its own guidance. 
There is nothing wrong with citing a source, especially when that 
source is the Department you want to run, but it has to be cited. That 
is one of the first things you teach a child in seventh and eighth 
grade when they are trying to learn how to do research--cite your 
  But the central issue isn't the lack of a seriousness of purpose 
during the hearings and in the questions for the record, although I 
think that was what caused the Nation to kind of wake up and rise up 
about the challenge in front of us when it comes to public education. 
This was not part of some master strategy on the part of Democrats. 
What happened in those hearings is that Michael Bennet, Al Franken, 
Chris Murphy, and Elizabeth Warren just did their jobs and asked 
  If you told me that a clip about the distinction between proficiency 
and growth--I mean, that is the wonkiest thing in the world. But what 
happened was 2 million people or more saw that on Facebook. This wasn't 
part of our political strategy. What happened was that people saw the 
hearing and got very worried that we will have the wrong person in 
charge of public education policy at the Federal level. So you have 
people left, right, and center. You can ask the Senate Republicans 
whether they are getting phone calls too. They are getting phone calls 
too. This is not a Democratic strategy. What is happening is that we 
have the wrong person who may be confirmed as the Secretary of 
  The central issue is that there remain concerns around Mrs. DeVos's 
basic understanding of education policy. During her confirmation 
hearings, there were several moments when she didn't seem to fully 
grasp the important parts of Federal law on education.
  The Washington Post actually published an article called ``Six 
astonishing things Betsy DeVos said--and refused to say--at her 
confirmation hearing.''

       DeVos refused to agree with a Democrat that schools are no 
     place for guns, citing one school that needs one to protect 
     against grizzly bears.
       When Senator Chris Murphy asked her whether she would agree 
     that guns don't belong in schools, she said, ``I will refer 
     back to Senator Enzi and the school he was talking about in 
     Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there 
     is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential 

  This would be hilarious if it weren't so serious. This would be 
hysterically funny if this weren't the person who is about to become 
our Secretary of Education.
  When asked whether she would support President Trump if he, as 
promised, moved to end gun-free zones around schools, she said: ``I 
will support whatever the President does,'' even if that means moving 
guns into schools, allowing guns in schools. She added: ``If the 
question is around gun violence and the results of that, please know 
that my heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost 
any individual to gun violence.''
  DeVos refused to agree with Senator Tim Kaine that all schools that 
receive public Federal funds--traditional public, charter, or private 
schools that receive voucher money--should be held to the same 
standards of accountability.
  A little background on this issue. I have a great charter school 
movement in the State of Hawaii, but the deal we have struck--and it is 
imperfect, and they are always arguing about fixed costs and capital 
costs and all the rest of it, but the basic bargain when charters work 
is that they are legitimately a public school. What does that mean? 
That means they are held to the same standards as traditional public 
schools because to the extent that you have two categories of public 
schools with different metrics, then you are basically playing a game, 
trying to divert money from one to the other.
  OK, so Tim Kaine's question was exactly right. If public money is 
involved--whether it is vouchers to a private school, school choice to 
a charter school, or a traditional public school--shouldn't we measure 
each school's success in the same way, just to be fair?
  Kaine said: If confirmed, will you insist upon equal accountability 
in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer 
funding--whether public, public charter, or private?
  DeVos said: I support accountability.
  Kaine said: Equal accountability?
  DeVos: I support accountability.
  Kaine: Is that a yes or a no?
  DeVos: I support accountability.
  Kaine: Do you not want to answer my question?
  DeVos. I support accountability.
  This is someone who either did not prepare for the hearing or is 
basically walking into this hearing saying: I have the votes. I don't 
have to answer your questions. I don't have to reassure the parents, 
teachers, and students who are desperately worried about what is going 
to happen to public education because I have the votes.
  Kaine said: Let me ask you this. I think all schools that receive 
taxpayer funding should be equally accountable.
  I mean, he is so polite, but he is also very lawyerly. So he asked 
the question 14 different ways, trying to get the answer.

[[Page S772]]

  Do you agree?
  DeVos: Well, they don't. They are not today.
  Kaine: Well, I think they should. Do you agree with me?
  Well, no.
  Kaine, interrupting her, said: You don't not agree with me. And then 
he moved on to another topic.
  DeVos appeared to have no idea what 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.
  I mean, there is a debate about student proficiency and student 
growth, and I won't bore you with the details except to say that I 
don't expect regular folks out there to be into the weeds about the 
difference between proficiency and growth. I get how wonky that is. I 
absolutely expect the Secretary of Education nominee to know about 
  I mean, even if you are brand new to the topic, if you just have 
smart people in the room who briefed you on it--10 hours maybe--you 
would be ready to talk about proficiency and growth. This is what I am 
talking about when I talk about a lack of preparation, a lack of 
humility around what advice and consent means, and the Senate has an 
obligation to take every nomination seriously.
  Franken noted that the subject has been debated in the education 
community for many years and said, when she didn't weigh in and just 
looked at him without much of an expression on her face: It surprises 
me that you don't know this issue.
  But it is not just issues like accountability or guns in schools that 
concern me. On a whole host of issues, Mrs. DeVos's views are far out 
of the mainstream of education policy.
  I want to highlight four policy areas where Mrs. DeVos's views are 
beyond my line in the sand. Let's start with K-12 education. I think we 
can all agree that this country has work to do when it comes to public 
education. But I am worried that Mrs. DeVos would prefer to privatize 
our public schools instead of improving them.
  Take a look at her track record. She has fought to strip away 
protections around K-12 education and introduce a profit motive into 
our education system. She has lobbied for vouchers and for for-profit 
schools. She has been relatively successful in her lobbying efforts. In 
her home State of Michigan, she had an enormous influence on the 
State's approach to education.
  Now, I would point any Senator on the fence about her nomination to 
look at this case study because it speaks volumes. In 2000, Michigan 
fourth and fifth grade students had higher than average test scores in 
math and English.
  Fifteen years later, students now perform below average. Last spring, 
the Atlantic published a fascinating article about Detroit's education 
system, which has been most influenced by the policies that Mrs. DeVos 
champions. I would like to read a few excerpts from it.

       Three months into her son's first pass at third grade, 
     Arlyssa Heard had a breakdown. Judah was bright, but had 
     begun calling himself stupid. The chaos of Detroit's 
     precarious education landscape had forced him to switch 
     schools every few months, leaving him further and further 
       There was no central system to transfer Judah's records 
     when he moved, and according to Heard the school where he 
     started the 2014-15 academic year had a single teacher 
     assigned to 44 third-graders. Heard was virtually alone in 
     trying to deal with the fact that her boy, then 8, could 
     write only the first two letters of his name.
       Heard says she was one of the parents Detroit Public 
     Schools turned to when it needed a strong family showing at a 
     rally or community members to serve on a task force. She was 
     running for the Detroit School Board. But when she needed 
     help, she had nowhere to turn.
       ``Here I was this advocate for education, and I couldn't 
     find a place for my son,'' she says. ``I was crying in the 
     principal's office and I said, `I don't know what to do.' The 
     principal said, `I don't either.'''
       The scope of the problems plaguing Detroit schools--both 
     traditional district schools and charters--is almost 
     unfathomable. According to the most recent National 
     Assessment of Educational Progress, only 4 percent of 
     Detroit's eight grade students can read and perform math at 
     grade level, the lowest rate among the nation's big cities.
       Schools aren't located where families need them--

  Think about this--

     and campuses often open and close with no coordination or 
     notice. Over the last six years, most schools in the city 
     have either opened or closed--or both. In one neighborhood in 
     the city's southwest quadrant, home to a large Latino 
     population and a number of industrial zones, a dozen schools 
     opened or closed in the span of 18 months. And when a parent 
     shows up to find a child's classroom abandoned, good luck 
     finding a new one. There are more than 200 schools with 
     roughly 50 different enrollment processes and almost no 
     standard for performance.
       Some 44 percent of the Detroit students are enrolled in 
     charter schools, the second-highest rate in the Nation, 
     behind New Orleans. One of those schools is the Detroit 
     Leadership Academy, which two years ago was solidly at the 
     back of a flagging pack. Abutting a crumbling freeway access 
     road in the city's working-class Castle Rouge neighborhood, 
     several grades at the school's elementary campus did not 
     boast a single student reading or performing math at grade 
       During the summer of 2015, a network of three charter 
     schools called Equity Education Solutions--which unlike most 
     of the city's charter operators is a nonprofit--was tasked 
     with turning the school around, a restart required under law 
     because of its consistently poor performance. Central 
     Michigan University, the authorizing entity that granted the 
     school permission to exist, told the fledgling network it had 
     8 months to fix things.
       In reality, the operators of Detroit's charter schools 
     almost never close them because of poor academic performance. 
     So even a school where no child is achieving at grade level 
     can continue enrolling new students.

  That is school choice for you. That is the charter school movement 
for you--not in every instance, but this is how it manifested itself in 
the State of Michigan, where Betsy DeVos played a major role.

       And the higher-education institutions that authorize them, 
     often have financial incentives to keep the schools open; 
     charter networks give authorizers a percentage of the 

  So the agency, which is often a university or some other institution, 
actually gets a cut of the revenue for authorizing. So they have a 
problem saying: This charter must be shut down--because that costs them 

       In some States in exchange for that revenue, charter 
     authorizers are encouraged to provide support and 
     accountability, but not in Michigan, where the trustees of 
     the colleges doing the authorizing are appointed by the 
     governor. ``Not even the governor has the authority to shut 
     down chronically low-performing charter authorizers in 
     Michigan,'' Education Trust-Midwest noted in a report 
     released last week, ``despite the fact that such authorizers 
     serve nearly 145,000 Michigan children--and their charter 
     schools take in more $1 billion annually.''
       Critics say this is especially problematic because almost 
     all of Detroit's charter schools are run by for-profit 

  Think about that. This is public education. Right? These are public 
dollars. Suddenly, they are going to for-profit companies. It would be 
one thing to have the old talk from Members on the other side of the 
aisle: We should run government like a business. Well, if the point is 
to run things efficiently to do more innovation, fine. If the point is 
to try to suck as much revenue out of the taxpayer as we possibly can 
and deliver a minimal service, you know, I don't think we should run 
the public education system like that kind of a business. In this case, 
it is not running it like a business; it is running a business with 
Federal and State tax dollars.

       The private businesses aren't required to disclose their 
     earnings, but a 2014 investigation by the Detroit Free Press 
     suggests profits are huge.
       During the 2012-13 school year, the paper found, 
     traditional Detroit public schools spent an average of about 
     $7,000 per student in the classroom. Charter schools spent 
     about $2,000 less per pupil.

  They are getting the same amount of money, and they are spending 
$2,000 less per kid. Yet they spent double that rate on per-pupil 
funding on administrative costs. That is their skim. That is their 

       Meanwhile, the oversupply of seats in for-profit schools 
     has arguably kept nonprofit charter networks with better 
     track records out of the market.

  So they really are operating like a business, like an airline; right? 
They are operating like a credit card company, a financial services 
company. I mean, this is the private sector at work in public 
education. There are some private sector models where I think: Hey, 
let's have a partnership with the Department of Education to try to see 
how much clean energy we can develop. Let's work with the Department of 
Commerce on export promotion. But there are some aspects of what the 
government does that are not a good fit with the private sector. This

[[Page S773]]

is one of them. This is not some ideological test. It is just not 
  We are ripping off our taxpayers, and we are giving a bad value to 
the students who deserve better.

       The Senate bill under consideration at the Michigan 
     statehouse would have created a Detroit commission with the 
     power to change all of that. The leaders of the Michigan 
     Association of Public School Academies, the main charter 
     lobby association, and some of Michigan's for-profit 
     management companies have long lobbied against policies that 
     would have tightened accountability. The most influential of 
     them is Betsy DeVos, a major player in Michigan's Republican 
     Party and in the efforts to widen the for-profit sector.
       They have argued that proposals such as that put forward by 
     the Senate bill disregard the needs of Detroit's children. 
     ``Legislators should not give in to this anti-choice, anti-
     parent, and anti-student agenda aimed at protecting and 
     maintaining the status quo for deeply entrenched adult 
     interest groups,'' Betsy DeVos opined in the Detroit News. 
     ``After all, since DPS has lost 75 percent of their 
     enrollment in the past decade, haven't Detroit parents 
     already voted resoundingly by fleeing for higher quality and 
     safer schools elsewhere?''
       But critics, including Stephen Henderson, the Detroit Free 
     Press's editorial page editor, says it's groups such as the 
     DeVos foundations that have an agenda.
       ``House Republicans, for instance, are also standing in the 
     way of [a bill] which would, quite simply, slow the spread of 
     mediocre or failing schools.''

  The article ends with a few paragraphs about Arlyssa Heard, the 
advocate described in the beginning of the story.

       After enrolling her son in two more schools that didn't 
     work, she found a small startup school that has strategies 
     for helping Judah compensate for his ADHD. He had to repeat 
     the third grade, but has rocketed ahead. Now he talks about 
     becoming a scientist.
       The realization that better is possible has redoubled 
     Heard's willingness to make the trek to Lansing as often as 
     parent voices need to be heard. ``Who are these people who 
     are making the decisions and why aren't they in the 
     schools,'' she asks. ``Why can't we know? Why can't you just 
     be accountable to the people you are serving?''

  Now, during the confirmation hearing, Senator Bennet, whom I greatly 
admire, and who is a former superintendent of the Denver Public 
Schools, asked Mrs. DeVos how the policy failures in Detroit might 
inform her leadership at the DOE.
  She replied: I think there is a lot that has gone right.
  Senator Patty Murray, a former school board president, asked if Mrs. 
DeVos would promise not to privatize public education or cut funding. A 
pretty straightforward question. A pretty mainstream question, right? I 
mean, if you get sort of a mainstream Republican nominee for Secretary 
of Education, they know how to answer this question. They may have a 
different view of common core. They may have a different view of the 
teachers' unions. They may have a different view on charter school 
choice. But everybody knows it is the third rail; you do not talk about 
privatizing public education.

  Here is her response:

       I look forward, if confirmed, to working with you to talk 
     about how we address the needs of all parents and all 
       We acknowledge today that not all schools are working for 
     the students that are assigned to them. I'm hopeful that we 
     can work together to find common ground and ways that we can 
     solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on 
     behalf of their children that are right for them.

  I don't know what that means. It is not a complicated question, 
right? I mean, certainly in the United States Senate, you get a lot of 
complicated questions, right, on the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee, on the Education Committee. I happen to be the ranking 
member of the Communications Subcommittee on the Commerce Committee, 
and half of what I say is totally unintelligible to people who don't 
work in tech and telecom.
  But this is a very straightforward question. The question is, Do you 
promise not to work on privatizing public education? And the answer is 
basically: No, I don't promise. I mean, it is a word salad, but it 
doesn't mean anything. And she was given a very easy opportunity to 
disavow her intent to privatize public education.
  Privatization is not the answer. We should not be funneling taxpayer 
money into unregulated and unaccountable private schools.
  We need to champion access to public education and the accountability 
measures that give all of our students a chance to succeed.
  But in Michigan, Mrs. DeVos lobbied to block accountability standards 
for charter schools and lift the cap on charter schools. These actions 
pushed the number of unregulated, for-profit operators of charter 
schools from 255 to 805.
  Now, this doesn't mean that charter schools are the boogeyman here, 
right? I mean, there may be some disagreements between people who 
support charter schools and people who support traditional public 
schools, but at the end of the day, the legitimate, mainstream charter 
school proponents will always want to be able to look you in the eye 
and say: Look, this is not about vouchers, and this is not about 
privatization. This is about the flexibility to innovate. They 
understand the basic bargain in the charter movement has to be: OK. It 
is public education dollars, and there are a couple of things that are 
mandatory, right? You have to comply with Federal and State law. You 
have to be subject to the same accountability standards, and you have 
to take all comers. So it is very important to the mainstream charter 
  I was interested to know because I have a good relationship with 
education reformers and with the charter movement, so when I heard 
about Mrs. DeVos, I was interested to hear what they had to say. They 
were, in a lot of ways, more alarmed than anyone because they believed 
this would be the death knell for real charters because, to the extent 
that charters are just cover for privatizing public education, well, 
now it is going to be a fight. Now it is going to be a fight.
  We have some great charter schools in my home State of Hawaii. They 
are doing innovative things for their students, and that is something 
we should all support, but when Mrs. DeVos talks about charter schools, 
she is not talking about those schools. She is talking about 
  The rallying cry behind privatization is often school choice, but 
choice doesn't work as a practical matter in many places across the 
country. In a lot of communities, particularly in rural areas, school 
choice is not a practical response to the problems. There is no school 
down the road, right? There is no little Catholic school. There is no 
private charter school. There is no public charter school. There is 
just the school, right? Because the town is too small to have multiple 
  So when you talk about taking--and I heard a figure of $20 billion 
out of the K-12 budget which is not that--I mean, it is $20 billion out 
of $36 billion--and providing it for school choice and for charters, 
well, what about Alaska, right? What about Nebraska? What about the 
Dakotas? What about parts of Hawaii, where if you give a parent and a 
student a voucher, and they say: Well, I have this voucher for private 
education, for charter schools, and yet there is only one school left, 
all you did was eviscerate the budget of the only school in your 
neighborhood. That is how this is going to work as a practical matter.
  I don't know if that is the intent or not. I honestly don't know if 
that is the intent or not, but that is how it would end up working. To 
drain money from traditional public education hurts people in small 
communities, in rural communities, and places where there is no 
possibility of multiple schools.
  School choice can drain resources. When a charter school opens up, 
the public school has to divert resources from its students, and that 
is something I have heard about from people in Hawaii.
  One teacher whom I heard from who has worked for two decades in both 
Hawaii and Michigan wrote this to me:

       Ms. DeVos would be a disaster for public education. She has 
     never been a teacher to know what current educational 
     practices consist of.
       Her advocacy for more unaccountable (often for-profit) 
     charter schools and greater use of vouchers so that students 
     could attend private or religious schools would take needed 
     resources away from local public schools.
       Her mission, in short, is to privatize public education. 
     I've witnessed firsthand in Michigan what happens when 
     schools privatize.
       DeVos should be opposed not only for what she could do, if 
     confirmed, but for what she's done in Michigan.
       The DeVos family set up the Great Lakes Education Project, 
     which has played a leading role in thwarting efforts to 
     regulate charter schools in Detroit and, for the most part, 
     failed to deliver on their promises of a better education for 

[[Page S774]]

  I just want to pause for a moment and thank all of the people who 
write my office every day but in particular the people who have been 
writing my office on all of these nominees because it wasn't that 
difficult to pull these incredibly insightful, passionate, individually 
written letters, and this is happening across the country.
  You know, you get the pundits as you leave the Senate. If it is the 
middle of the day and not 2:30 in the morning, the media kind of comes 
to you, and they stick the microphone in your face, and they ask you 
about: Is there a new tea party on the left?
  All I can tell you is, there are millions and millions and millions 
of people who are rising up. I don't think they are all on the left. I 
mean, when I saw those marches, there were lots of progressives, lots 
of people who believe in liberal and progressive causes, but I also saw 
some people who have never marched in their lives. I also saw some 
people who just care about public education. They don't even know what 
their politics are, except they saw Betsy DeVos, and they said: No, 
this is not what I voted for. This is not what I want for my son or for 
my daughter or for my niece or my nephew. This is not what I want for 
the country's future, which brings me to the second policy area that I 
think we ought to consider and that is for-profit colleges.
  What is happening with some for-profit colleges is nothing less than 
a national scandal. Students are being hurt, and we are wasting tens of 
billions of dollars. So here are the facts:
  Almost 2 million students are enrolled in for-profit programs, and 
they have collectively taken on $200 billion in debt to attend, but 
they often leave with little to show for it. More than half drop out 
within a few months. At some colleges, fewer than 5 percent of their 
students ever graduate.
  For those who leave without a degree, repaying loans is an incredible 
struggle. Students at for-profit colleges default on student loans at 
double the rate of students at nonprofit colleges. This is morally 
outrageous on its own, but it is particularly egregious to the American 
taxpayer because these substandard programs are financed almost 
entirely by the Federal Government, and the amount is staggering.
  In total, for-profits receive over $32 billion a year in Federal 
financial aid. That is 20 percent of the total aid, and they serve 12 
percent of the students--20 percent of the aid, 12 percent of the 
students, $32 billion in Federal funding.
  There are several for-profit companies that each take in more than $1 
billion in Federal aid a year and graduate fewer than 10 percent of 
their students. Think about that. We taxpayers are paying most of the 
bill a year, and these kids are not graduating. They take in more than 
$1 billion, and they are graduating fewer than 10 percent of their 
  Not only are the education metrics on student performance awful, but 
many of these for-profit colleges are also under investigation for 
fraud and deception. Essentially, they have been lying to students and 
to State and Federal agencies to cover up how bad their record is.
  Even while prosecutors go after these schools for fraud, they remain 
accredited, and they continue to rake in Federal funds.
  Here are a few examples. Education Management Corporation faces 
charges of fraud and deception brought by prosecutors in 13 States and 
the Department of Justice and was facing a lawsuit to recover $11 
billion in Federal and State funds. Yet EMC is still accredited and 
still received $1.25 billion from the U.S. DOE last year.
  Ultimately, the Department of Justice secured a $100 million 
settlement, and a separate coalition of State attorneys general reached 
another settlement for $102 million in student loan debt relief for 
former students.
  ITT Educational Services was investigated and sued by 19 States, the 
SEC, the CFPB, and the DOJ. It is also under scrutiny from U.S. DOE for 
failure to meet financial responsibility standards. They remained 
accredited until the day they shut their doors. Think about that. They 
were still accredited by the U.S. DOE, right, until they were shut down 
by the U.S. DOJ.
  The year before, they received just under $600 million. Their closure 
has left thousands of students in the lurch, with hundreds of thousands 
of dollars in student loan debt.
  Another 152 schools are under investigation by a working group of 37 
State attorneys general. They too are still accredited. Collectively, 
they received $8 billion in Federal financial aid last year.
  So what do these schools have in common? They never lose their 
accreditation, even when there are ongoing investigations of fraud and 
deceptive practices that harm students.
  Accreditation is the key to the castle for accessing the spigot of 
Federal financial aid. It is supposed to signify that a program 
provides a quality education for its students, but here is the thing. 
This accreditation doesn't mean much. The Government Accountability 
Office released a study on accreditation in 2014, and its findings were 
shocking. Over a 4-year period, the GAO found that accreditors sanction 
only 8 percent of the institutions they oversaw and revoked 
accreditation for just 1 percent. They revoked accreditation for just 1 
percent. So 99 percent of them, even if there is nothing wrong, they 
keep those Federal funds flowing in.
  Even more troubling, GAO found that there was no correlation between 
accreditor sanctions and educational quality. In other words, schools 
with bad student outcomes were no more likely to be sanctioned by their 
accreditor than schools with good student outcomes.
  Our accreditation system is totally broken. According to the Higher 
Education Act, accreditation agencies are supposed to be the ``reliable 
authorities as to the quality of education or training offered'' by 
institutions of higher education. That is the reason for making 
accreditation a core criteria for receiving Federal funds.
  How are we following the law when accreditation reviews find that 99 
percent of these institutions are providing an education of value? How 
can we say with a straight face that accreditors are acting as reliable 
authorities on educational quality?
  Here is the problem--money. Incentives are lined up against being 
critical and against setting high standards. The problem can be traced 
back to the funding and the governance of the accreditation agencies 
  First, accrediting agencies are funded by the same institutions they 
accredit. Colleges pay an additional fee to become accredited and 
annual dues after that. They pay for site visits and other services.
  Second, accrediting agencies are run by and are overseen by the 
institutions they accredit. The member institutions elect their own 
academics and administrators to serve on the board of the accreditation 
agency. So everyone is in on it, right? Everyone makes money pretending 
this is fine.
  We have a system that is dysfunctional, if not corrupt, in which it 
is far too easy to become and remain accredited.
  This is a very similar system to what we had with S&P and Moody's and 
all of these rating agencies that had financial incentives to determine 
that all of these derivatives and credit default swaps and crazy 
financial instruments that were clearly not creditworthy were getting 
AAA ratings. Why? Because the financial incentives over time had 
enmeshed the accreditors with the accrediting. This is supposed to be a 
sort of independent relationship because they are supposed to be 
certifying to the consumer that everything is all good, right? And what 
happened? The system came crashing down.
  I don't think the system will come crashing down, except that the 
system is already coming crashing down on the students who are getting 
ripped off. You ask schools that are taking in more than $1 billion of 
Federal funds. There are several schools, every year with Federal funds 
in excess of $1 billion, and 5 percent of the kids are graduating. For 
the sake of students and taxpayers, the Department has to make this a 
top priority, but I am not convinced that Mrs. DeVos will do that.

  She has no experience in higher education, a fact that does not bode 
well for the 6,000 colleges and universities in this country. When 
Senator Warren questioned her about this in her confirmation hearing, 
her response was concerning. This is what the transcript says:

       Ms. WARREN. How do you plan to protect taxpayer dollars 
     from waste, fraud, and

[[Page S775]]

     abuse from colleges that take in millions of dollars in 
     Federal student aid?
       Mrs. DeVOS. Senator, if confirmed, I will certainly be very 
       Ms. WARREN. How? How are you going to do that? You said you 
     are committed.
       Mrs. DeVOS. The individuals with whom I work in the 
     department will ensure that federal moneys are used properly 
     and appropriately.
       Ms. WARREN. You are going to subcontract making sure that 
     what happens with universities that cheat students doesn't 
     happen anymore? You are going to give that to someone else to 
     do? I just want to know what your ideas are for making sure 
     we don't have problems with waste, fraud, and abuse.
       Mrs. DeVOS. I want to make sure we don't have problems with 
     that as well. If confirmed, I will work diligently to ensure 
     that we are addressing any of those issues.
       Ms. WARREN. Well, let me make a suggestion on this. It 
     actually turns out there are a whole group of rules that are 
     already written and are there, and all you have to do is 
     enforce them. What I want to know is, will you commit to 
     enforcing those rules?
       Mrs. DeVOS. Senator, I will commit to ensuring that 
     institutions which receive federal funds are actually serving 
     their students well.
       Ms. WARREN. So you will enforce the gainful employment rule 
     to make sure that these career colleges are not cheating 
       Mrs. DeVOS. We will certainly review that rule.
       Again, this goes back to somebody who is kind of walking 
     into a hearing saying: Look, I got the vote. I don't have to 
     learn about public education. I don't have to listen to 
     Democrats' concerns. I don't have to listen to teachers' 
     concerns or students' concerns or the concerns of experts in 
     education. I don't have to learn about higher education, 
     which is, by money spent, about three-quarters of the U.S. 
     Department of Education.
       Ms. WARREN. You will review it? You will not commit to 
     enforce it?
       Mrs. DeVOS. And see that it is actually achieving what the 
     intentions are.
       Ms. WARREN. I don't understand about reviewing it. We 
     talked about this in my office. There are already rules in 

  And so on--Senator Warren's exchange there is very revealing.
  I know Republicans care very deeply about waste, fraud, and abuse. I 
hear about it all the time, and I hope they will consider this 
nominee's tepid commitment to this issue as they talk with their 
constituents about how they are going to vote.
  The third issue I am concerned about is college affordability. The 
rising cost of college is one of the biggest middle-class issues of our 
time, if not the biggest issue of our time. No generation escapes this 
problem. If you are a student or a parent, you worry about paying for 
college. I know plenty of grandparents who are worried about their 
children who are still paying off their college loans and are now 
trying to save up for their students.
  The Federal Government is giving $140 billion in Federal aid to 
institutions of higher learning in grants and loans. That is a good 
thing, not a bad thing. That is Federal policy. We decided we wanted to 
make college affordable because higher education is the straightest 
line for us to develop the workforce we need and for people to move up 
the economic ladder. But with that $140 billion, we need to be making 
college more affordable, and we are actually getting the opposite 
result. Both in raw dollars and inflation-adjusted dollars, we are 
spending more in Federal grants and Pell grants, and the cost of 
college goes up and up and up. Average Pell grant awards have increased 
by almost 20 percent in the past 10 years. In the same period, Pell 
grants covered 25 percent less.
  We are officially paying more and getting less. This is because 
college costs are growing faster than the cost of all other consumer 
goods--twice as fast as health care costs. It is impossible to get 
ahead nowadays without a college degree, but the growing cost of 
college is preventing some from getting a degree in the first place and 
leaving others with unmanageable levels of debt. It is clear that our 
system isn't working.
  If we are subsidizing higher education with Federal dollars, we have 
a responsibility to incentivize institutions of higher education to 
become more affordable, provide access to lower income students, and 
deliver quality education. We want to reward those schools that are 
focused on affordability and give incentives for the rest to make 
affordability part of the mission. But based on Mrs. DeVos's testimony, 
it is unclear whether or not she agrees.
  In 2011, the Department of Education sent colleges and universities a 
letter that made clear that sexual assault is prohibited under title 
IX. It advised schools to be responsive to reports of sexual violence 
and gave guidelines on how schools should process those reports. But 
during Mrs. DeVos's hearing, she had an exchange with Senator Casey 
that indicates she would roll back this progress. Let's take a look at 
the transcript.

       Mr. CASEY. Would you agree with me that the problem, and 
     that's an understatement in my judgment, that the problem of 
     sexual assault on college campuses is a significant [one] 
     that we should take action on?
       Mrs. DeVOS. Senator, thank you for that question. I agree 
     with you that sexual assault in any form or in any place is a 
       Mr. CASEY. I ask you, would you uphold the 2011 Title IX 
     guidance as it relates to sexual assault on campus?
       Mrs. DeVOS. Senator, I know that there's a lot of 
     conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance, and if 
     confirmed I would work with you.

  And so on.
  My concerns about Mrs. DeVos go to policy, to preparation, but most 
of all to a basic understanding of what public education is about. It 
goes to a basic commitment to the mission of public education.
  Every Senator's office has phones ringing off the hook with people 
telling us that Mrs. DeVos is not the right choice. So, to my 
Republican colleagues, you don't have to take my word for it; you don't 
have to take the word of the other 49 Senators who know that Mrs. DeVos 
will not be the leader of the Department of Education that we all need. 
You only have to take the word of the people in your own State and the 
groups whom we look to and trust when it comes to our country's 
education system. These are the people whom we are here to serve. They 
are the parents, the grandparents, the teachers, the faculty, the 
school board members, and the students who count on us to make the 
right decision.
  We may not agree on who would make the perfect Secretary of 
Education, but we can agree that people across the country are speaking 
out against Mrs. DeVos, and it is up to us to listen. I will be voting 
no on her nomination, and I ask Republicans to follow the advice of 
their constituents and join me.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. KAINE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. KAINE. Mr. President, I rise this evening, along with many of my 
colleagues, to speak in opposition to the nomination of Betsy DeVos to 
be U.S. Secretary of Education.
  I oppose Mrs. DeVos, whom I had the chance to see at her confirmation 
hearing before the HELP Committee, for three basic reasons. I think the 
children and parents and teachers of this country are entitled to a 
Secretary of Education who is a champion for public education. They can 
be a supporter of choice, charters, vouchers, home schooling, but 90 
percent of our kids go to public schools and they need a champion.
  Second, I want a Secretary of Education who is pro-accountability and 
has the idea and view that if any school, whether public or private, 
receives taxpayer funding, they should be held to the same 
accountability standards for their students.
  And third, very particularly, I am deeply concerned about Mrs. 
DeVos's commitment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
which, in my view, is one of the best pieces of legislation that 
Congress ever passed.
  In my 4-plus years in the Senate, I have not had a single issue that 
has generated so much effort to contact my office as the nomination of 
Betsy DeVos. Last week, we passed 25,000 contacts by constituents--
letters, emails, phone calls--and those have continued to ratchet up 
over the weekend with voice mails and more letters in our system and 
more emails coming into the office, and we have dealt with some 
contentious issues over the last 4 years.
  For example, we shut the government down in October of 2013 because

[[Page S776]]

of the inability of the House and the Senate to sit down at a 
conference table and work out a budget. That is a hugely important 
issue to the Nation, and especially in Virginia, where we have nearly 
200,000 Federal employees. Even a shutdown of the government for 13 
days didn't lead to as much contact in my office as the DeVos 
  I want to spend some time on those three reasons for which I will 
oppose her, but before I do, I wish to speak about why this is 
personally so very important to me. It is important to me because of 
the Commonwealth I represent. It is important to me because of the 
personal histories of my wife and I and our kids in the public schools 
of Kansas, where I grew up, and in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is 
important to me because of my previous public service as a mayor and 
Governor, where education was the largest line item in the budgets of 
my city and my Commonwealth. Finally, it is important to me because I 
have recently been added as a member of the HELP Committee--Health, 
Education, Labor, and Pension Committee--that shepherded this 
nomination through a challenging but very illuminating confirmation 
hearing a couple of weeks ago.
  So let me start there. Why does this matter a lot to me? I will begin 
with Virginia.
  Thomas Jefferson, when he was Ambassador to Paris in the early 1780s, 
wrote one of the great early works of American literature: ``Notes on 
the State of Virginia.'' It was an effort to describe the Virginia of 
the day but also his dreams for Virginia--his dreams for the Virginia 
economy and the Virginia society, even looking into the future. 
Jefferson became the first person to really lay out a vision for 
compulsory public education in the United States. He had a very 
detailed plan in that book for the division of the State into small 
school districts and that education would be compulsory at least for 
young people--men and women--who were White.
  He used the phrase to promote his educational plan that is still--a 
paraphrase of it is still in the Virginia Constitution, talking about 
why public education was so important. He said: ``Progress in 
government and all else depends upon the broadest possible diffusion of 
knowledge among the general population.'' If you want to have a great 
government, if you want to have a great economy, if you want to have 
great happiness, what you should do is diffuse knowledge among the 
general population. It was for that reason that he said we needed a 
public education system.
  Jefferson wouldn't have imagined an Internet and search engines, 
where all knowledge would be digitized and at the fingertips of people 
all around the planet, but that is kind of what he was talking about. 
If you diffuse knowledge among the general population, that is the best 
guarantee of the success of society, and so he laid out this very 
ambitious plan in the 1780s.
  Sadly, Virginia didn't adopt it. The first early adopter of a 
compulsory public education I think was Massachusetts, and other States 
did as well. Jefferson stayed active in promoting education not just 
through his proposal for a K-12 system, but he also hatched the idea 
for the University of Virginia--one of the three things on his 
tombstone at Monticello: Author of the statute of religious freedom, 
author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of 
Virginia. He did not even see fit to put that he was President of the 
United States or Governor of Virginia on his tombstone. Education was 
what he was passionate about and he founded the University of Virginia.
  So we had some great educational thinkers in our Commonwealth who 
understood from our earliest days that education would be the key to 
our success.
  Sadly, the great ideas weren't carried into practice, and Virginia, 
as was the case with many States in the country, ran a very segregated 
education system. When I was born in 1958--I am 58 years old right now; 
I turn 59 in 2\1/2\ weeks--you could not go to school in Virginia with 
somebody whose skin color was different. Women couldn't go to the 
University of Virginia, and many of our major universities were 
segregated on the grounds of sex. So we had a tradition where we 
recognized the power of education, but even though our great Founders 
did, we really thwarted the dreams and achievements of our students by 
not allowing them to be all they could be.
  In 1951, a young high school student by the name of Barbara Johns was 
attending a segregated public high school in Prince Edward County, VA. 
She was 16 years old. Her school was overcrowded. It was poorly heated. 
She saw White students in her community having a great new high school 
built for them. Some kids in her high school, because of poor 
transportation, were killed in a bus accident, and in April of 1951 she 
said: I am tired of this. I am a kid, but I am not going to accept 
second-class citizenship, and she, encouraged one day with a fake note 
to the principal of her school to go to the administrative office--and 
then she gathered all the students in the auditorium at Moton High 
School in Farmville, VA, and said: We are going to walk out. We are 
going to walk out of our high school because we are tired of being 
treated as second-class students and we are going to call civil rights 
lawyers and ask them to represent us.

  Barbara Johns and her classmates did that, and the Virginia case 
became part of Brown v. Board of Education that in 1954 led to the 
Supreme Court ruling saying that all children were entitled to an 
education; we couldn't segregate kids based on the color of their skin. 
It was the only one of these civil rights cases that was actually led 
by schoolkids advocating for themselves.
  Barbara Johns shared the same vision that Thomas Jefferson did: 
Progress in government and all else depends upon the broadest possible 
diffusion of knowledge among the general population. And she stood up 
and said: I have the right to it just like everybody else does, and I 
am not going to take second-class status.
  Well, the Prince Edward story is one of the most powerful stories in 
American educational history because after the Brown v. Board decision 
was resolved, many Southern States fought against integration for a 
number of years. In 1959, finally, 5 years after Brown, Federal courts 
ruled that you have to integrate your schools. If you have public 
schools, you have to integrate them, and Prince Edward County did 
something that no other jurisdiction in the United States did. They 
decided, OK, if we have public schools, we are required to treat kids 
equally based on the color of their skin. I have an idea: We will close 
all of our public schools. So Prince Edward County, for a period of 5 
years, shut down all of their public schools. Do you know what they 
did? They used county funds and State funds to support vouchers to 
private schools, and they gave those vouchers to students who were 
White so they could go to private schools. They called them segregation 
academies and they set them up all over Virginia. In Prince Edward 
County, White students, if they were wealthy enough, could go to these 
academies with some State support, but poor White students and African-
American students were deprived of education for 5 years.
  I think you can start to see why supporting public education today is 
very important in Virginia because in my lifetime, we didn't. In my 
lifetime, we closed down public schools rather than let kids learn 
together if their skin colors were different. In my lifetime, we put 
State dollars into private schools so they could set up and allow 
segregation to go forward and avoid the law of the land that kids could 
learn together because of the color of their skin.
  This was Virginia at the time I was born. It will not surprise you 
that a State that didn't want kids to learn together because their skin 
colors were different and a State that allowed schools to close down 
was a State with very poor educational performance. The Virginia in the 
1950s, forget about test scores, forget about SAT scores, forget about 
AP exams, we were one of the worst States in the country in the 
percentage of our kids that attended school. It will not surprise you 
to know that in addition to having a poor record of attending school, 
our economy was bad. Those things are directly connected. If you don't 
value education, if you say kids can't learn together if their skin 
colors are different, if you say women can't go to major universities, 
your economy is not going to be very strong. So Virginia was a low-
education, low-income State when I was born.

[[Page S777]]

  Today, it is very different. The officials in Virginia continued to 
battle to try to resist the integration of schools. My father-in-law, 
my wife's dad, was the first elected Republican Governor in the history 
of the Commonwealth, elected in 1969. He came into office in January of 
1970. The previous Governors, who had been Democrats, had fought 
against integration, had used all kinds of tricks and strategies to 
avoid integrating schools, and my father-in-law, as Governor, took a 
historic stand. He said: In this Commonwealth, we are putting 
segregation behind us. We are now going to be an aristocracy of merit, 
regardless of race or creed, and he embraced a court busing order in 
the fall of 1970. He escorted my wife's sister into what had been a 
primarily African-American high school in downtown Richmond, and his 
wife, the First Lady, escorted my wife into a similar middle school. 
The picture of my father-in-law Linwood Holton, this courageous 
Republican Governor, and my sister-in-law Tayloe walking into the 
school on that day was the front page of the New York Times. It was the 
front page of the New York Times because in the civil rights era, there 
were so many pictures of Southern Governors standing in a schoolhouse 
door blocking kids who were African American from coming into schools 
with White students. That was a common picture. There is only one 
picture of a Southern Governor escorting a child--his child--into a 
school that was predominantly African American with a big smile on his 
face saying, finally, Virginia is going to embrace the vision of Thomas 
Jefferson. Education should be for everybody. We shouldn't segregate it 
based on race. During the time he was Governor, I think immediately 
before, we dropped the segregation based on gender in our States' 
colleges. And surprise, with those two moves, Virginia started to move. 
Virginia started to move from a low-education, poor State to a high-
education State that now has top 10 median income.
  Now we are a State known for our educational system. Now we are a 
State where we are always in the top five in the percentage of our kids 
who take and pass AP exams. Our SAT scores are very strong relative to 
other States. Our higher education system is viewed as very powerful, 
and it is because we, in the words of the letter of Corinthians, put 
away childish things. We put away segregation, we put away gender 
division, we put away using public dollars to support private academies 
so kids and their families could erase the law of the land, and as we 
did that, as we embraced the Jeffersonian vision to improve education, 
the State's economy improved, and now we are the top 10 in the country.
  In my lifetime, no State in this country has moved further 
economically from low median income, back of the pack, to front of the 
pack than Virginia has, and our State has moved because we have 
embraced that everybody has God-given talent. We have embraced 
investments in our education system, beginning with this Barbara Johns 
walkout and then with the courageous Republican Governor and then 
Governors who followed--Democrats and Republicans, business leaders, 
teachers, communities leaders. We were late to the game, but we 
eventually embraced the Jeffersonian vision, and now we have an 
education system we can be proud of. It is a public education K-12 that 
educates about 1.2 million kids. We have great private schools. We have 
a vigorous home school network in Virginia. We don't do vouchers for 
private schools because of our painful history of the way vouchers were 
used to support segregation and avoid integration in the 1950s and 
1960s, but we have a system that is public and private and home school 
and charter. It is a system that isn't perfect, it is a system we need 
to always battle to improve, but it is a system we are so proud of, we 
have gone from back of the pack to front of the pack.
  We care about public education in my Commonwealth, and we do not take 
kindly to people who trash the state of public education today because 
we know how far we have come. We know how far we have come. That is who 
my State is. Personally, I went through 13 years of education K-12; 7 
public education, 6 Catholic education. My wife Anne was educated in 
the public schools of Virginia--in Roanoke, Richmond, and Fairfax 
County--as were her siblings. We have been married for 32 years. Our 
three children have all graduated from Richmond public schools. They 
have had wonderful careers. I wrote a piece a few years ago when my 
daughter, my youngest, graduated called ``Forty Years as a Public 
School Parent'' because my three children spent a combined 40 years in 
the Richmond public schools.

  The Richmond public schools are like a lot of school systems. There 
are 25,000 kids or so in an urban environment. It is a high-poverty 
school district; probably nearly 80 to 90 percent of the children in 
the school system are on free or reduced lunch. It is overwhelmingly a 
minority school system; three quarters or more of the students are 
minority. But my kids got a fantastic public education in these public 
schools of Virginia. They have all graduated and gone on, one to 
graduate from George Washington, an infantry commander in the Marine 
Corps; one to graduate from Carleton College, a visual artist; and one 
is about to graduate from New York University--all built on the 
foundation of a great public education in the public schools of my 
  I told you about my wife being part of the generation of kids who 
integrated the public schools of Virginia. Then, in the wonderful arc 
of history, she went from a kid living in the Governor's mansion and 
integrating Virginia's public schools to a First Lady working on foster 
care reform and recently stepped down as secretary of education in 
Virginia. I watched my wife grapple with exactly the same kinds of 
challenges at a State level that the current Secretary of Education 
will grapple with at the Federal level. I think I know a little bit 
about what it takes to do this job and to do it well.
  In addition to our personal connections in the history of our State, 
let me talk about my professional connection to our schools and why I 
view this as such an important position. I mentioned that I have been a 
mayor and I have been a Governor. I am a little bit unusual. There have 
only been 30 people in the history of the United States who have been a 
mayor, a Governor, and a U.S. Senator. There have been a lot of 
Governors who are Senators, but being mayor will kill you. That is why 
there are so few who can do all three.
  But when you are a mayor, as I was--the biggest line item in my 
budget was public schools. At the time I was mayor, we had about 53 
public schools. I had a goal when I was mayor: I would go to a school 
every week. On a Thursday morning, I would go visit one of our schools 
to see what is being done. If it was the biggest line item, that means 
it was the most important thing. I wanted to make sure I understood not 
just my kids' schools but the schools that all the kids in our city 
went to. I wanted to know what was working and what wasn't.
  Then I got elected to statewide office as Lieutenant Governor and 
Governor. I made a vow when I was Lieutenant Governor. Just like I went 
to a school a week when I was mayor until I visited them all, I made a 
vow when I was Lieutenant Governor that I would to go to a school in 
every one of Virginia's cities and counties to make sure I understood 
public education in my Commonwealth. I should have thought before I 
made that pledge because there are 134 cities and counties in Virginia. 
It took me 4\1/2\ years to travel to every one of our cities and 
counties to try to understand public education in my Commonwealth. I am 
not aware of anybody who has made that pledge, and after I did it, I 
can understand why nobody would ever make that pledge again. But I 
wanted to make sure that I understood not just the schools my own kids 
went to but the schools other kids went to all around our Commonwealth.
  Northern Virginia and its high-tech suburbs, Wise County, where my 
wife is from, the coalfields of Appalachia, the tobacco-growing regions 
of Southside Virginia, manufacturing regions south of Richmond, 
oystermen and watermen and tourism on the Eastern Shore of Virginia--I 
wanted to see the schools in every part of my Commonwealth. I wanted to 
see them because I was writing budgets. The biggest line item in the 
State budget was education. The biggest line item in the city was for 
education. I didn't want to know our schools just from a budget or just 

[[Page S778]]

a newspaper article. I wanted to know them from seeing them. I wanted 
to know them from seeing what came out of my kids' backpacks every day 
in terms of the curricula requirements and other things my kids would 
do in the Virginia public schools.
  I am saying all this first because I am just trying to convey why 
this is so important. There is nothing that we do as a society that is 
more important to our future than the way we educate our young. The 
most precious resource in the world today is not oil, it is not water; 
it is talent. The cities or States or countries that know how to raise 
talent, grow talent, attract talent, reward talent, encourage talent, 
and celebrate talent are going to be the most successful because they 
will attract and grow and reward their own talent and bring other 
people here, but they will also attract the institutions that want to 
be around talent--great companies, great think tanks, great 
  There is an inextricable causal link between your commitment to a 
system of public education and the success of your city or your State 
or your country. There is nothing we do in this Chamber or in the 
Federal Government that will be more likely to affect our economic 
outcome than the care with which we direct attention to our education 
  The last reason it is important to me is because of my new membership 
on the HELP Committee. I have had my family background. I care deeply 
about my State. I professionally worked on education, and my wife has 
too. But now I have a platform in the Senate. I tried to get on the 
committee right when I got here. I wasn't able to. I couldn't complain 
because I got great committees. I am on the Armed Services, Foreign 
Relations, and Budget Committees. But I really wanted to be on the HELP 
Committee because education has been at the core of what both my wife 
and I have tried to do in Virginia for the last 32 years. Now I am 
fortunate enough to be on the committee.
  In one of my first meetings on the committee, we had a confirmation 
hearing for Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. We didn't have all 
the information at the time we had the hearing for Mrs. DeVos, but we 
had done our homework. I have a wonderful staffer, Krishna Merchant, 
who had helped prepare me. We had done our homework. We were put under 
some pretty tight time constraints: We each only got 5 minutes to ask 
questions. Five minutes isn't a lot of time when you are talking about 
something as important as the educational mission of the Federal 
Government to help our society succeed in educating our kids. I decided 
that in my 5 minutes, I wanted to ask Mrs. DeVos about three things. I 
wanted to ask her whether she could be a champion for public schools. 
That is a simple kind of a question. I wanted to ask her whether she 
believed in equal accountability for all schools if they receive 
taxpayer dollars. I wanted to ask her about her thoughts on the 
education of kids with disabilities because I care deeply about that 
topic but also because I believe that the Individuals With Disabilities 
Education Act points a direction for the future of American public 
education, and I wanted to see what she thought about it.

  I had three test questions. I had three test questions for our 
nominee, and she did not satisfy me on any of them. Let me start with 
the first one.
  Can you be a champion for our public schools?
  There are 1.2 million kids in Virginia. Ninety percent of the 
children who are educated in this country are educated in public 
  I am a huge supporter of private schools. I went to Catholic schools 
for 6 years. When I was Governor, I did a lot of great work with kids 
and their parents who chose homeschooling as an option. I like options. 
But just as a matter of fact, 90 percent of the kids in this country go 
to public schools, and it is going to be at that number or near it for 
as long as we can see.
  In Richmond, we have some great private schools. Richmond has 1 
million people, and so private schools can set up and find enough 
students. But there are corners of my Commonwealth where it is very 
hard to start a private school because there are just not enough 
students. That is not just the case for Virginia; my colleagues on the 
HELP Committee from Alaska or from Maine share this. There are parts of 
their States where, talking about vouchers for private schools, you 
might as well be talking Esperanto. That is just not going to happen in 
some of these very rural communities. So you have to have a champion 
for public schools.
  In my research on Betsy DeVos, she gave a speech in 2015 that 
troubled me. It was a speech about the state of American public 
education. Here are two direct quotes, one of which is not the greatest 
language for the Congressional Record, but she said that when it comes 
to education, ``government really sucks.'' She also said public schools 
are a ``dead end.'' This is not something she said 10 or 20 years ago; 
this is something she said about a year and a half ago. This is her 
view of public education in this country. Betsy DeVos never attended 
public school for a day, never taught at a public school, and didn't 
send her children to public schools. That is not a disqualifier. I 
think you can have a great Secretary of Education who hadn't attended 
public schools, who had come from private schools and had good private 
school examples to learn from. I think that is fine. But if you have 
never attended public school for a day, if your children have never 
attended for a day, if you never taught at a public school, I kind of 
have the attitude: What gives the right to stand up and say public 
schools are a ``dead end''? Really? There are 1.2 million kids in 
Virginia. Ninety percent of kids in this country. Public schools are a 
``dead end.'' Government education ``really sucks.'' What gives you the 
right to say that?
  So I asked her some questions about these statements. I asked her: Is 
the morale of the workforce important? How important are teachers?
  Teachers are very important.
  Is morale an important thing for teachers? Should they have good 
morale to do their job?
  Yes, absolutely.
  Does the attitude of a leader affect the morale of people who are 
doing a job in the organization?
  Well, what does it say to a teacher teaching these tens of millions 
of kids in this country--or the 1.2 million kids in Virginia--what does 
it say to a teacher that the Federal Secretary of Education says that 
government education sucks and public schools are a dead end? I would 
submit, it transmits a horrible message.
  I think we need a Secretary of Education who will empower kids, who 
will empower teachers, who will celebrate what is great about public 
education, who isn't afraid to point out what is bad about it, who 
isn't afraid to point out the things that need to be improved. But if 
you just paint it all with a broad brush and it is all bad, you are 
going to miss an awful lot of really good things about American public 
  I sometimes get down on some of my colleagues on my side about this. 
There is kind of an anti-business attitude: Businesses are bad. There 
are some bad businesses, but most businesses are really good. You 
shouldn't paint with a broad brush, whether talking about business or 
any institution, but you definitely should not paint with a broad brush 
and say that public schools in this country are a dead end when you 
have hundreds of thousands of great teachers and counselors and 
busdrivers and cafeteria workers and people going to work every day. 
They are not going there because their salaries are great; they are 
going there because they care deeply about students, and they want to 
either teach them or in other ways impress life lessons upon them so 
their kids can have happy lives.
  So the first test I found Betsy DeVos wanting in my examination of 
her in the HELP Committee was that simple one. If you cannot be a 
champion for public schools, you should not be Secretary of Education.
  When we were having a discussion in the committee, some of the 
colleagues who were kind of coming back at us a little bit were saying: 
Well, OK, we get it. You are against charters, or you are against 
vouchers, or you are against Betsy DeVos because she wants to expand 
  But most of us are from States that have significant choice. I 
pointed out that Virginia doesn't do vouchers, but

[[Page S779]]

we have a very robust homeschooling network. I have been a huge 
supporter of it. Choice is fine, but you have to be a champion for 
public schools, and if you are not, you shouldn't be Secretary of 
Education. That is reason No. 1.
  Second, I wanted to interview Betsy DeVos about accountability. 
Accountability. Should schools be accountable for the success of their 
students, for outcomes? This is very important, and it is very 
important to get this right.
  Sometimes my wife, as secretary of education in a State, would 
sometimes tear her hair out about the Federal mandates and strings and 
regulations and rules. The HELP Committee did a good job last year 
before I was on the committee rewriting No Child Left Behind--the Every 
Student Succeeds Act--to try to reshift the balance a little bit to 
allow cities, counties, and States more flexibility in trying to 
determine how to educate their students, while holding them accountable 
for outcomes. I wanted to ask Betsy DeVos: Will you hold all schools 
accountable for outcomes--particularly because when he was a candidate, 
President Trump said some things about what he wanted to do with public 
education. President Trump as a candidate said that he wanted to take 
$20 billion of Federal money and give it to private schools to allow 
them to run voucher programs of the kind that Mrs. DeVos has promoted 
in Michigan, Indiana, and other States. That is a lot of money, $20 
billion. That is money that is taken out of the allocation for public 
schools. If you take $20 billion out of public schools, especially in 
some rural areas--in my view, having done a lot of budgets and worked 
on this as a mayor and Governor--you are potentially going to weaken 
the public schools.

  (Mrs. ERNST assumed the Chair.)
  I wanted to understand from Mrs. DeVos how we are going to do this. 
You take the $20 billion out of the public schools; I think that is 
going to weaken public schools. What I wanted to ask her is, When you 
give the $20 billion to private schools, as President Trump wants to 
do--and I asked her this question over and over again. I think I asked 
her four times. If you give Federal taxpayer dollars to private 
schools, will you hold them equally accountable to the public schools 
that are getting this money, equally accountable for the outcomes of 
the students, for the need to report disciplinary incidents, for 
working on important issues like education and kids with disabilities? 
Will you hold any school that gets Federal money equally accountable? I 
asked her this.
  She said: I believe in accountability.
  I said: That is not my question. I believe in accountability too. But 
I am asking you, Should you hold all schools equally accountable if 
they receive Federal taxpayer money?
  Well, I believe in accountability.
  I asked her again, Should you hold schools equally accountable?
  Well, they are not all held equally accountable now.
  I am not asking about what you think about the situation right now. I 
am asking you what you think is the right policy. Is it the right 
policy, if we are going to give $20 billion to private schools, to hold 
all schools equally accountable?
  Well, I believe in accountability.
  She wouldn't answer my question.
  I phrased it a different way. I said: Let me tell you this, Mrs. 
DeVos. I believe all schools that get Federal money should be held 
equally accountable. Do you agree with me?
  She said: No.
  She doesn't believe that schools that get Federal money should be 
held equally accountable. I have a big problem with that. The whole 
goal of the choice movement is to provide choices so that students can 
learn in environments that are best suited to them. Choice is also 
supposed to promote some competition that will encourage everybody to 
up their game.
  If you hold the public schools accountable while you are taking some 
of their money away and you give that money to private schools and you 
don't hold them accountable, you are not promoting fair competition. 
You are not promoting student outcomes. You are basically taking money 
away from public schools and giving it to private schools.
  Again, in Virginia, we had a painful experience with that--closing 
schools down, defunding public schools, and giving money to private 
schools. That is a second reason that is very, very important to me. I 
don't think that she supports the notion of equal accountability for 
both public and private schools that receive taxpayer funding.
  If we are going to do the proposal that President Trump says--we 
haven't seen a budget yet, but we may see one at the end of February, 
early March. If we are going to suddenly start taking billions and 
billions of dollars away from public schools and giving them to private 
schools, I want to know they are going to be equally accountable.
  The third issue that I asked Mrs. DeVos about was education and kids 
with disabilities. Let me tell you why this one is so important to me. 
It is important because it is right. It is also important because it 
points a path to the future of education in this country.
  Before the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed in 
1975, we had hundreds of thousands of children with a gap between their 
potential and what they were doing because schools were very spotty, 
communities were very spotty, States were very spotty in providing 
meaningful educational opportunities to kids who had disabilities.
  Generation after generation of kids would go to school, but they 
wouldn't get an education that was tailored to their needs. They would 
finish their education not having the skills they needed to be all they 
could be. If you think about that collective delta between what these 
kids could do and what they could have done had they had the best 
education, it is tragic. That was the genesis behind the Individuals 
with Disabilities Education Act in 1975.
  It is as if we have all these children who are capable of so much 
more if this society will only work to help them achieve, and the core 
of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a simple thing. 
If a student is identified as having a disability of some kind, the 
student gets an IEP, an individualized education plan. If you have a 
diagnosed disability, then you are entitled under Federal law to an IEP 
where you get an education that is tailored to your particular 
  My three kids went through the Richmond Public Schools. One had an 
IEP for a couple of years. That is pretty common. It is pretty common 
that you get an IEP, and with a tailored education, you don't need it 
for your whole 13 years of K-12 education. You need it for a couple of 
years of speech therapy or a couple of years of something else. Then, 
within a few years, you are completely mainstreamed, and you don't need 
IEP anymore. The individualized attention helps you climb up and then 
be completely competitive with your colleagues and with your peers.
  There are other students who need an IEP for their entire educational 
career, and that is fine too. They are entitled to it under the 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  What it has meant from 1975 to today--it is 40-plus years--is that 
this massive cohort of kids with special needs are not in the shadows. 
They are not shunted aside. They are not pushed into classes where the 
expectations for them are low. Instead, they are challenged to be all 
they can be, and they are happier, and their families are happier, and 
society is better off as a result. This is a very important thing, and 
I know this to be the case.
  Every family in this country has somebody in the family with a 
disability--or will at some point in the life of a family--and every 
person in this country has a friend with a disability. The issues 
dealing with the education of students with disabilities are important 
morally, but they are important because this is about our friends and 
our family and our neighbors.
  The other thing about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 
that I find so powerful is I think it has been the best single idea 
about K-12 education we have come up with. It is better than testing. 
It is better than choice. It is better than all the other strategies 
because the nub of the idea is you should have an individualized 
education. It raises the question, Why do you have to have a diagnosed 
disability to get an individualized education?

  With computer technology and so many other tools that a teacher can

[[Page S780]]

use in a class of 20 or even 30 students, there is an awful lot that 
you can do to tailor the education to each individual student. I was a 
teacher. I ran a vocational school in Honduras that taught kids to be 
welders and carpenters. We individualized the education. I put together 
a list of 60 carpentry projects from the simplest one to the most 
complicated one, and all the students started on the same project the 
first day of school, but then they proceeded at their own pace. Only 
when they did the first one to the carpenter's satisfaction could they 
go to the second one. That meant it was individualized because 
everybody worked at a different pace until they got it right and they 
could move to the next one. That is what the IDEA basically is: 
Education should be individualized to the student, and more and more, 
that is what we are doing in education all around the country.
  I asked Mrs. DeVos questions about the IDEA because of the fairness 
and justice issues for students with disabilities but also because the 
notion of individualized education is the greatest single idea out 
there that will ultimately be the idea that I think will be the 
revolutionary next step in American public education.
  I asked her a pretty simple question. Once again, if the President 
pursues his plan to take $20 billion and invest it in private schools, 
should the private schools receiving those dollars have to follow the 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? Should they have to work 
with students with disabilities, diagnose the disability they have, and 
then offer them a fair and appropriate education tailored to that 
  It is a pretty simple question. You get the money from the Feds. 
Should you have to follow the law? Remember, this is a Federal civil 
rights law. It applies to every ZIP Code in this country. It applies to 
every school district in this country.
  My question of Mrs. DeVos was, If a private school gets Federal 
money, should they have to follow this important civil rights law?
  Her answer to me was: I think the States should make that decision. I 
think that should be up to the States.
  I said: It is a Federal civil rights law. It applies everywhere.
  The States should make the decision.
  We struggled in my State of Virginia with States' rights arguments 
because after the Supreme Court decided on another really important 
civil rights principle, you couldn't segregate schools. Barbara Johns' 
walkout of Moton High School, and Brown v. Board of Education--and now 
it is the law of the land. You can't segregate kids on basis of race. 
It is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.
  The leaders of my State stood up in court for years and said: You 
can't tell us what to do; education is a States' rights thing. We don't 
have to follow the Supreme Court. We don't have to follow civil rights 
statutes at the national level. We believe in States' rights.
  States' rights arguments have been used throughout our history to 
rebut the notion that Congress or the Supreme Court can pass civil 
rights laws of applicability all around the country.
  I was surprised. I did not know what Mrs. DeVos's history would be, 
unlike reading her speeches where she says the public schools are a 
dead end and government is soft. I didn't know what her position would 
be on the IDEA. When she told me that a Federal civil rights law should 
be a State decision, I was very, very troubled. I was surprised.
  I blurted out: Well, what do you mean it should be a State decision? 
If you are a parent and you have kids with disabilities and the State 
isn't treating them right, you are supposed to move around the country 
until you find a State that treats your kids well? You are not entitled 
to have the law apply to you in the community where you live and you 
are going to have to move somewhere until you find a State that is 
going to treat your kid OK?
  I think it should be a State decision.
  Later on in the hearing, one of my other colleagues, Maggie Hassan, 
the Senator from New Hampshire, who has a child with cerebral palsy, 
followed up on this, and Mrs. DeVos tried to back out of it: Well, I 
wasn't sure we were talking about a Federal or State law.
  I was very, very troubled by this. I was troubled by it again because 
of the peculiar history that we have had in Virginia and other States 
where people have used States' rights arguments to try to trump Federal 
civil rights statutes.
  I would say that the answers to the questions about students with 
disabilities became kind of a pivotal part of that hearing because both 
Senators Collins and Murkowski, who have since said they are going to 
vote against the nominee, at that hearing and then in the markup 
session we had last week talked about that as one of the things that 
they found troubling.
  Another member of our committee, who is supporting Mrs. DeVos, 
Senator Isakson of Georgia, also found it of enough concern that he had 
a written exchange with her. He wrote her a letter and asked her a 
question: Do you really understand what the IDEA is?
  She wrote a letter back, which I have had the opportunity to review, 
but I still don't believe that the letter she wrote demonstrates a real 
understanding for this issue of the rights of kids with disabilities.
  This is a really important point. Some of the States that have 
voucher programs--we don't have these programs in Virginia for the 
reasons I have described, but there are States that do--Indiana, 
Florida. Some of the States that have voucher programs and receive 
public money for kids make children sign away their rights under the 
IDEA as a condition of being admitted to the school. You want to come 
to our private school and you want to use voucher money to do it? We 
will let you in, but you have to sign saying you will never take us to 
court for violating your rights, for not treating you fairly under the 
IDEA, and only if you sign such a waiver, will we allow you to come to 
our school. I just don't think that is fair. I don't think that is 
right. Especially if we are now going to give $20 billion of Federal 
money to private schools, I think they should have to follow the law.

  Many private school principals in Richmond--I talked to them about 
this issue long before the hearing on Mrs. DeVos, and they are pretty 
candid often with parents of kids with disabilities. My longtime 
secretary in my office--who has worked for me for nearly 30 years--has 
a daughter with a disability. She was going to parochial schools for a 
while in the early grades, but as she was progressing up into late 
elementary school, there just weren't the programs in the parochial 
school that were tailored to her particular situation, partly because 
the school was just too small. In a really small school, it is tough to 
do education of kids with disabilities. You have to have some 
particular training to be able to do it. The difference of a small K-8 
parochial school and a larger county school is pretty big. The 
principal was candid and honest in a way that my secretary appreciated 
and I did too. ``We just don't have the kind of educational program for 
somebody of your daughter's special needs that the public high school 
has. You really should think about that.'' My secretary agreed and made 
the change to the public school. It was actually a better environment 
because the resources--which are not cheap--the resources to help do 
disability-specific education were there.
  Imagine now what would happen if we start to invest money in private 
schools, and we don't make them follow the disabilities law. Follow 
this through. We take $20 billion away from public schools. That is 
weakening public schools' ability to do a lot of things, including 
educating kids with disabilities. We give the money to private schools. 
We don't require them to follow the Disabilities Act. So families--like 
many we know--say, I might like to go to private school, but there is 
not enough appropriate education, so I am not going to. I am going to 
stay with the public school. So we have just taken the dollars away 
from the public school, but all the kids with the significant needs, 
the needs that are really costly to deal with, are going to stay in the 
public school. It is a spiral that is a bad spiral.
  We will defund you, but all the kids with the significant needs that 
are costly, they are going to stay. That will dilute and hurt the 
quality of the education they will get, while the private school is 
getting the money and not having to follow the requirements of the 
IDEA. They get the money. They don't have to be equally accountable for 
it. They don't have to follow the requirements of the IDEA. This is 
very troubling stuff.

[[Page S781]]

  Those were the three questions I got to ask her in 5 minutes. Can you 
be a champion of public schools, do you believe that any school 
receiving Federal taxpayer dollars should be equally accountable for 
student outcomes, and should schools receiving Federal taxpayer dollars 
have to follow the requirements of the IDEA? With each of those 
questions, I was prepared to get an answer I liked, but I got an answer 
I didn't like.
  I don't think Mrs. DeVos can be a champion of public schools. She has 
told me she doesn't think all schools should be equally accountable to 
receive Federal taxpayer dollars, and she is not committed to schools 
that are receiving Federal moneys following the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act. This explains to me why the volume of calls 
into my office over this have been so high--higher than the government 
shutdown, higher than any other nominee, higher than any other issue. 
We have been at war with ISIS for two and a half years. I have been 
trying to make the case that we shouldn't be at war without a vote of 
Congress. I get a lot of calls in my office about it, but it is not 
ringing off the hook like it has been ringing off the hook with respect 
to the DeVos nomination. While I credit Mrs. DeVos for being 
philanthropic, and I credit her for caring about kids--that is very 
sincere. I see that in her philanthropy and her care. I don't see in 
her an understanding of the role that public schools play for 90 
percent of our kids. Using arguments like States' rights arguments, 
that brings up a real painful history in my State. I don't want to see 
that return and especially be at the pinnacle of educational policy.
  I mentioned the volume of calls we are receiving. We all asked 
ourselves in the office, what has explained this volume? I think the 
thing that explains the volume is the disability issue. Because a lot 
of folks with disabilities are not used to their issues ever being made 
front and center in anything. It matters so much to them. As we said, 
every family has somebody with a disability or who will have a 
disability. People know folks with disabilities. But the disability 
community--which are Democrats, Republicans, Independents and every ZIP 
Code in this country--they are not used to their issue being the front 
and center issue in something. They are more used to being ignored or 
being marginalized.

  At this hearing, when the disability issue became front and center--I 
think that is one of the reasons the uptick of concern has been so 
significant, because people who otherwise are not that into politics or 
otherwise not that into who is the Cabinet Secretary going to be, there 
is one thing they do know, which is they want Americans with 
disabilities to receive equal treatment. They want them to be all they 
can be. It is good for their happiness and good for our economy and 
good for our society.
  I was honored last week to write an op-ed about this issue with a 
former member of this body, Senator Harkin of Iowa, somebody the 
Presiding Officer knows very well. Senator Harkin was one of the 
congressional authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Senator 
Harkin was a champion of the Individuals with Disabilities Education 
Act. All the issues surrounding Americans with disabilities were very 
close to his heart. We really miss that because he was such a champion, 
and I am not sure anybody can really fill his shoes on that issue. But 
we wrote an op-ed about this disabilities point in Time magazine that 
has gotten a lot of attention because it touches every family.
  I will start to recap a little bit now as I await my colleague who is 
going to be following me. I will just go back to where I started. This 
is not a minor matter. It is a little bit unusual to be on the floor at 
10 to 4 in the morning. It is a little unusual to be speaking 30 hours 
in a row. I had some folks ask me: Why would you do 30 hours of 
speeches on this? I said: Well, don't you think the Secretary of 
Education is important enough--education in our country is important 
enough to spend a day and a half, a day and a quarter talking about it?
  I go back to that Jeffersonian vision: Progress in government and all 
else depends upon the broadest possible diffusion of knowledge among 
the general population. The United States, beginning in the early 
1900s--then after the GI bill it really accelerated. We became the 
educational leader in the world. We weren't necessarily that during the 
1800s--Germany, other nations, England were--but we really became the 
educational leader. We made education available to all. The GI bill 
helped democratize higher education and make it available to many more.
  Our education system is still one of our crown jewels. The number of 
foreign students who come to our country to go to college, compared to 
the reverse, is still a tribute to the fact our education system is so 
strong. I haven't really talked about higher education at all. That is 
also within the province of the Secretary of Education. The basic point 
I am making is, of anything we do that is about whether we will be 
successful as a country tomorrow, education is key. That is why we are 
taking 30 hours to dig into issues of concern.
  I put three questions on the table. The three I put on the table are 
all about K-12 education. I had colleagues at the hearing who asked 
searching questions about higher education, the cost of higher 
education, student loan debt, what is the right way to deal with debt, 
how do we make college less expensive. These are critical issues too. I 
am very passionate about a career in technical education. My dad was a 
welder, and I ran a school in Honduras that taught kids to be 
carpenters and welders. This is a big and important job. It is such a 
big and important job, it would be wrong to expect any person to be an 
expert on all of it. That would not be a fair hurdle to set for 
somebody. You are going to have to come in and bring expertise in and 
hire good people to work with you, but I think there are some 
fundamental threshold questions: Can you support and be a champion for 
public education? That seems fundamental. Do you believe in equal 
accountability for everybody that gets Federal dollars? That seems 
fundamental. Do you believe that kids with disabilities should be able 
to get this kind of education? That seems fundamental. And in those 
areas, Mrs. DeVos did not succeed.
  I voted for a number of the Cabinet nominees of President Trump. I am 
not standing here taking the position that I am voting against all of 
them. In fact, I voted for quite a few because even if they would not 
be people who I would nominate, President Trump is the President. He is 
entitled to have his own team, but the advice and consent function of 
the Senate means, in certain cases, if people do not seem to meet the 
threshold criteria for being able to do the job and do it well--that is 
how you exercise advice and consent and express opposition to a 
nominee. That is what I am going to do in this case.
  I yield the floor.
  Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MURPHY. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. MURPHY. Madam President, let me just express my thanks to all of 
those who have facilitated the floor staying open through the evening. 
We still have a ways to go. I know that puts a lot of pressure on staff 
here and on all of the folks who make this place operate. We thank you 
for that. These are, in the minds of many of my constituents, very 
exceptional times and they call for exceptional tactics and probably a 
few more exceptional moments on the floor of the Senate. I appreciate 
everyone here staying through this long evening.
  When I was a kid, I took an art class at a little one-room 
schoolhouse on Wells Road in my hometown, where I grew up, of 
Wethersfield, CT. That little one-room schoolhouse is still there. It 
is iconic. It is a part of Wethersfield's history. The town is really 
proud of it. There is not a lot that happens in that one-room 
schoolhouse any longer.
  But once upon a time there was a lot that happened in that one-room 
schoolhouse. That is where the kids of Wethersfield, CT, the oldest 
town in the State of Connecticut, got their education. You know, 
wrapped up in the

[[Page S782]]

identity of this country is this association with those little one-room 
schoolhouses that were peppered throughout the landscape of New England 
and, indeed, across the country, as our new Nation progressed west.
  It symbolizes the deep connection that this country has had with this 
very unique idea of public education. I say that as a means of trying 
to explain to folks why we are here at 4:20 in the morning, why this 
nomination--the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education--
has commanded this kind of exceptional attention, why the switchboards 
here at the Capitol have been experiencing a volume never before seen 
in the history of this place.
  There is a special connection between our constituents and the idea 
of public education, because it is rooted in some of the founding 
ideals of this country. This country stands for the notion that you can 
come from anywhere, you can be of any background, and you will have a 
chance to make it here in the United States.
  We did not just say that; we lived that value. We built a society in 
which people could actually take that idea of succeeding, despite any 
built-in impediments they may have faced, and we turned it into a 
reality. Public education from the very beginning of this country has 
been at the root of that uniquely American idea--the idea that you can 
succeed despite any barriers that may have been presented in front of 
you by circumstance or by birth.
  Public education at the outset was in those one-room schoolhouses. 
Everybody packed into one place, all sorts of ages and learning 
abilities, and one teacher, normally a female, at the front of the 
classroom. But over time, this country adapted. We learned from others. 
It was Horace Mann, the famous Massachusetts educator, who borrowed 
from ideas that he had found in Prussia and brought to the United 
States, the idea of the professionalization of public education, the 
professionalization of teachers, the sorting of students into grades, 
the idea that it wasn't just enough to put a whole bunch of kids into 
one classroom, that we needed to actually think through pedagogy. We 
needed to put some time into making sure there were high-quality 
teachers and instruction in all of our classrooms.
  You can go around the country and find a lot of schools named after 
Horace Mann because what we have today springs forth from many of his 
ideas, from his commitment to high-quality public education.
  The system that he helped create is the one in which many of us grew 
up in. I went to public schools in Wethersfield, CT. My mother went to 
public schools in Wethersfield, CT. My father went to public schools in 
Wethersfield, CT. They met in public schools in Wethersfield, CT. My 
wife went to public schools in Fairfield, CT. My kids go to public 
school today. So when I try to figure out why my office got 13,000 
phone calls and emails with regard to this nomination, I think it is 
because public education is so deeply connected to who we feel we are 
as a country. We feel we are the most powerful, the most affluent 
Nation on Earth because of our unique commitment to public education; 
this idea that in order to succeed, you need first to have access to 
learning, to the ability to read and write, to do arithmetic, to be 
able to think creatively about science and the history of your country 
and your people, but also because public education is personal.
  When we talk about who we are, when we all think about our own 
personal biographies, it starts with where we went to school. Not 
everybody went to public school, but the vast majority of people in 
this country went to public school.
  When you think about who you are today, almost everybody's story runs 
through a great public school teacher. The things that you learn that 
make you who you are today, they probably come first and foremost from 
your parents or from whoever raised you, but, boy, you learn an awful 
lot about how to relate to people, about values. You make mistakes; you 
correct those mistakes in school, whether it be in the classroom or out 
on the playground.
  For me, it was my fifth grade teacher Ms. Evanisky, who instilled in 
me a love of learning but also a discipline about how to learn. I don't 
know that teachers would do this today, but Ms. Evanisky had a list of 
all the assignments each week on the chalkboard and had our initials 
next to each one we had completed. There were 20 or 30 each week, and 
she would erase your initials and move it to the next one. It probably 
was a little bit too much of an exercise in public shaming for the kids 
who fell behind, but, boy, there was accountability because every day 
you walked in, you saw whether you were keeping up with the assignments 
that week or you were falling behind. There was a rigor to it that 
attracted me and made me a better learner.
  There were two male teachers I had in high school and middle school: 
Mr. Hansen, my eighth grade social studies teacher, and Mr. Peters, my 
junior-year American history teacher, who got me thinking about 
government and the effect it has on my life and the life of people 
around me.
  My family did not have a history of politics or public service. My 
love of public service, my interest in government comes from teachers 
who inspired me to care about the role people played in our common 
  So when I think about why I am here today, I think about teachers. I 
think first and foremost about my parents, but I think about teachers, 
and so do millions of other people around the country.
  Our common experiences are rooted in our public schools, and, of 
course, it is still personal today for millions and millions of folks 
in my State and across the country because they have their kids, as I 
do, in public school, and they are seeing the great benefit that comes 
to their kids, the growth that happens in our public schools, and the 
continued learning that happens for our educators.
  Public education is different today than it was when I went. We 
learned things, that we can't just focus on teaching basic skills, like 
reading, writing, and arithmetic, but today we have to teach other 
skills, like social and emotional skills. We are getting better all the 
time in public education, and that is why people are so proud of it.
  So when presented with a nominee for the Department of Education who 
says that public education is a ``dead end'' for students in this 
country, people take it personally. It feels different than when they 
listen to the nominee for Secretary of the Treasury talk about banks or 
when they hear the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services 
talking about health insurance.
  When you say that public schools are a dead end and then, as Mrs. 
DeVos has, spend your entire career trying to empty out public schools 
and put kids into private schools, it hurts. It hurts because, well, we 
all know public schools can be better. We all have our critiques of the 
public education we got or the public education our kids have gotten. 
We know it is not a dead end.
  Public education wasn't a dead end for me. I get to be a U.S. Senator 
because of the public education I got. It wasn't a dead end for my 
mother, who grew up in the housing projects of New Britain, CT. Because 
of the public schools that challenged her as a very poor little girl 
growing up in New Britain, she got to be the first woman in her family 
to go to college. It wasn't a dead end for my father, who went to 
public schools and ended up running one of the biggest companies in 
Hartford, CT. And I hope it won't be a dead end for my kids, who are 
getting smarter and smarter every single day they go to public schools.
  Public schools aren't a dead end. They can always get better. But to 
have someone in the Department of Education who doesn't believe in the 
way that most public school parents, most public school products 
believe in public education, it is offensive, and that is why our 
offices have received this unprecedented volume of correspondence.
  I represent a pretty small State. Connecticut isn't that big. But I 
got 13,000 letters and emails opposing Mrs. DeVos's nomination in a 
short period of time. She was only nominated a couple months ago. I 
don't know that there is any other subject in the entire time that I 
have been in government in which I received more correspondence over a 
short period of time like that. I received 13,000 pieces of 
correspondence, and almost all of them are in opposition to it.

[[Page S783]]

  That is the other thing. There were a few people who called who 
support her nomination, but almost without exception, people are 
calling in to my office and to Republican offices telling us that she 
is not the right fit.

       I am writing to you as the mother of two children in 
     kindergarten and first grade. My son is 5 and is autistic. I 
     watched the recent nomination hearing on Betsy DeVos, and I 
     am left sick to my stomach. I implore you to not support this 
     woman for Secretary of Education.
       I am beyond worried at what this might mean for our school 
     systems, and particularly what this would mean for the 
     education and development of my son. We fight every single 
     day for my son. We work for the services he needs. I spent 2 
     hours on the phone yesterday with health insurance companies 
     trying to get his occupational therapy covered. With Betsy 
     DeVos in charge of the public schools, I can't even imagine 
     the roadblocks we would face.
       As a parent, all I want is for my son to grow and develop 
     and thrive like any other child. It is hard enough doing this 
     with his disabilities, knowing our President openly mocks 
     those who are disabled. Please, please, please do not support 
     his nominee. I fear for my son.

  Another piece of correspondence from a college student from Old Lyme, 

       I strongly urge you to oppose the Secretary of Education 
     nominee Betsy DeVos, whose confirmation hearing proved that 
     she lacks both the experience and qualifications to lead the 
     Department of Education.
       Mrs. DeVos has had no experience in public schools, not as 
     a student, an educator, an administrator, or even as a 
     parent. Further, she admittedly has no experience with higher 
     education or student loans.
       I am a student about to earn my undergrad college degree 
     this spring. I highly suspect that Mrs. DeVos has no interest 
     in repairing or mending my or my fellow students' colossal 
     debt problems, nor does she have the intent to alleviate the 
     strain of other costs on parents and guardians.

  I might read some more of these letters, but they are sort of 
endless, and they speak to a real worry people in my State have about 
Mrs. DeVos's commitment to public education. So let me talk a little 
bit about why they are concerned.
  They are right to point out that this nominee has really no personal 
experience in our public school system. She didn't go to public 
schools. Her kids didn't go to public schools. She wasn't a public 
school educator. But that is not disqualifying in and of itself. I 
mean, all of us work on policy in which we don't have personal 
experience. It is the fact that she has spent her entire career and 
much of her family's enormous fortune trying to undermine public 
education that is so concerning.
  Mrs. DeVos, as it has been repeated over and over on this floor, is a 
big fan--perhaps the biggest fan in the country--of vouchers, which is 
a means of giving students a handful of money so that they can go to a 
private school or a nonpublic school.
  In theory, there is an attraction to this idea that you should be 
able to take that amount of money that we generally allocate to your 
education and bring it to a school of your choice. But in practice, 
vouchers are a disaster for our kids. Why? Well, first and foremost, it 
is because, contrary to what Betsy DeVos and her family believe, the 
free market doesn't work the same for education as it does for the 
breakfast cereal industry, right? Kids are not free actors in the way 
that other consumers are. So what happens is that the parents and the 
families who have the means and the income to go find and afford 
private school do so. They take that voucher and then they bring it 
into the private sector, and the kids and the families who don't have 
the means to do that get left behind in underperforming schools, and 
the imperative to fix those underperforming schools gradually 
  Well, vouchers are never going to equal the amount of money that it 
costs to send a student to most private schools. It may cover the cost 
of the cheapest private schools, but families of means take those 
vouchers and supplement it with money that they already have and send 
their kids to private schools. So vouchers just end up taking wealthier 
families and moving those kids into private schools, while leaving 
behind kids who don't have parents who can supplement the amount of 
money in the voucher to allow those kids to go to private schools. So 
vouchers become a means of both economic and racial segregation. White 
families or families of higher economic means take the vouchers and 
they send their kids to private schools and families with kids of lower 
economic means get left behind in lower performing public schools.
  Vouchers are a wonderful way to guarantee that you have very little 
mixing of kids of different backgrounds or races and incomes, and that 
is what the evidence bears out. But vouchers have been used in even 
more insidious ways over the years. Think about what has happened to 
disabled kids.
  In many States, kids with disabilities will be offered a voucher to 
go to a private school that may have a basket of services that is more 
appropriate for them, but they have to make a deal with the school 
district in order to get that voucher. They have to renounce their 
legal rights to contest an appropriate education in order to get that 
voucher. For many families, that voucher is a very shiny object that 
looks like their salvation, but then, when they get to that voucher 
school and find out they are in fact not getting the services they 
thought they were going to get for their child--maybe because that 
school is being run by a for-profit company and they don't have that 
child's education in their best interests, and they have profit motives 
as their driving imperative--the parent can't exercise their rights 
under Federal law because they signed them away in order to get the 
  In States like Florida, this happens tens of thousands of times over, 
where low-income, disabled kids sign away their right to contest 
services that are guaranteed to them in order to get a voucher, only to 
find that when they get to that school, the services they were promised 
aren't there and now they have no legal ability to try to get those 
services. The rug is pulled out from under them. They are left with no 
protection. So vouchers have been used in terribly insidious ways to 
take from students and families rights that wealthier families that 
don't need to rely on the voucher would never sign away.
  So it is not that Democrats oppose Mrs. DeVos's nomination because we 
don't like charter schools. Frankly, it is not because many of us don't 
support school choice. I don't have any problem with public school 
choice done right. I don't have any problem with charter schools. In 
fact, I have a long history of supporting high quality charter schools. 
What we oppose is a voucher system that dramatically underfunds 
education and that requires students to lose or sign away their right 
to get a quality education.
  Further, we oppose voucher systems that just end up taking public 
dollars and putting them in the hands of Wall Street. What is 
exceptional about Mrs. DeVos's experience in Michigan, what makes it 
different, frankly, from the experience of charter schools in 
Connecticut, is that in Michigan charter schools are by and large run 
by for-profit companies. Let me tell you, the operators of for-profit 
charters, I am sure, have the best interests of those kids in mind, but 
the investors in those for-profit charter schools have profit as their 
primary motivation. The people telling those administrators what to do 
have investor returns first on their mind and educational returns for 
the kids second, because if they didn't, they would be a nonprofit 
charter school. If your primary mission was to run schools for the 
benefit of kids, you would be a nonprofit. The reason you set yourself 
up as a for-profit is so you could make money. I don't know why any 
school is operated on a for-profit basis. But in Michigan, 80 percent 
of charters are owned by for-profit operators. We have seen what has 
happened in the higher education States. We have seen the fraud that is 
perpetuated on students because for-profit colleges have as their 
primary motivation making as much money as possible, not the education 
of kids. So vouchers, underfunded, tied to the denial of rights for 
disabled kids, and established as a means of enrichment for investors 
in for-profit companies are a terrible idea.
  But students, parents, and teachers in Connecticut are concerned 
about Mrs. DeVos's nomination for other reasons as well. I wish that 
every minority kid and every disabled kid and every poor kid in this 
country got a fair shot, but that is not how education is played out. 
The Federal Government is involved in education for one primary reason 
and that is civil rights.

[[Page S784]]

The whole reason that the Federal Government got into the business of 
education is because children--primarily minority children, primarily 
black children--were being denied an equal education. So in Brown v. 
Board of Education, it was held that separate education is unequal 
education, and in a series of civil rights acts following that 
decision, the Federal Government established laws to protect children 
and their parents from that kind of unjustifiable racist 
  It happened in schools all over this country. Black kids were not 
given an equal education. Even after the schools were desegregated, 
States and municipalities found ways around the legal requirements to 
give an unequal education to minority kids.
  Here is a news flash for you. Racism hasn't vanished in this country. 
Discrimination has not been defeated. We are watching the President 
today pry on people's prejudices as a means of dividing this country to 
his benefit. All across this country you can see examples of sometimes 
intentional discrimination and other times unintentional subconscious 
discrimination that continues to happen all over the United States, 
like what happens in school discipline. If you are an African-American 
boy in this country and you goof off at school, you are twice as 
likely, right now as we speak, to be suspended or expelled than if a 
White student engages in the exact same behavior. Disabled students all 
across this country are discriminated against.

  I will give you an example from not so long ago in Texas. In Texas, 
an investigation by the Houston Chronicle discovered that the Texas 
Education Agency had arbitrarily decided that only 8.5 percent of 
students would get special education services. No matter if the school 
district had a higher percentage of kids with disabilities, the Texas 
Education Agency said that only 8.5 percent of students in any 
particular school district can get special education services. What 
happened? Kids all across the State who were disabled were denied the 
services that they needed.
  In Kentucky, just 2 years ago, an autistic 16-year-old named Brennen 
was severely injured, with both his legs broken when he was restrained 
at school. An investigation found that he suffered two broken femurs, a 
partially collapsed lung, and blood loss. He spent 8 days in an 
intensive care unit. An investigation found out that over the past 2 
years, nearly 8,000 students in one county in Kentucky had been 
physically restrained, and 150 of them in this one county had been 
badly injured. That is just one example of what happens to disabled 
students all across this country. They get secluded and locked into 
chains and ropes, literally, as a means of trying to control their 
behavior. That doesn't work. That is by and large illegal, but it 
happens because still today minority kids, disabled kids, and poor kids 
don't have the political power that other school children have. Their 
parents might not be as loud as other parents are, and so they get 
intentionally or unintentionally discriminatory treatment.
  That is why, at the Federal level, we have a history of requiring 
that States provide equal education to minority kids, disabled kids, 
and poor kids. That was a bipartisan commitment in the No Child Left 
Behind law. It continues to be a bipartisan commitment in the new 
education law we passed. Republicans and Democrats voted for a bill 
that holds schools accountable for equal outcomes, equal opportunity 
for every kid.
  Now we dramatically amended that accountability requirement in the 
new law. We recognized that it probably didn't make sense for 
Washington to decide how you measure accountability and how you 
intervene in schools where you are not getting results for those 
vulnerable populations, but we still require that every State have an 
accountability regime. Republicans and Democrats both voted for that. I 
sponsored the amendment with Senator Portman that put that 
accountability section into the bill.
  Another reason that parents and students in Connecticut are deeply 
worried about Mrs. DeVos's nomination is because she has a history of 
fighting accountability. In Michigan, she fought a State law that would 
have made all schools in that State--whether they be public, private, 
charter, or traditional--accountable for their results. When questioned 
before the Education Committee about her position on accountability by 
Senator Kaine, who just finished speaking, her answers were bizarre.
  Senator Kaine: ``Will you insist upon equal accountability in any K-
12 school or educational program that receives Federal funding whether 
public, public charter, or private?''
  Here is the easy answer to that question: Yes.
  That is not a gotcha question. I know folks have said that the 
Democrats were trying to embarrass Mrs. DeVos in the hearing, but that 
is an easy question.
  Will you support equal accountability in any K-12 school that 
receives Federal funding--public, public charter, or private? The 
answer to that question is yes. But she says: ``I support 
  OK. That is not as good, but maybe it is heading in the right 
  ``Equal accountability for all schools that receive Federal 
funding?'' asks Senator Kaine.
  ``I support accountability,'' she says.
  Senator Kaine is sort of figuring out that this might be an evasion 
rather than an answer. He says: ``Is that a yes or no?''
  ``I support accountability.''
  Senator Kaine: ``Do you not want to answer my question?''
  ``I support accountability.''
  ``OK, let me ask you this. I think all schools that receive taxpayer 
funding should be equally accountable. Do you agree with me or not?''
  ``Well, they're not today.''
  ``But I think they should. Do you agree with me or not?''
  ``Well, no.''
  So at the end of that line of questioning, Senator Kaine finally gets 
his answer--that Betsy DeVos does not support equal accountability for 
public, public charter, or private schools. That isn't surprising 
because she didn't support equal accountability when she was pushing 
for private charter schools in Michigan.
  (Mr. JOHNSON assumed the Chair.)
  Mr. President, that has devastating consequences for our children, to 
have a Secretary of Education who is not going to require 
accountability for results in schools, regardless of how they are 
established. It has devastating consequences for poor kids, Black kids, 
Hispanic kids, and disabled kids who need in a Secretary of Education a 
champion for them, not someone who advertises in her committee meeting 
who is not going to fight for accountability in our schools.
  Frankly, I am friends with some of the operators of charter schools 
in and around Connecticut. In my experience, the supporters of charter 
schools have tended to be the loudest champions of accountability 
because for many charter school proponents, they go hand in hand. 
Accountability gives you sort of a clearer sense of the outcomes in 
public schools, which for charter school advocates tends to be an 
advertisement for an alternative way of education.

  So charter schools, even those that are regularly critical of the 
public schools, like Mrs. DeVos, normally argue for accountability, but 
not Betsy DeVos. She has a long career of opposing accountability. And 
if you look at an examination of the charter schools that she has 
supported, you can figure out why. Her charter schools aren't very 
good. If they had to be measured on equal footing with public schools 
in Michigan, the results would not be an advertisement for her or for 
her nomination to be Secretary of Education.
  In Michigan, they have set up a Byzantine system in which there are 
like 30 different regulators of charter schools, all with a confusing 
array of different ways that they measure performance. There is no way 
in Michigan to pull out data about how disabled students are doing on a 
school-by-school basis. They intentionally obfuscate the results of 
charter schools. Why? Because many of them--many of those associated 
with Mrs. DeVos--are not getting good results for their kids. That 
doesn't mean charter schools can't get good results; many of them can. 
But if you don't have accountability, if you don't require charter 
schools to prove they are doing good for kids, then many of the bad 
ones will continue to provide low-quality results without any 
  So many of the parents in my State are very concerned about Betsy 

[[Page S785]]

when it comes to whether she is going to stick up for disabled students 
and low-income students.
  I asked her specifically whether she would keep on the books a 
regulation that was passed at the end of last year which gives guidance 
for States on how they develop these accountability regimes for 
vulnerable populations. Again, this was an easy answer because 
everybody in the educational space supports this regulation--
superintendents, principals, teachers, parent groups, civil rights 
groups, groups representing the disabled. Frankly, it was a Herculean 
task for then-Secretary John King to come up with an accountability 
framework that all those groups would support, but they all support it.
  So I asked Mrs. DeVos in the hearing would she work to implement that 
regulation or would she work to undermine it, and she gave me no 
answer. She certainly refused to commit to implement that regulation 
which, by the way, is supported by everybody in the educational space. 
Undoing it would be a giant headache for everybody who works in 
education. Nobody wants it undone. Yet she would not commit to keeping 
it in place.
  Then I asked her another super simple no-brainer when we submitted 
written questions. I just said: Would you support the maintenance of 
the civil rights data collection system? This is like once every 2 
years, you have to report data on the performance of your minority kids 
in your State's schools. Once every 2 years, you have to submit this 
report, and it is very important because it is one of the only ways the 
Federal Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Education can 
figure out if minority kids--Black kids, Hispanic kids, Native 
Americans--are getting a raw deal. She wouldn't even commit to 
maintaining the data collection, never mind do anything with it.
  So at some point, you have to figure out that where there is smoke, 
there is fire. She has been given all of these opportunities to say: I 
am going to be a champion for disabled kids. I am going to stand up for 
minority kids. I am going to make sure that every child, no matter 
their race, no matter their religion, no matter their learning ability, 
gets an equal education. Every time she was given an opportunity to set 
the record straight, she obfuscated, she fudged, she clouded.
  When she got a question about the Individuals With Disabilities 
Education Act, she didn't seem to know what it was. So maybe that is 
why the answers were fuzzy when it came to protecting students with 
disabilities--she didn't know what the law was. Maybe if she was asked 
specific questions about the accountability framework that demands 
results for minority kids, she would have given a similar answer 
because she might not have known what that was, either.
  If you are going to be Secretary of Education, you need to have a 
moral commitment to protect these kids, but at the very least you have 
to know what the Federal laws are that provide those protections. Over 
and over again, she was given the chance to show that moral commitment; 
she did not. And in that hearing, she showed a troubling lack of 
knowledge about the statutes that protect those children. The Secretary 
of Education, more than anybody else in this country, is responsible 
for delivering results for our kids. The Federal Government is not in 
education, except for the cause of civil rights.

  Finally, I wish to speak about what was, to me, maybe the most 
troubling answer she gave in that hearing. We had 5 minutes to question 
this witness. We had 5 minutes. I worked pretty hard to become a U.S. 
Senator. My constituents think this is a pretty important job. I was 
given 5 minutes to ask questions of the next Secretary of the 
Department of Education--the person who is going to be in charge of the 
thousands upon thousands of public schools in this country. There is no 
precedent in this committee--the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions 
Committee--for Senators being cut off, being denied questions when they 
have them.
  We spent a lot of time in the committee hearing arguing over how much 
time we were going to get to question Mrs. DeVos, and it became pretty 
apparent why Senator Alexander was restricting questioning as the 
hearing went on. This was a nominee who was simply not qualified. This 
was a nominee who was not ready for this hearing, who is not ready to 
be Secretary of Education. I had a wonderful meeting with Mrs. DeVos. 
She is a nice person, but she is not qualified to be Secretary of 
Education. Senator Alexander knew that. What I gather is that Senator 
Alexander sat down with her, figured out that she was not qualified, 
knew that she was not going to perform well, and came into that hearing 
with the specific intention of limiting our questions, because as the 
hearing went on, it got worse and worse.
  I really wanted to ask questions about protecting disabled kids and 
low-income kids, so I had planned to ask all of my questions about 
whether she was prepared to stick up for those kids. She gave very 
short answers to my questions that, as I said, didn't give me any 
confidence that she is going to stand up for those children.
  When I looked down at my clock, I still had 30 seconds left. I only 
had 5 minutes, so I better use all of my time. So I asked her what I 
thought was a no-brainer. I asked her whether she thought guns should 
be in schools. She probably should have known that question was coming 
from me. I wasn't intending on asking it, but my public service is 
defined by what happened in Sandy Hook, CT, in December of 2012. And 
she knows she is going to work for a President who has promised to ban 
States' and local districts' ability to keep guns out of schools. And 
so her answer, which has now been replayed on the Internet a million 
times, was shocking.
  First, her inability just to plug in to the emotion of this issue. 
The first thing you should say in response to that question is, our No. 
1 obligation as education policy professionals is to keep kids safe. 
Start there. Start with a commonality about our obligation to keep kids 
safe. But that is not where she started. She started by saying: Well, 
that is really up to the States and the local school districts.
  The reason she gave for that is now infamous--that some schools in 
this country need to be protected against grizzly bear attacks. It is 
probably unfair how much attention that response was given; she sort of 
came up with it on the spur of the moment. I don't suggest that it 
reflects her full thinking on the subject of guns in schools. But she 
then immediately contradicted her answer. Her first answer was that 
really should be up to States and local school districts, so I asked 
her the next logical question: Well, if President Trump asked you to 
implement his proposal to ban local school districts' and States' 
ability to decide for themselves as to whether they want guns in 
schools, would you support it? She said: I would support whatever he 
did, whatever he asked me to do.
  So on the one hand, she says it should be up to States and local 
school districts whether they have guns in the classroom, and then on 
the other hand, she says that she would support a Federal prohibition 
on gun-free school zones. You can't have it both ways.
  Much of the outpouring of opposition from Connecticut is due to the 
answer she gave to that question.
  Parents in Sandy Hook, CT, can't understand--can't understand--how a 
Secretary of Education could think that putting guns in our schools 
would make our schools safer. This idea the right has--and the folks 
the DeVos family hang around with--that if you just load up our 
communities with guns, it will guarantee that the good guys will 
eventually shoot the bad guys has no basis in evidence. Routinely, guns 
that the good guys have to protect against the bad guys get used to 
shoot the good guys, and even when guns are around when bad stuff goes 
down, they don't get used to shoot the bad guys. Parents and teachers 
in this country are freaked out that we would have a Secretary of 
Education who would promote arming our schools.
  Although at the end of that short back-and-forth between Mrs. DeVos 
and me, she did admit that kids getting killed in schools was a bad 
thing, suggesting that schools need to be armed in order to protect 
against wild animal attacks doesn't suggest that is on the top of your 
  How deeply offensive that answer was to families like those in Sandy 
Hook who have gone through these tragedies and who know that the answer 
is not to

[[Page S786]]

arm principals and administrators and teachers with high-powered 
weapons so they can engage in a shootout inside a school.
  Even that school in Wyoming that she referenced noted within 24 hours 
that they didn't feel like they needed a gun to protect against grizzly 
bears. They had a fence and they had bear spray and that was good 
  I admit, she has gotten probably a little bit too much grief for that 
particular answer, but it capped off her performance in that hearing 
that was disqualifying; that showed a lack of interest in protecting 
vulnerable kids--poor kids, Black kids, Hispanic kids, disabled kids; 
showed a stunning unfamiliarity with the laws that govern education; 
demonstrated an enthusiasm for market-based principles in public 
education that simply don't work; showed a disregard for the danger of 
profit motivation driving decisions in education; and uncovered some 
incredibly dangerous positions that we had not previously known about, 
like her enthusiasm for putting guns in schools. That is why 13,000 
people in my little State of Connecticut sent letters and emails and 
made phone calls in opposition to her nomination.
  I had a really nice meeting with Mrs. DeVos in my office. I concede 
that she could have spent her money and her time--she has a lot of 
money--on something other than trying to make schools better.
  So I give her credit. I give her a lot of credit for the fact that 
she spent much of her fortune and put a lot of time into making kids' 
education better. But that is not a qualification alone. Being rich and 
spending your money for a good cause doesn't automatically qualify you 
to be in the Cabinet.
  Despite those good intentions, over and over again, Mrs. DeVos has 
shown she is willing, with her time and money and with her advocacy, to 
make good on her belief that public schools are a dead end, to empty 
out our public schools of money and students, to use taxpayer funds to 
enrich for-profit investors, and to leave behind millions and millions 
of vulnerable kids who need a champion in the Department of Education.
  Public schools were not a dead end for me. Public schools were not a 
dead end for my parents. Public schools were not a dead end for my 
wife. I am sure, having only watched my kids progress through second 
grade and pre-K, that public schools will not be a dead end for my 
children. But to have a Secretary of Education who doesn't believe the 
public schools that are going to be under her charge can lead to 
results for our kids like they have for generations is unacceptable. It 
is why this body in a bipartisan way should rise up and say no to her 
nomination and ask this President to appoint someone who is going to be 
a daily champion of our public schools and not use the Department of 
Education to undermine them.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, this morning and throughout the night, 
the Senate has been considering the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be the 
next Secretary of Education. My colleagues have come down here to the 
floor, and I appreciate my colleague, who just completed his comments, 
for his knowledge and his insights on public education and his passion 
for a system of education that provides opportunity to every child in 
  We are down here speaking through the night to raise the issue of why 
the nominee for Secretary of Education is so completely inappropriate. 
We see the passion that has arisen across America, ordinary citizens 
calling us up on the phone, inundating our phones, thousands of phone 
calls--I had more phone calls in a single day than I normally get in a 
couple of weeks--inundating us with thousands of emails and letters.
  Why is there so much public passion about this nomination? The short 
answer is that public education is a cherished institution in the 
United States of America. Public schools are a vital pathway through 
which our children have the opportunity to gain the knowledge that 
allows them to thrive in our society. We don't want to see that system 
of public education, that gateway for a successful life, destroyed by 
Betsy DeVos. That is why the American people are sending us so many 
letters and emails and making so many phone calls--because Betsy DeVos 
has no education experience, no public school experience.
  Our students, teachers, communities, and our Nation deserve 
leadership that does have public education experience, someone who does 
have a passion for the success of every child, not someone who is 
simply dedicated to trying to tear down public schools so she can run 
private profit institutions and put money in the bank.
  What do we really care about in the United States of America? Do we 
care about the education of our children or about an entrepreneur 
hijacking the public education system for personal profit? That is why 
the citizens of this country are so outraged by this nomination and 
outraged that Senators on this floor are planning to vote for her later 
  I had the chance to go to school starting in first grade down in 
Roseburg, OR. Roseburg is a timber town. My mother showed me the path 
that was somewhere between a quarter of a mile and half a mile long. I 
walked that path over to the first grade school. It had classrooms that 
did not have hallways; they opened to the outside. The school ground 
was a magical place for me to go in the first grade.
  I still remember vividly Mrs. Matthews. Mrs. Matthews was a very 
stern public school teacher. She had probably about 20 people in her 
classroom, 20 little kids. She was determined that by the end of the 
first grade, we would all read at the third grade level. That was her 
mission in life. And we would do math at the third grade level. Thus, 
every moment in that classroom we were working.
  She was a senior teacher. I thought of her as quite old at the time. 
I don't know if she was in her fifties or sixties. Suddenly that age 
doesn't seem so old to me now. She was very experienced, and she had 
her system of working with little kids. She would divide us into groups 
of about four to five kids, and we would work in different clusters 
around the schoolroom. She would travel from one cluster to another 
keeping us on track, making sure we were progressing as we were reading 
to each other, as we were doing our math problems. By the end of the 
school year, everybody read at the third-grade level. We were afraid of 
Mrs. Matthews because she was a very stern teacher, but we all thrived 
in that classroom because we had a person dedicated to the success of 
  One of the things that helped Mrs. Matthews was that there were 20 
students in her classroom. When I went to my son's first grade 
classroom, there were 34 kids in that classroom. I don't know that Mrs. 
Matthews' strategy could have worked with 34 children. I don't know if 
she could have taken 34 kids and gotten them to the third grade level 
at the end of first grade.
  It is unfortunate that we are not providing for our children the same 
quality of education that our parents provided for us. Yet we are 
living in a knowledge economy world where public education is much more 
important today for success than it was a generation ago. So it is more 
important, but we are funding it less. Certainly we have growing 
national wealth. Why aren't we making the investment in our public 
  Along comes Betsy DeVos, who says: Here is an economic opportunity 
for me to make even more money and convert these public schools to 
private schools, private for-profit schools. That bothers me an 
enormous amount because I want to see the resources not go into the 
bank accounts of wealthy, ambitious entrepreneurs; I want to see those 
resources go into our public classrooms, which, quite frankly, don't 
have enough resources as it is.
  For first grade, I went up to Portland. My family moved with the 
timber economy. The mill shut down outside of Roseburg, OR. We had been 
in Roseburg through first grade. By second grade, my father had taken a 
job as a mechanic up in Portland. We moved to the public schools of 
Portland and the following year bought a

[[Page S787]]

house outside of Portland and moved to the David Douglas High School 
system, where I was from third grade through graduation. That grade 
school and high school system provided the foundation on which I could 
pursue virtually any path I put my mind to.
  Isn't that the goal in America, that every child should have the 
opportunity to pursue their dreams, not to have that opportunity cut 
short by somebody who wants to drain the resources out of our public 
education system?
  When I was in grade school, my father said to me: Son, if you go 
through the doors of that school and you work hard, you can do just 
about anything here in America.
  I thought that was pretty cool because I lived in a blue-collar 
community. I knew there were fabulously more affluent communities in 
different parts of Portland, and our community was not one of them. We 
were a working-class community. The idea that if I went through those 
doors and worked hard, I could pursue just about anything was a really 
cool notion. It gave me a lot of pride in the United States of America, 
and it gave me a lot of pride in my parents' generation that they were 
providing public schools to enable every child to have this opportunity 
to thrive.
  That is what we want to have--not a system for the elite, not a 
system in which the rich get their education over here and they are 
therefore destined to seize the best jobs in society and generationally 
build wealth upon wealth upon wealth while the rest of our Nation is 
left out in the cold--no, a system where every child has the 
opportunity to thrive. That is the great foundation for a nation that 
says we are going to dedicate our resources so that all families are 
lifted up. But that is not the vision of Betsy DeVos. That is why I am 
on the floor today at 5 a.m. speaking about my concerns about her 
nomination and what it represents for public schools.
  We need, plain and simple, an Education Secretary who actually has 
experience with public education. Betsy DeVos has none. She did not 
attend public school. She did not send her children to a public school. 
She did not volunteer in a public school. She did not get a degree and 
teach in a public school. I don't know if she has ever set foot in a 
public school.
  The process--the journey of becoming a teacher--is one that requires 
substantial education so you are prepared to convey and to find the 
pathway with which children can learn, absorb knowledge, move forward, 
and be inspired. But Betsy DeVos likes the idea of schools in which 
there is no accountability for the preparation of the teachers.
  Why undermine the success of our children for personal profit? For a 
moment, think about the type of backgrounds previous Secretaries of 
Education have had. They have been prepared to understand our school 
systems and issues before, here in America.
  John King was our 10th U.S. Secretary of Education from March of 2016 
through January of 2017, just recently. He had a J.D. and a Doctor of 
Education from Columbia University. He taught in the Massachusetts 
school system. He had been Commissioner of Education in the State of 
New York from June 2011 until January 2015. He had been the Deputy 
Secretary of Education for a little more than a year. He had a lifetime 
of study about our public education system, a lifetime of dedication to 
that system, a lifetime of experience in that system brought to bear to 
make that system work for our children.
  How about Arne Duncan, who preceded him? He was the ninth U.S. 
Secretary of Education, serving from the time President Obama came into 
the office through December 2015. Arne Duncan graduated from college 
with a bachelor's degree in sociology. He was deputy chief of staff to 
the Chicago superintendent from 1999 through 2001. He was 
superintendent of Chicago Public Schools for 8 years--or almost 8 
years--from June 2001 to January 2009. He also brought to bear 
substantial, extensive experience and an understanding of the issues 
and how to address them in America.
  Let's go back to a Republican administration and Margaret Spellings, 
our eighth U.S. Secretary of Education, serving for 4 years, from 
January 2005 through January 2009. She worked on the Education Reform 
Commission under Texas Governor William Clements. She was executive 
director for the Texas Association of School Boards.
  We can keep going back and see the type of experience that has been 
brought to bear on this important position. Rod Paige was a son of 
public school educators. Rod Paige was our seventh U.S. Secretary of 
Education. Rod Paige taught at Texas Southern University. He was Dean 
of the College of Education of Texas Southern University. He was a 
trustee of the board of education of the Houston Independent School 
District. He was a superintendent of the Houston Independent School 
District. In other words, as we work backward through his career, he 
was involved in education in one role after another.
  Betsy DeVos has none of that background. She has a background, and 
she certainly has things she knows well and is very good at, but 
education--public education--is not one of them. She was chairwoman of 
the Windquest Group, a private technology and manufacturing investment 
firm. She was a Republican National Committee member for Michigan from 
1992 through 1997. She worked at that point to divert children from our 
public education system and to divert resources from that system.
  Michigan's charter school system, which she has backed, has most of 
them run by private for-profit companies--80 percent, the largest 
percentage of the country--companies driven by making a buck and 
squeezing every dollar out of the system they can rather than squeezing 
every ability into our children.
  Public education being converted into a private profit company is the 
experience that she brings. She likes the idea of those schools having 
no accountability because if you have no accountability, you don't have 
to spend as much money on the kids, and you make more money for 
  That sort of self-serving, for-profit depletion of our public schools 
should not be represented or advocated for by the Secretary of 
  She has other experience. That experience has to do with being very 
involved in one party of the United States--the Republican Party--
serving as the Michigan Republican Party chairwoman from 1996 through 
2000 and 2003 through 2005. Serving as a party chair is different than 
gaining experience in public education.
  She wanted to further press the case to convert public schools over 
to for-profit, a strategy that she was benefiting from so much. She 
worked on a 2000 ballot measure, and the people of Michigan rejected 
it. She also put a lot of money into a PAC but, again, putting money 
into an advocacy group--an advocacy group dedicated to depleting our 
public schools--is not a foundation for running public schools. It is a 
foundation for not running public schools.
  During her confirmation hearing, it became so incredibly evident that 
she knows nothing about public schools. It makes sense that she has no 
background because she didn't attend public schools. It makes sense 
that she didn't learn anything about public schools by teaching; she 
didn't teach. Or volunteering in ones--she didn't volunteer. It makes 
sense that she didn't learn about public schools from her children 
going to public schools because they didn't go to public schools.
  You might have thought for all her dedication to converting our 
public schools over to for-profit schools, she might have learned 
something along the way, but we found out during her confirmation 
hearing that she knows literally nothing about public schools.
  If she knew she was going to have a confirmation hearing, you would 
think she would have prepared for this experience. One of the major 
questions that we wrestled with in public schools is how to use 
assessment tools and whether they should be used in the context of 
measuring students' growth or students' proficiency and how that 
reflects on the teacher.
  When asked by Senator Franken about her views in this dialogue on 
proficiency versus growth as a tool of measurement, Betsy DeVos said: I 
think if I am understanding your question correctly about proficiency, 
I would also correlate it to competency and mastery so that each 
student is

[[Page S788]]

measured according to the advancement they are making in each subject 
  Franken said: That is growth. That is not proficiency. I am talking 
about the debate between proficiency and growth, and what are your 
thoughts on that?
  She was unable to respond to that question because she was unfamiliar 
with the issue. That is a fundamental debate that is going on as we try 
to make sure that we have accountability in our public schools. Perhaps 
she was not familiar with the issue because she opposes accountability 
in her for-profit operations, because the less you spend on a student, 
the more you can put in the bank.
  That is a very sad point of view--to put profit over people, and 
those people are children. Another major issue in our school system is 
how to address the education of students with disabilities. We have an 
act called IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. She was 
asked by Senator Kaine about IDEA and said that is a matter best left 
to the States.
  Her response worries educators and those with disabled family members 
because before IDEA passed in 1975--so it has been with us for 42 years 
now--only one in five students with disabilities received a public 
  I will put it differently. Four out of five or 80 percent of students 
with disabilities were left out in the cold. They didn't get the 
benefit of a public education. Our goal from 1975 forward as a nation 
has been to make sure students with disabilities also receive the best 
education that their circumstances enable them to have.
  Before 1975, many States had laws on the books that specifically 
excluded disabled students. That began to change with a series of court 
cases and the eventual passage of IDEA, a vision in which we said: 
Let's embrace our students with disabilities and give them a pathway to 
the maximum opportunity they might be able to have in life.
  IDEA gives such students the right to a free and appropriate public 
education. That is the wording of the law--free and public education, 
and the right that this education should take place in ``the least 
restrictive environment'' possible.
  A right to free and appropriate public education and that it should 
take place in the least restrictive environment has meant so much to 
millions of our students who have some disability in life because we 
haven't said to them we are setting you aside. We have said: We are 
going to empower you to seize all the opportunities you can possibly 
seize by making sure you have an education, an appropriate education in 
the least restrictive environment.
  When Betsy DeVos responded to the issue about IDEA and said it is a 
matter best left to the States, people across the Nation envisioned how 
States used to operate, which they basically said: Disabled child, 
there is no pathway to a successful life.
  That is not the way we should treat our children with disabilities.
  To facilitate these rights, each student under IDEA receives an 
individualized education program, referred to as an IEP, a legal 
document that lays out how public education will be tailored to their 
needs. Once a year, the family, the student, the school officials, and 
experts gather around a table to update the IEP, the individualized 
education program, for that particular student, based on that student's 
abilities and disabilities.
  The IEP lays out the accommodations the student may get in the 
classroom and any related services the school will pay for, such as 
occupational therapy or speech pathology and services. IEP can even be 
used to pay for certain kinds of private school education in the event 
a family requests it and the IEP determines that it is in the best 
interests of the child.
  Betsy DeVos would throw all this out the window and say: Let's not as 
a nation guarantee an opportunity for these children. Let's not require 
accountability for our States to provide an education to these 
children. Let's not provide a pathway. Let's leave it to a State. Maybe 
they will get an opportunity, maybe not, and that is OK with her.
  It is not OK with me. It is not OK to the parents of the thousands of 
children who wrestle with a disability in my home State of Oregon. It 
is not OK to the parents across this Nation that their children be 
tossed aside in the vision of Betsy DeVos.
  Betsy DeVos had little constructive or helpful things to say on how 
she would protect students in our schools and on college campuses if 
she became Secretary of Education. Sexual assault on campuses is a very 
significant issue. It is estimated that roughly one-fifth of women on 
campuses are victimized by sexual assault, and many of them know the 
offender; that of every 1,000 women attending a college or university, 
there are 35 incidents of rape each academic year. Only a small portion 
of those are reported to law enforcement.

  So Senator Casey asked her if she will commit to maintaining 
President Obama's attempts to curtail sexual assaults, and the answer 
didn't leave confidence with the Senator or the committee that she 
would be dedicated to that issue or understood that issue.
  Senator Murphy asked Betsy DeVos whether guns have a place in and 
around our schools, and again she seemed unfamiliar with the national 
debate. She said: ``I think that is best left for locales and States to 
decide.'' And referring to a school in Wyoming, she said: ``I think 
probably there, I imagine you need a gun in school to protect against 
  Senator Murphy asked whether she would support President Trump's 
proposal to ban gun-free school zones, and she responded that she 
  There are many challenges in the details of this debate, but Betsy 
DeVos didn't seem prepared to understand and be able to articulate 
those issues.
  It remains very clear for many of us all that has occurred in America 
since 2013. There have been 210 school shootings. There were 64 school 
shootings in 2015. In Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT--the Senator 
from Connecticut was speaking during the previous hour--there was an 
assault that killed 20 first grade children and killed 6 adults. And 
this question of how to create a secure environment is one that any 
nominee for public education should have a deep understanding of.
  Betsy DeVos has a questionable history in terms of her interest and 
concern about LGBTQ rights for students, so that is a concern as well.
  She does have this history of this war against public schools in 
Michigan, and if we had a department for a war against public schools, 
maybe she would be the right person to lead it. It would be a mission I 
would disagree with because I am here to tell you that this vision of 
public schools--every child has the opportunity to thrive is a vision 
we have embraced in America and should continue to embrace.
  If we believe in the American dream, if we believe in opportunity for 
all, then we should not have millionaire Senators voting to confirm a 
billionaire Secretary who knows nothing about public education and the 
struggle for education among working Americans and Americans with 
modest means. That is the concern--Senators living in a bubble 
confirming a Secretary who lives in an ultra-rich bubble and knows 
nothing about our public schools.
  We can take a look at some of the schools that Betsy DeVos has 
promoted with her vision of no accountability. Seventy-nine percent of 
Michigan charter schools are located in Detroit. Very few perform in 
the top tier of schools.
  There is a school in Brightmoor, a charter boasting more than a 
decade of abysmal test scores--not good test scores, not outstanding 
test scores, but terrible test scores.
  That school is not alone. Another charter school, Hope Academy--
serving the community around Ground River for 20 years--test scores 
have been among the lowest in the State throughout those two decades. 
In 2013, the school ranked in the first percentile. That means out of 
100 schools, it was the worst. But its charter was renewed under this 
vision of no accountability.
  How about Woodward Academy? It is a charter that has bumped along at 
the bottom of school achievement since 1998, while its operator, 
despite running an abysmal school, a terrible school, was allowed to 
expand and run other schools.
  How about the idea of outstanding schools, not terrible schools? How 
about the idea of resources invested in the success of the school, not 
an entrepreneurial for-profit strategy designed

[[Page S789]]

to squeeze as much money out of that school as you possibly can at the 
expense of our children?
  Stephen Henderson, an editor at the Detroit Free Press, summed up the 
carnage in Michigan--Betsy DeVos's destructive results in Michigan--as 
the following: ``Largely as a result of the DeVos lobbying, Michigan 
tolerates more low-performing charter schools than just about any other 
State, and it lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down or even 
improving failing charters.'' That is a powerful statement, that 
DeVos's assault on public schools--converting them to charters with no 
mechanism for shutting down poorly run charter schools, no mechanism 
for improving failing charter schools--Betsy DeVos's vision of zero 
accountability--producing failing schools--is an assault on the 
opportunity for the success of our children. And it should not be 
entertained, and she should not be within a thousand miles of the 
Department of Education.
  A columnist, an editor with the Detroit Free Press, went on to 
summarize that ``as a result of DeVos's interference and destruction of 
the schools in Michigan, we are a laughingstock in national educational 
circles, and a pariah among reputable charter school operators, who 
have not opened schools in Detroit because of the wild West nature of 
the educational landscape here.''
  Often what we see with this strategy from the very rich who want to 
masquerade as helping our children and challenging communities is what 
they really want: They want the government to pay for their elite 
education in private schools. Take the money out of the public system 
and help the wealthy in America be even wealthier by subsidizing or 
paying for their children to go to elite schools.
  The strategies that Betsy DeVos implements results in this failing 
system in Michigan that has become ``a laughingstock in national 
educational circles, with no accountability for improving the schools, 
and no accountability for shutting them down.''
  If anyone was running a private business with no accountability, that 
business would fail. But when it comes to squeezing money out of the 
public system, there are opportunists who say: Here is something. Don't 
care much about public education, but I sure see an opportunity. I 
smell an opportunity for profit right here. I can squeeze that school, 
and I can make a lot of money.
  That person belongs nowhere near our public education system.
  There are other things that concern folks. In 1983, Betsy DeVos's 
family funded the creation of the Family Research Council. FRC is known 
for its incendiary anti-LGBT agenda. It is known for its promotion of 
junk science, claiming a connection between homosexuality and 
pedophilia. The FRC thanks on its Web site the DeVos and Prince 
families of Michigan for establishing its DC base. And FRC advocates 
for conversion or reparative therapy.
  Well, in all those ways, it sends a message that as the Secretary of 
Education, Betsy DeVos is not going to watch out for LGBTQ students, 
who have plenty of difficulty figuring out life and a pathway to life 
in a world in which they don't necessarily find support in many places. 
And their concern is amplified by her opposition to nondiscrimination 
protections for the LGBTQ community. In fact she has donated hundreds 
of thousands of dollars to defeat marriage equality--an opportunity for 
opportunity in our Nation. Funding these anti-LGBTQ causes is plenty of 
concern for students and their parents across America.
  Well, why is she nominated to be Secretary of Education? I think an 
objective observer would say that she has been a massive donor to the 
party of the President, and that objective observer would be right. 
Some $200 million was donated to the President's party.
  When discussing her contributions in 1997, DeVos said the following: 
``I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are 
buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point.'' She continued: 
``They are right. We do expect something in return.'' She concluded: 
``We expect a return on our investment.'' Well, she is seeking a return 
on her investment by seeking the nomination and receiving the 
nomination to Secretary of Education, but pay-to-play politics has no 
place in our public schools. Let me repeat that once more. Pay-to-play 
politics has no place in our public schools. Our children's education 
is not for sale. That is why we are here tonight on the floor of the 
Senate conveying our passionate dissent against this nomination.
  The Secretaries in the Cabinet--their position--should not be sold to 
the highest political bidder, and certainly one should have a small 
modicum of experience to bring to the post, particularly when it comes 
to the education of our children. Throw on top of that this pay-to-play 
politics. Throw on top of that a determination to destroy our public 
schools and to turn them into for-profit operations for the benefit of 
the rich, to squeeze profits out of these schools that are investing in 
our children, and this person is uniquely unqualified, the most 
unqualified individual to be considered for a post of this nature 
probably in the history of the United States of America.

  I was home in Oregon last week. I attended a rally of folks who 
wanted to share their thoughts about Betsy DeVos's confirmation. CREDO 
helped organize the rally, an organization that fights for progressive 
change, for opportunity for every child, opportunity for every family 
to thrive.
  In a short period of time, 1.4 million Americans had signed the CREDO 
petition for her nomination to be blocked. Just yesterday, I was at a 
rally outside the Russell Senate Office Building, just a few yards from 
here, where hundreds of activists came out to rally against her 
  The phones in my office have been ringing off the hook for weeks, 
with folks calling in opposed to this nomination. We have received 
19,667 letters and emails from constituents--that is the last count--
who are writing in opposition to her nomination--opposition to 
potential confirmation by the Senate.
  These letters, these phone calls, they are coming from teachers and 
administrators, they are coming from parents, they are coming from 
concerned citizens who know what powerful role public education has 
played in the opportunity for our children. Now, this vote today has 
been laid out as something that virtually equally divides the Senate; 
that there may be 50 votes for her nomination, maybe 50 votes against.
  Half of the Senate saying no is a rather spectacular rejection of 
this individual, but we need another Senator. We need a 51st Senator 
who values our children over for-profit destruction of our public 
schools. Is there not one more Senator who will stand up and fight for 
our children here in the Senate?
  We need a Secretary of Education who knows about education policy, a 
Secretary who has experience as a teacher, who has experience as an 
administrator, and who wants to fight for our schools to thrive, not 
for our schools to be exploited, but we don't have that nominee today. 
So that is when this body needs to stand up and say no to the 
President; say, no, Mr. President. We know you were pushed to do this 
because this individual donated massive amounts of money to your party, 
but that is not a qualification for serving as Secretary of Education.
  We need for the Senate to reject this and the principle it 
represents, the principle that experience matters, that the heart for 
our children matters, not how much money you pump into the President's 
party. I think it might be helpful to look at some of the writings that 
have been put forward. Let me read an op-ed from an Oregon paper, the 
Register-Guard, our Eugene paper. This article is by Belicia 
Castellano. She writes the following: After having donated $9.5 million 
to Donald Trump's Presidential campaign, President-Elect Trump selected 
Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education. This decision has been 
widely viewed as controversial. With Trump's decision, it is apparent 
that education policy will focus on the privatization of public 
education. DeVos is not a suitable candidate for this position and much 
more consideration should be taken into who has offered such a 
significant role in our government and society. DeVos would not be 
actively supporting our public schools, and would not commit to 
advocating for only public schools. We need a Secretary of Education 
advocate of all teachers, principals, staff, students, and families 
within different

[[Page S790]]

types of schools. DeVos never worked in a public school and will 
struggle to empathize with public school students and teachers. In 
order to hold the position of Secretary of Education, an individual 
should have a teaching license or have some experience working within 
the field of education.
  I guess that is kind of the point here, is someone should have some 
experience working within the field of education. This Register-Guard 
editorial said:

       The morning after Election Day, a Register-Guard editor 
     asked University of Oregon President Michael Schill what he 
     knew about President-elect Donald Trump's views on higher 
     education. Schill's answer: hardly anything.

  It goes on to say: DeVos is a long-time advocate of charter schools 
and school vouchers, but the Chronicle of Higher Education and other 
publications have turned up few grains of information after sifting 
through her positions on issues affecting colleges and universities. 
DeVos's home State of Michigan has more charter schools run by private 
companies than any other State, she is expected to be friendly to for 
profit colleges. Maybe, maybe not--who knows.
  So the point is that the Secretary of Education should also have 
experience related to higher education. Let me speak a little bit to 
that. Our public K-12 system, which has now become sometimes a 
preschool through community college system, or a K-20 system, has 
expanded vision.
  We have started to understand that just as we said at some point that 
the equivalent of a high school education is essential for a pathway 
for opportunity in our country, so now is the ability for many visions 
of what you will do with your life, to attend school after high school; 
that is, higher education. Now there are many pathways to success 
through apprenticeship programs and other routes that we should 
publicize and honor, many trades that need more people in them, very 
successful pathways to stable family finances, a foundation for raising 
your children.
  But much of our economy does require the experience of gaining a 
higher education through our community and 4-year universities. The 
cost of this pathway has exploded. There was a chart a couple of years 
ago in the New York Times that showed the cost of different products 
over a 10-year period. Over that period, the product that had increased 
the most in price was the cost of a university. University education 
tuition, that was the very top curve. The bottom curve--the things that 
had decreased the most in price--was large flat-screen TVs. Now, you 
don't need a large flat-screen TV to thrive in life, but for many 
opportunities in our economy, you do need a 4-year education at a 
university. So the thing we need, our students need, for many pathways 
had increased the most in price. That cost effectively creates a 
massive barrier. If you are a millionaire or you live in a bubble 
community, a gated community, you don't really see this because parents 
just write a check.
  But in my community, in a blue-collar community, people worry about 
this all the time. Parents worry about whether they can save a little 
money to help their child go to college. Then they look at that savings 
in the context of the cost of college and realize it is not enough and 
that their children will have to take on a lot of debt to be able to 
attend even a public 4-year school.
  So back a couple of years ago, I held a whole series of meetings with 
students on different campuses in Oregon. The students brought balloons 
that said on the balloon what their debt was or their anticipated debt 
would be at the time of their graduation from college. Some of them 
said, $22,000, some said $14,000, but a lot of those balloons said 
$55,000 or $85,000. Some students had gone from undergraduate to 
graduate school, and their numbers started to get to three figures: 
  It is in light of that debt in the higher education system that 
parents start to wonder whether college makes sense because with that 
kind of debt, that is half the price of a home in my community. You can 
buy a two- or three-bedroom house for $250,000 in my community, 
although the price has been going up.
  So you are saddling a child with a debt the size of a home mortgage 
or at least a good portion of a home mortgage. The fear is, what 
happens if you graduate with that debt and you actually can't get a job 
to pay off that debt. That concern has many folks saying to their 
children in middle school and in high school that they are not sure 
their child should follow that pathway.
  When a child hears from their parents that they are not sure that 
pathway makes sense, that affects and reverberates back to the way they 
treat junior high and the way they treat high school because they see 
it as a pathway that has been paved for them by society so they can 
thrive. And if they will be able to afford public education on through 
college, that is more inspiring and more powerful and can persuade a 
person to work hard in junior high and high school than the message 
that, no, it is so expensive we don't think that you are going to be 
successful going that route and it is going to be a trap. That message 
hurts our public schools. But Betsy DeVos has none of this 
understanding, how the high cost of college then reverberates back into 
junior high and high school.
  How about the issue of STEM education--science, technology, 
education, mathematics--and the role that plays in our schools. You 
know, I feel particularly lucky in life. I am the first in my family to 
have gone to college. My mother and father came from very, very modest 
backgrounds. Yet thanks to the economy after World War II, they were 
able to buy a home on my father's blue-collar income. They were able to 
provide a foundation for the family to thrive.
  My father told my sister and me: We didn't go to college, but we hope 
you will. We are saving some money to help that be possible. Even 
though I had no understanding of what college was all about, the 
message from my parents, that they were encouraging my sister and me to 
aspire to that pathway and that they were going to help us, just sent a 
message: It is a feasible pathway.
  So I always assumed, not knowing the details of what college cost or 
what scholarships might be available, I just always assumed it would be 
possible to go. We need a system of higher education in which people 
can afford to go to college without massive debt. What is important to 
understand is this affects not only the opportunity after high school, 
it affects how children feel about schools when they are in school.
  We see this, for example, in the DREAMS Program, where children are 
sponsored from grade school, and they are told: Listen, you have been 
the beneficiary of an individual who is going to pay your college 
expenses and for a program for you to get extra mentoring during your 
K-12 years of school. Those children thrive at a whole different level 
in public schools than the children in an adjacent classroom who don't 
have that sponsor and don't have that vision laid out for them that 
there is an affordable college awaiting them.
  So that is an issue we need to have an advocate for, as Secretary of 
Education, as well as an advocate for our K-12 system, and we don't 
have that in Betsy DeVos. She doesn't bring her personal experience in 
life to bear with that.
  I am going to wrap up my part of this conversation by noting that 
this is a potential turning point in our history. If we hand over the 
reins of our education system to a person who wants to see it as one 
more corporation, one more opportunity for profit, we will destroy a 
system that is the foundation of the American dream, the foundation of 
the vision for every child to thrive. We are a society to make sure 
that the pathway of opportunity is there for each and every child, 
including children who are English language learners, including 
children who have disabilities, including children who come from blue 
collar communities, as I do. Every child. That is the vision we are 
fighting for that is about to be deeply damaged.
  Should the reins of public education be handed over to an individual 
who wants to destroy it?
  That is why I am encouraging our colleagues to search their hearts, 
step aside from party politics and pay-to-play politics, and fight for 
the children of the United States of America.
  Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

[[Page S791]]

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. REED. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. REED. Thank you, Mr. President.
  Mr. President, the nomination of Betsy DeVos has triggered an outcry 
of deep public opposition. It has also inspired an outpouring of 
popular support for public schools.
  Public education is what has made America great. It is at the heart 
of the American dream. Our schools are much more than just a collection 
of classrooms. They are expressions of our communities and our values.
  This is a lesson I learned from my parents. My father was the school 
custodian in a public school. He took tremendous pride in ensuring that 
the school was clean, in good repair, safe, and welcoming to the 
students. He was part of the public school team entrusted with our 
community's children. He, along with the teachers, principals, and 
every staff member at the school were deeply committed to public 
education. We saw that commitment each and every day. He spoke of that 
commitment when he came home in the evening. The teachers would do much 
more than what was asked of them to ensure that students got the best 
opportunities and best education. Everyone in our school was pulling 
for our children. That is the way it should be, and that is the way it 
must be. This was free public education, the hallmark of America, and 
perhaps one of the most important contributions that we have made to 
progress, prosperity, and economic growth, not only here in the United 
States but around the globe. That is what we are talking about today--
the future of public education.
  It is that kind of commitment to public education, going in early, 
working hard--I can remember of course in the wintertime, when the 
storms would rage through Rhode Island, it was not uncommon for my 
father and his colleagues to be out there on a Sunday afternoon, if the 
storm was bad enough, shoveling all night long so that Monday morning 
the school was open for the children, the teachers could get there, and 
the food could be prepared. That is the type of commitment that has 
been evidenced throughout our history when it comes to public 
education. That investment of effort but also of trying to understand 
and trying to improve public education has been at the heart of what we 
have all done.
  Indeed, I believe it is that kind of commitment to public education 
that has caused millions of Americans to speak up about the nomination 
of Betsy DeVos. Teachers, parents, and community members have been 
calling across the country, writing, emailing, urging the Senate to 
reject her nomination. I have received over 12,500 calls and messages 
from Rhode Islanders, an unprecedented negative response to a 
Presidential nominee.
  We are the smallest State in the Union. We have a population of just 
over 1 million people, and we understand that even for the most 
challenging and publicized issues, we rarely get this type of response. 
It is because this nomination touches a nerve. It touches a nerve with 
people who are products of public schools because they honor the 
success of public schools, but it also touches the nerves of people who 
may not have attended public schools because they recognize the value, 
the necessity, the need for good public education. Without it, we can't 
move forward as a nation; without it there is no alternative except 
typically very expensive private arrangements to educate our children.
  Once again, free public education has been a hallmark of this 
country. It might have been one of the most dominant factors in 
ensuring equality. Our country is based on equality--equality before 
the law. But without a good education, how can one be equal? How can 
one understand their rights and use their rights, understand their 
abilities and use their abilities?
  Our constituents all across the country want a champion for public 
education at the helm of the Department of Education. They want someone 
committed to public schools, someone knowledgeable about the Federal 
role in education, and they have determined that Betsy DeVos is not 
that person. Having looked at her record and viewed her performance 
during the confirmation hearings, they are telling us that she is the 
wrong choice to lead the Department of Education, and we should heed 
their pleas. Of the thousands of Rhode Islanders who have contacted me 
to express their opposition to Mrs. DeVos's nomination, I would like to 
share the sentiments of a few who exemplify the deep concerns I am 
  One teacher wrote:

       Mrs. DeVos is not versed on the real concerns of families 
     and their children, and does not know the issues and concerns 
     educators face in our schools. As a teacher in a public 
     school, I believe she is completely unqualified to lead the 
     Department of Education. She does not understand the 
     definition of proficiency and she did not know our children 
     were protected by Federal laws (disability act). As a parent, 
     I do not believe Mrs. DeVos understands the concerns middle 
     income families have regarding their children and their 
     futures. She also does not believe that guns should be kept 
     out of our schools. This proves how out of touch she is with 
     our students, their families and teachers.

  I think many Americans agree with the sentiment that Mrs. DeVos is 
out of touch and out of step with American families. Neither she nor 
the President seems to have much, if any, experience with public 
schools, as students, parents, educators, or administrators.
  Another theme that Rhode Islanders wrote about was the double 
standard of this nomination. One vice principal wrote:

       We as administrators are required to be highly qualified in 
     order to run our schools through an evaluation process. We 
     also require this of our teachers as well. How can we support 
     someone in a position to lead the educational process who is 
     not held to these same standards?

  That is a fair question that neither Mrs. DeVos nor the Trump 
administration has answered.
  But again, it is not purely about her resume. Another theme I heard 
about from many Rhode Islanders is their fear of the empathy gap from 
this administration. Here is an example from a letter written by a 
public school principal:

       [M]y heart is sinking. I have worked as an educator in 
     urban public schools for the past 19 years, as a teacher and, 
     now, as a principal. I was an attorney before I was a 
     teacher--I came to the profession as a second career, by 
     choice, with a passion for righting the inequities our 
     students face. I have worked all of my career with our most 
     needy populations, a group whom I believe also to be our most 
     brilliant, caring, loving, and amazing young people. I feel 
     blessed to get to work with them and their teachers every 
     day. I ache for the things they don't have that other schools 
     have, and for my powerlessness to right that wrong. Betsy 
     DeVos wishes to take on a role with the power to right those 
     wrongs. Yet, she seems unaware that such inequities exist, 
     and is undisturbed by them. She has never worked with young 
     people in schools, much less in public schools, much less in 
     urban schools. She has never been a teacher or an 
     administrator or the parent of a child in a public school. 
     She has never wrestled with the incredible want for 
     resources, the choices we have to make every day, all within 
     a city and state with some of the most prestigious and 
     wealthy schools just a few steps away.

  The realities for our urban students are so vastly different from the 
reality that Betsy DeVos and her contemporaries live in. To hear her 
unable to even comprehend the need for equal access and equal 
opportunity for high quality childcare and post-secondary education was 
painful. To hear her say it would be nice for everyone to have access 
to a college education, but nothing in life is free--she is completely 
unaware of her own privilege, the privilege of her children, and the 
privilege of her family and extended circle, those who have billions of 
dollars, who were born into great wealth, and who have never had to 
struggle economically. That is unacceptable in someone who wishes to 
fill one of the most distinguished offices in our land.
  Our students and teachers and schools need a champion who will work 
tirelessly to reverse the inequities of our educational system--
inequities that I am painfully aware of every day here in Rhode Island. 
It isn't right that some students have football fields, and 1:1 
computers, and huge libraries, and food choices and AP classes and much 
more, while others have no outdoor spaces, little access to technology, 
and crumbling buildings. We cannot allow

[[Page S792]]

that to be who we are. Our families work incredibly hard and want the 
very best for their children. To say, ``everything in life isn't 
free,'' when it has been for Mrs. DeVos's family, is hypocritical and 
mean. We need a champion of equity. Please vote against her 
  This next letter I want to share is from the mother of a special 
needs child. Like many Rhode Islanders, she is distressed by the fact 
that Mrs. DeVos has suggested that a landmark civil rights law should 
be left up to the States. She writes:

       I have grave concerns about the nomination of Betsy DeVos 
     as Secretary of Education. As a parent of a special needs 
     child, it would not be an understatement to say that I was 
     horrified at Ms. DeVos' answers to the questions about the 
     Individuals with Disabilities Education Act during her recent 
     hearing. The one thing we rely on the Department of Education 
     to do is to vigorously enforce and uphold the landmark 
     civil rights law that is IDEA. Without it, our children 
     will fall through the cracks. It is extremely difficult to 
     navigate the system and make sure your child gets the 
     support he or she needs. My son is 20 now so I've been 
     doing it for a long time. I've served on both state and 
     local special ed advisory committees, school committee, 
     taken special ed training, even mentored other parents, 
     and I STILL don't completely understand all of the nuances 
     of the IDEA laws. For someone to be appointed to the 
     highest office in the land in charge of upholding those 
     laws and not be aware of them, is unacceptable. It's too 
     big of a learning curve. Surely there are more qualified 

  Last Congress, we came together to rewrite the No Child Left Behind 
Act. We passed the Every Student Succeeds Act on a strong bipartisan 
vote--85 to 12.
  We moved toward giving States and school districts more flexibility 
in designing their accountability systems, especially regarding how 
they identify and intervene in schools that are struggling to serve 
their students as well. We strengthened transparency, including greater 
transparency about resource equity. We agreed to maintain key Federal 
protections--or, as Senator Murray calls them, ``guard rails''--to 
ensure that we do not return to the days when students, such as 
students with disabilities, English language learners, poor and 
minority students, routinely fell through the cracks.
  For the Every Student Succeeds Act to work, States and school 
districts need a strong partner at the Department of Education--a 
partner who understands how public schools work, a partner who is 
committed to strengthening public schools. Mrs. DeVos is not that 
partner. Her life's work has been to divert taxpayer dollars to fund 
alternatives to public schools.
  Some on the other side of the aisle have argued that private school 
vouchers are no different from Pell grants or GI Bill benefits. This 
claim is another one of those alternative facts that the new 
administration is so fond of.
  Public elementary and secondary education is enshrined in our States' 
constitutions. Attendance is compulsory. Public schools do not charge 
tuition, and they must accept all students.
  Pell grants and GI Bill benefits support postsecondary education, 
which is voluntary. Schools do not have to accept all students, nor are 
students required to attend. Individuals must pay to go to college.
  We do not want a system of elementary and secondary education where 
students and families must pay and schools can choose which students 
they serve. That is not the universal system of public education that 
has made our Nation great.
  Our constituents understand that, which is why we have seen the 
public outcry against this nomination. And with this public outcry, 
they reaffirm our commitment to public education, recognizing that it 
has been the force that has pulled this country forward over 
generations; indeed, generation after generation. With that 
understanding, we have just, in fact, on a bipartisan basis, provided 
more flexibility and more discretion to the Department of Education. We 
need a Secretary who will take that discretion and flexibility in the 
spirit of public education with a fundamental and primary commitment to 
American public education, with a desire to see American public 
education succeed, not fail. We need that type of Secretary. 
Unfortunately, Mrs. DeVos is not that type of Secretary.
  So I urge my colleagues to heed the call of all of our constituents 
in an unprecedented outpouring of messages and phone calls and text 
messages and rallies, and join me in voting no against this nomination.
  With that, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Alexander). Without objection, it is so 
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, we gather on the floor of the Senate at an 
unusually early hour. In fact, the Senate has been in session all 
night. The question before us is the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be 
Secretary of Education. It is possibly the most controversial 
nomination made by our new President Trump.
  This is an office which doesn't usually attract this kind of 
controversy. Former Secretaries of Education have included Arne Duncan, 
who ran the Chicago Public Schools system. He was the first to be 
appointed in the first term of President Obama. Senator Lamar Alexander 
of Tennessee--who is a friend of mine and whom I have served with--
before his service in the Senate, was also the Secretary of Education.
  The choice is usually one that is bipartisan and largely supported by 
not only teachers but parents and administrators and education 
officials from across the United States. In this case, though, we have 
in Betsy DeVos of Michigan a person of some controversy.
  Last Saturday, I spoke to the Illinois Education Association, a group 
of about 150 teachers who had gathered in Springfield, IL. They have 
been my friends for many years. Cinda Klickna, who is the President of 
the organization--we have a relationship that goes back to the days 
when she was a classroom teacher--she now has risen through the ranks 
and heads up one of the major teachers organizations in our State.
  Cinda is a true teacher at heart and really cares for students, cares 
for schools. She has devoted her life to it. She brought together 150 
of her best teachers from around the State, preparing them to become 
more active politically in our State and Nation.
  Naturally, they were tuned into this nomination of Betsy DeVos. They 
have a lot on their minds these days with the selection of the new 
President. Nearly all of them have written me, sent me an email, or 
contacted me personally opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos.
  I have not met Betsy DeVos. We tried to set up our schedules so I 
could, but it didn't work. I take as much blame as necessary for that 
not happening. I have studied her background. I have paid close 
attention to what she has said since she has been nominated and tried 
to understand where she comes from.
  It is true that she is a person of wealth. The Prince family, which 
she was born into, is well known in the Midwest and in Michigan for its 
success in the automotive industry and many other endeavors. Then, she 
married into the DeVoses of Amway, another legendary business, where 
she has been able to accumulate some money.
  There is nothing wrong with that in America. In fact, many people 
aspire to it and reach that goal and are admired for reaching it. It 
doesn't disqualify her for anything in life as far as I am concerned, 
but it does not necessarily qualify her for certain things in life.
  It is not clear to me from her record, when it comes to the field of 
education, that she is prepared to serve this Nation as our next 
Secretary of Education. I don't find in her background qualifications 
for the job that I found when the Presiding Officer was chosen as 
Secretary of Education or when my friend Arne Duncan of Chicago, whom I 
had breakfast with yesterday, was chosen for the same position.
  Ms. DeVos's experience in education is limited to using her family's 
substantial wealth to push for a so-called reform agenda in her home 
State of Michigan. Ms. DeVos has never been a teacher. She has never 
been an administrator. In fact, she has never held any

[[Page S793]]

job in public education. Neither she nor her children have attended 
public school. That is not a disqualification. I attended Catholic 
schools. My children attended both. She has never been a professor or 
college president. She has never had anything to do with college 
financial aid, as I understand it. She has never been involved in a 
loan program--least of all one as large and complex as the Department 
of Education's Direct Loan Program.
  She has never taken out a Federal student loan, nor have her 
children. Admittedly, that is not a requirement to be Secretary of 
Education, to have had any of these experiences, but had she had even 
one or two of these, we could point to real-life experiences which 
would prepare her for this awesome administrative responsibility.
  I think these gaps in her life experience are fair to raise when a 
nominee to be the Nation's top authority in education has shown a lack 
of familiarity with even basic educational policy issues, as Ms. DeVos 
did in her testimony before the Senate HELP Committee.
  She could not articulate the difference between proficiency and 
growth in the context of K-12 accountability. I can tell you that 
Saturday at the Illinois Education Association meeting, everyone in the 
room knew those terms well. They knew the central role they had played 
in the national debate on education since the election of President 
George W. Bush and the creation of No Child Left Behind.
  Ms. DeVos also said in her testimony that States should be able to 
decide whether to enforce the Individuals with Disabilities Education 
Act. She apparently didn't know that IDEA is already a Federal law and 
has been for more than 40 years. As a nominee, Ms. DeVos did not do her 
  Is that the person we want as Secretary of Education? The experience 
Ms. DeVos has is limited to using her considerable wealth in favor of 
an agenda for so-called school choice. Ms. DeVos has spent years 
supporting school vouchers, which funnel taxpayers' money from public 
schools into private schools.
  I am familiar with that model, as it was implemented here in the 
District of Columbia years ago. It actually started with an amendment 
in the Appropriations Committee by a friend of mine. Mike DeWine was 
the Senator from Ohio and offered an amendment to create a voucher 
program in the District of Columbia. It was a surprise because a markup 
of the Senate Appropriations Committee is not usually the place you 
tackle something of that moment, but he offered it, and I offered some 
amendments. The notion behind it was that the District of Columbia 
would provide vouchers for the parents of children so they could choose 
the schools for the kids. They wouldn't be forced to attend public 
schools. They might not attend charter schools. They might choose 
instead to use their voucher to send their kids to a private school.

  I offered three amendments that day in the Appropriations Committee. 
The fate of those amendments told a pretty graphic story about the 
voucher program in the District of Columbia, and it also reflects on 
the candidacy of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education.
  The three amendments were, No. 1, that the teachers in the voucher 
schools had to have college degrees. That to me did not sound like a 
radical idea. Most of us assume that if you are going to teach in a 
school, you have a college diploma. It turns out my amendment was 
rejected with the DC voucher program that day when it was offered. The 
argument was made they needed more flexibility in terms of who would 
teach in these schools. That was worrisome.
  The second amendment I offered said that the schools themselves, the 
students, had to take the same test--achievement test--as students in 
public schools in DC so we could measure one against the other. That 
amendment was also rejected. They wanted to have the right in the so-
called voucher schools to have their own set of tests that they would 
approve, not necessarily the same test as the kids in public schools. 
That amendment failed.
  The third amendment I was sure would pass, but it failed as well. The 
third amendment said the actual school buildings used for DC voucher 
schools had to pass the fire safety code requirements of the District 
of Columbia, and that was defeated too.
  I voted against the DC voucher program for those reasons. I couldn't 
understand how you could push for a voucher program not guaranteeing 
that the teachers had diplomas from colleges, that they had schools in 
safe buildings, and that the students would be tested against the same 
public school test that DC Public School students faced.
  That raised questions in my mind about the true intent and motive of 
those who were pushing voucher schools. Ms. DeVos, in Michigan, has 
been a proponent of voucher schools. She has pushed the expansion of 
charter schools and used her extraordinary wealth to insulate them from 
commonsense oversight and accountability in her State.
  Even as the schools failed to deliver on the promises made to 
children of parents, Ms. DeVos continued to protect them from the same 
accountability standards as public schools. In 2015, a Federal review 
found ``an unreasonably high'' percentage of charter schools on the 
list of Michigan's lowest performing schools.
  Today, for-profit companies operate almost 80 percent of charters in 
Michigan, more than any other State, and are underperforming compared 
to public school counterparts.
  Let me be clear. I believe some charter schools can be effective. I 
have visited so many schools in my State, public schools, Catholic 
schools, charter schools, every imaginable school. I have supported 
high-performing successful charter programs.
  I think about the KIPP program here in the District of Columbia, in 
Chicago, and other places, consistently producing some of the highest 
results, the best results, and the highest standards for students. Is 
there a lesson to be learned from the KIPP model for all schools? Of 
course there is. You have to be blind to ignore it.
  But on average, charter schools don't perform any better than public 
schools--on average. To say that this is a model that we should embrace 
regardless is unfair to students. If we are going to exalt performance 
and results, let's do it in an honest fashion.
  These schools that receive Federal and State taxpayer funding should 
be held accountable, as all schools. Ms. DeVos doesn't agree. Senator 
Tim Kaine from Virginia asked Ms. DeVos at her confirmation hearing if 
she agreed with equal accountability for any K-12 school that receives 
taxpayer funding, whether that school is public, charter, or private. 
She refused to agree, and at one point even said ``no''.
  Ms. DeVos also seems unwilling to acknowledge that many private and 
charter schools are not equipped to support students with disabilities 
and other special needs in the way the public schools are required to 
do. These students, along with many low-income and minority students, 
would certainly be left behind in Ms. DeVos's ideal education world.
  Last year--and the Presiding Officer was a major part of this 
decision--Congress did what seemed unimaginable. We came together and 
passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. ESSA makes important 
improvements to our elementary and secondary education program. It 
requires States to set academic standards, measure student achievement, 
and develop accountability plans for all schools receiving Federal 
  Giving Illinois parents, teachers, and principals a replacement to No 
Child Left Behind was a great bipartisan achievement. I do want to call 
out in a favorable way, my colleague, the Presiding Officer, Senator 
Alexander of Tennessee, and my colleague Senator Murray of the State of 
Washington. They did a great job.
  While ESSA provides more authority to States and local school 
districts, it also included important Federal guardrails to ensure key 
civil rights protections and holds States and school districts 
accountable. Federal rules to carry out that important Federal task are 
now in doubt and in jeopardy.
  I don't have confidence that, as Secretary, Ms. DeVos will 
appropriately carry out the Federal Government's responsibility under 
the law to ensure that all students--regardless of income, race, 
gender, or disability--are achieving.

[[Page S794]]

  For me, it all boils down to this. I do not believe Betsy DeVos will 
keep the promise we made more than 50 years ago when Lyndon Johnson 
signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which 
guaranteed in the United States of America a free and equal quality 
public education to every child.
  I am not going to give up on that promise, which really is a bedrock 
principle of America. There is more work to do, I am sure, but I 
believe we can improve America's public schools.
  Let me also say that I couldn't disagree more with what Ms. DeVos has 
said about guns in schools.
  My colleague Senator Chris Murphy represents the State of 
Connecticut. Both he and Senator Blumenthal have told us many times, in 
heartbreaking and graphic detail, what happened that day at Sandy Hook 
Elementary--what they went through just as observers--what they saw in 
the eyes of the parents who came to realize that their children had 
been killed--brutally killed in the classroom at that elementary 
school. I have had the responsibility to meet with the parents of those 
kids, and to try to make some sense out of a tragedy which is just 
  Ms. DeVos was asked by Senator Murphy about guns in schools. Ms. 
DeVos said she would not commit to opposing efforts to repeal Federal 
law that makes schools gun-free zones. She went on with a hard-to-
explain explanation about grizzly bears and why schools may need guns 
to ward off grizzly bears. That kind of statement is reckless and 
dangerous. We should expect more of someone who wants to be our 
Nation's top education authority.
  I am also concerned when it comes to higher education policy. Betsy 
DeVos has a tendency of siding with corporate and for-profit interests 
over students when it comes to education. Take for-profit colleges as 
an example. Despite years of fraud and abuse by for-profit colleges, 
the extent of which is unparalleled in other sectors of higher 
education, Ms. DeVos does not see the connection between the business 
model of for-profit colleges and these abuses. When she was asked by 
Senator Murray if she believes different types of corporate-controlled 
structures result in different decisions and behaviors by for-profit 
institutions compared to nonprofit institutions, Ms. DeVos simply 
answered: ``No.''
  Even for-profit industry insiders have acknowledged that the business 
model indeed encourages abuse. In a 2015 interview with Deseret News, 
John Murphy, the founder of the University of Phoenix, admitted that 
the company experienced a shift in priorities that led to diminished 
student outcomes when it became a publicly traded company. He says the 
new focus became increasingly the value of the stock--at any cost, 
including ``lowering its admission standards,'' and ``jettisoning the 
academic model'' it had previously relied on. Other companies soon 
followed the University of Phoenix's corporate example. As John Murphy 
said, ``Phoenix was the one that got it rolling, then all the other 
for-profits followed them in.''
  What resulted was an entire industry built on defrauding students and 
fleecing taxpayers. For-profit colleges and universities in America 
today are the most heavily subsidized private for-profit businesses in 
our country. These are not good corporate models. These are crony 
capitalist ventures that have found a way to tap into the Federal 
Treasury at the expense not only of taxpayers but of unwitting students 
and their families. Nearly every major for-profit college has been 
investigated or sued by one or more State or Federal agency for unfair, 
deceptive, and abusive practices.
  The numbers tell the story, and I have told them many times. Some 10 
percent of college students go to for-profit colleges and universities, 
and 20 percent of all the Federal education aid goes to the same 
schools. That is 10 percent of the students and 20 percent of the 
Federal aid. The schools are extraordinarily expensive. And 40 percent 
of all the student loan defaults in America are students from for-
profit colleges and universities.
  Corinthian may be one of the worst and well-known examples, though 
it's not unique. Corinthian, a for-profit college, falsified and 
inflated job placement rates to entice more students to sign up for 
their worthless programs. One of the tricks they used was to pay 
employers to hire their graduates for a couple of months so they could 
count them as successfully off to work after they graduated. It was a 
fraud, and they were caught red-handed. The company's predatory 
practices, once exposed, led to its bankruptcy. But tens of thousands 
of students were left with huge amounts of student debt and a worthless 
  Shame on us in the United States of America for the Department of 
Education's giving the green light to these schools to do business in 
America and to defraud these students, their families, and, ultimately, 
the taxpayers.
  This embarrassing episode at Corinthian led the Department of 
Education to create an interagency task force to coordinate Federal 
oversight efforts of for-profit colleges and a new enforcement unit 
within the Department to investigate allegations against schools 
participating in the Federal title IV program. Unfortunately, at her 
hearing, Ms. DeVos would not commit to maintaining this important 
office, signaling she is ready to take the cops off the beat at the 
Department when it comes to for-profit colleges and universities. I am 
afraid that is consistent with what she has done in Michigan, where she 
leans toward the for-profit model--blind to the fact that many of these 
for-profit schools in her State are worthless. For-profit colleges, the 
most heavily subsidized private entities in America already, have 
friends in high places in Washington.
  We know what happened to their stock prices over the years, as 
students and families realized how terrible they were and stopped 
attending them. Enrollment went down in many of the schools. Guess what 
happened the day after President Trump was elected? The stocks of for-
profit colleges and universities started to rise again. They saw new 
opportunities. They were going to get a Department of Education that 
would stop enforcing the law to stop the fraud that they have been 
guilty of.
  At her hearing Ms. DeVos gave us no hope for any different outcome. 
We know from recent data released by the Obama Department of Education 
that many for-profit colleges actually receive nearly 100 percent of 
their revenue from Federal taxpayers in the form of title IV funds, 
Department of Defense tuition assistance, and Department of Veterans 
Affairs GI bill. I don't know how a good business-oriented Republican 
could overlook the fact that these so-called for-profit schools are 
thinly veneered operations, gleaning every available Federal tax dollar 
to keep their schools open. Annually, they take in nearly $25 billion 
in title IV Federal funds alone.

  The Department has a responsibility to ensure that taxpayer funding 
isn't wasted by enriching investors and executives at institutions that 
prey on students and don't deliver on their promises. In keeping with 
that responsibility, the Obama administration created new Federal 
regulations to ensure that career training programs are meeting the 
statutory requirement and that they prepare students for gainful 
employment. The gainful employment rule cuts off title IV funding for 
programs where graduates' ratio of student debt to earnings is too 
high. In other words, if they sink these students deeply in debt and 
they can't end up with a job that is worth at least as much as they 
need to earn to pay off their debt, then something is wrong with the 
  Ms. DeVos would not commit to maintaining this protection for 
students and taxpayers. Proactive oversight and enforcement is one 
thing, but when fraud and abuse do occur, Ms. DeVos would not even 
commit to make it right by the students harmed. She refused to say that 
she would ensure defrauded students received the Federal student loan 
discharges to which they are entitled under the law.
  Maybe this shouldn't surprise us. For one, Ms. DeVos's would-be boss, 
the President of the United States, Donald Trump, operated his own for-
profit college that defrauded students. And as it turns out, Ms. DeVos, 
a billionaire, has financial connections to the for-profit college 
industry. She has disclosed investments with several entities linked to 
for-profit colleges, including Apollo Investment Corporation, which is 
connected to one of the organizations that

[[Page S795]]

just bought the University of Phoenix. Apollo invests in another for-
profit college chain that has several programs that are in danger of 
losing Federal funding because of the gainful employment rule. These 
colleges also happen to be accredited by the Accrediting Council for 
Independent Colleges and Schools, or ACICS, which put its stamp of 
approval on the likes of Corinthian, ITT Tech, and the notorious 
Westwood College. Last year, the Obama Education Department revoked 
ACICS' Federal recognition, and the accreditor is now actively suing 
the Department over this decision. Now Ms. DeVos wants to take over the 
Department, and she is supposed to defend against the lawsuit when she 
has a financial interest in the schools that are involved?
  For-profit colleges aren't the only ones who may be given free rein 
to prey on students under a Secretary DeVos. The private student loan 
industry is also licking its chops. A recent Chicago Tribune article 
entitled ``Student Loan Lenders May See Opportunities with Trump in The 
White House'' told the story. It noted that, since the election, stocks 
of major private student loan issuers have also gone up. The article 
quotes a report by financial analyst Bob Napoli that says: ``There 
could be substantial growth potential in the student lending business 
as we believe the Trump administration is likely to reduce government 
involvement in the student lending business.''
  What is government involvement in the student lending business? Well, 
it is an effort to have oversight so that students and their parents 
aren't exploited by student loans. The fear is that with Secretary 
DeVos, that oversight would disappear. This government involvement in 
student lending, which Napoli speaks about, also includes Department of 
Education direct loans, which help millions of low-income and middle-
class students attend college each year with lower interest rates for 
loans. These loans have fixed interest rates, strong consumer 
protection, and flexible repayment. In addition to loans, Federal Pell 
grants provide much needed financial support to thousands of low-income 
students across the country--financial support they don't have to 
  On the other hand, private student loans often have variable interest 
rates that can reach nearly 20 percent, hefty origination fees, few 
consumer protections, and no alternative repayment option. Unlike 
nearly all other private debt, private student loans are not 
dischargeable in bankruptcy. That is a debt they will take to the 
grave. A greater role for private student lenders, without strong new 
protections and oversight by critical agencies like the Consumer 
Financial Protection Bureau, would be a ``sentence to debt'' for many 
college students across our country.
  I have deep concerns about Ms. DeVos's ability to hold this job as 
Secretary of Education. This morning or perhaps early this afternoon, 
we may see history made on the floor of the Senate. It is quite 
possible that the only way Betsy DeVos can become Secretary of 
Education is if the Vice President of the United States will come and 
preside and cast the deciding, tie-breaking vote so that she can become 
a member of President Trump's Cabinet. I understand from news reports 
that this will be the first time in history that someone has had to 
rely on the Vice President's tie-breaking vote to become part of a 
President's Cabinet. Doesn't it say a lot about the controversy 
surrounding Ms. DeVos that it has reached this point, that she has to 
pull out all the stops--literally, all the stops--to become part of the 
  She was asked at one point--I believe by Senator Sanders of Vermont--
how much money she had actually contributed to the Republican Party 
over the years. Was it $200 million or more? She said she just didn't 
know. Well, it is not against the law to contribute money under most 
circumstances. It shouldn't be held against people because many folks 
who receive political appointments are contributors to the President 
who makes the appointments. That is not unusual. It has happened with 
both political parties, but it is seldom a person with such a thin 
resume--and such a big wallet--who is given such an important job. This 
goes too far. For Ms. DeVos to be the Ambassador to Aruba, or wherever 
she might be, that is a good political reward. To be placed in charge 
of the public education system of the United States of America, I 
think, is a step too far.
  I have deep concerns about Ms. DeVos's ability to hold this job and 
her commitment to public education and protecting students from for-
profit interests that seek to exploit them. Like tens of thousands of 
Illinois parents, teachers, and principals who call my office--as well 
as national education civil rights organizations--I oppose Betsy 
DeVos's nomination as Secretary of Education.
  Two of my Republican colleagues have shown extraordinary courage in 
announcing their opposition to Ms. DeVos. I want to salute Senator Lisa 
Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Susan Collins of Maine. I am sure it 
wasn't easy for them to come out publicly against Ms. DeVos. That means 
right now that there are 50 ``no'' votes and 50 ``yes'' votes, by rough 
calculation. We need, at this moment in time, one more Republican to 
stand up and do what is right for America's children and America's 
  Who will it be? Who will join these two women from Alaska and Maine 
and the Democrats in saying to President Trump: We can do better. To my 
Republican colleagues, I say: Parents, students, teachers in your 
States are counting on you to stop this dangerous nomination. Please 
don't let them down.
  I would also like to note some excerpts from mail I have received 
about Ms. DeVos's nomination from my home State of Illinois. Hannah is 
a graduate student at the University of Illinois in a K-12 librarian 
program. She writes:

       I am a student who benefitted from IDEA. . . . Without this 
     Federal protection it is unlikely that I would be where I am 
     now. [Betsy DeVos] does not share the American value of equal 
     and free education. Confirming her is dangerous and reckless. 
     The children who need help the most will not be helped.

  Barbara, mother of two Chicago public school high school students 

       Please do not support Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. 
     She knows nothing about public education. We need strong 
     support for public education.

  Hanan, a certified and licensed speech language pathologist writes:

       As . . . a Mother with three children who received therapy 
     while two currently do, I beg you to vote no on Betsy DeVos. 
     I am afraid of what will become of my children, as well as my 
     students if therapy services are not provided through the 
     public education system. Many of my student families cannot 
     afford private therapy. They rely on getting their therapy 
     through the school they attend.

  Michelle, a teacher from Chicago writes:

       As an educator myself, I believe Betsy DeVos is unfit to 
     serve as Secretary of Education. Our schools and our children 
     need a leader who supports public education, is qualified and 
     experienced, and does not have conflicts of interest.

  Katie, a school counselor from Chicago writes:

       I fear the impact [Betsy DeVos] will have on the lives of 
     our students. My greatest concern is her sheer lack of 
     understanding of education in the U.S. For myself and my 
     colleagues, many of the questions she was asked during the 
     hearing were topics we share a variety of opinions and could 
     talk about at length. The fact that she answered very few 
     questions, did not know what IDEA is and doesn't even seem to 
     understand the concerns of having guns in schools does not 
     qualify her to be in this position.

  Alejandra, middle schooler from Bellwood, IL. She writes:

       I do not believe that Mrs. DeVos is a suitable choice for 
     the place as Secretary of Education for the United States. 
     One of the many reasons for this is because she lacks 
     experience. Another reason . . . is because she has no plans 
     and the few plans that she does [have] may result in harm to 
     the public school system. I believe that Mrs. DeVos does not 
     understand how public schools function and I also believe 
     that she should be replaced with someone with more knowledge 
     and understanding on this subject. Mrs. DeVos does not 
     understand that public schools have the same impact on 
     students as private schools and should be treated fairly. 
     This affects my community because many cannot afford private 
     school and public schools are their only option. If Mrs. 
     DeVos were to become Secretary [of Education] she would most 
     likely harm the public school system and leave many students 
     without an education.

  From Loves Park, IL, Lisa writes:

       While my own child attended Catholic school, I am opposed 
     to vouchers. I do not complain about paying education taxes. 
     It was my and my husband's decision to send our child to a 
     private school. It was our choice. But as my immigrant 

[[Page S796]]

     often said, one of the things that makes America great is 
     education for all regardless of social class. I want every 
     person as well educated as they can be in grades K-12. For 
     goodness sake, vote No [on DeVos].

  Travis, a principal from Southern Illinois writes:

       As a strong supporter of public education, I ask that you 
     oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the 
     U.S. Department of Education. We must have a secretary who 
     can commit to supporting every student in all public schools, 
     and provide leadership that will help our neighborhood 
     schools succeed. Betsy DeVos' record in education and her 
     performance at the recent confirmation hearing prove she is 
     the wrong candidate for the job. As a principal, I have 
     spoken with teachers, parents, students, and community 
     members who agree that America's future depends on a strong 
     investment in our Nation's public schools.

  Celia from Streamwood, IL, writes:

       [Betsy DeVos] will not do justice to all of our students, 
     because she has no experience with public schools. A lot of 
     school districts outside of the metropolitan area do not have 
     charter schools, which she is a big proponent of.

  Tawnya from Chicago writes:

       I attended public school in rural Illinois. My kids attend 
     public school in Chicago. My husband teaches at a charter 
     school, but you and I both know that not all charter schools 
     are run efficiently . . . and the record of charter schools 
     in Michigan, Mrs. DeVos' home state are proof of that. Mrs. 
     DeVos has absolutely no business making decisions about 
     public schools, having never attended, nor sen[t] children of 
     her own, nor having worked in any capacity there. I am an 
     evangelical, white Christian who votes in every election, and 
     while I might share some of her basic beliefs, I vehemently 
     oppose her nomination for education secretary. Please lean on 
     those who support her to withdraw her name and do what is 
     best for our Nation's children.

  Peggy from Belvidere, IL, writes:

       I am extremely concerned and actually appalled that Betsy 
     DeVos is the nominee for Secretary of Education. I have been 
     in public education my entire life and believe we need to 
     look at the millions that benefit for quality public 
     educators and their dedication. There are wonderful 
     classrooms, but also some systems in need of great 
     improvement, but this candidate is clearly not qualified for, 
     or even interested in giving a second thought to what middle-
     class and poor children may need. Please vote no! Our 
     children deserve better than this! In this uncertain time, 
     please stand up for our kids' and educators!

  When I went back to Springfield, IL, I asked the local office there 
what kind of telephone calls we have been receiving this past week. 
They showed me the results from Wednesday, approximately 600 calls 
voting no on Betsy DeVos, 3 yes.
  Sarah from Hyde Park writes to me:

       Mrs. DeVos would single-handedly decimate our public 
     education system if she were ever confirmed. Her plan to 
     privatize education would deprive students from a good public 
     education, while helping students from wealthy families get 
     another leg up. It would deprive teachers of a decent salary, 
     and it would make it harder for parents to get a good 
     education for their kids. Public education has lifted 
     millions out of poverty, has put millions in good paying 
     jobs, and has been the launching pad for people who went on 
     to cure disease and to create inventions that have changed 
     our society for the better. I have a daughter who will be 
     starting kindergarten in Chicago's public schools this fall. 
     Please do the right thing for her and millions of other 
     Illinois children who depend on public schools and who will 
     be negatively affected by Mrs. DeVos's confirmation.

  Dr. Kranti Dasgupta, a doctor from the City of Chicago writes:

       Not only do ethical concerns exist regarding [DeVos'] 
     conflicts of interest but I am also appalled at how 
     unqualified she is to lead this country in such an important 
     arena. As a family medicine physician, I have worked and 
     trained in some of the poorest neighborhoods [in Chicago]. I 
     have seen firsthand how behind many of these children are 
     compared to their more affluent peers. I strongly believe [a] 
     voucher program would further this education gap by taking 
     money away from public schools that need it the most. Without 
     a solid education, there is little chance for many of those 
     children to lift themselves out of their socioeconomic 
     situation. I implore you to consider the well-being of these 
     children and give them a better chance to be productive 
     citizens of Illinois. Please cast your vote against Betsy 
     DeVos for Secretary of Education.

  I have a message from Daniel from the Ukrainian Village; Michelle 
from Bolingbrook; Kristi, a mother of two from the Rogers Park area of 
Chicago; Crystal from the city of Pekin; and Kristin from Naperville, 
  Daniel from the Ukrainian Village area of Chicago:

       As the proud uncle of a wonderful autistic child who is 
     being educated in the public schools, I cannot support 
     someone so [un]qualified to be our educator in chief. 
     Further, as you well know, DeVos has a long and documented 
     record of lavishly supporting causes that are antithetical to 
     the values I--and so many other Americans--hold dear. I hope 
     that you will vote ``no'' on this important nominee.

  Michelle from Bolingbook:

       I have [worked] in Special Education for the past 20 years. 
     [Betsy] DeVos' nomination is frightening to the future of all 
     children. This isn't about politics; but about the lack of 
     qualifications that she brings to this position.

  Kristi, the mother of two from the Rogers Park area of Chicago:

       I feel very strong in the separation of church and state 
     and [Betsy DeVos] does not. She wants to ``advance God's 
     kingdom'' through school reform.

  Crystal from Pekin:

       I am a special educator in central Illinois. I teach a very 
     special population of students with severe and profound 
     disabilities in an all special education school. As an 
     advocate for my students, I urge you to reject the nomination 
     for Betsy DeVos. She is not qualified to make decisions that 
     will affect teachers and students in rural public schools 
     across Illinois.

  Kristin from Naperville:

       DeVos' skillset is commandeering public funding for private 
     education. She was a key player in shaping the Michigan 
     charter school system, which is severely lacking in 
     oversight, demanding little accountability for how tax 
     dollars are spent or how well students are educated. I don't 
     want to see the same thing happen nationally . . . America's 
     students and teachers deserve better than DeVos.

  I ask unanimous consent that this several-page document, which 
includes a list of letters of opposition to the nomination of Betsy 
DeVos, be printed in the Record. There are some 322 letters in 
opposition. To spare the Government Publishing Office, I will not ask 
that all of these letters in their entirety be printed, but it is a 
voluminous list of opposition to Betsy DeVos.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

Letters of Opposition to the Nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of 

       National Women's Law Center; People for the American Way; 
     National Council of Jewish Women; NAACP Legal Defense and 
     Educational Fund, Inc., National Education Association; 
     Americans United for Separation of Church and State; The 
     Leadership Conference; Legal Aid At Work; YouthCare; American 
     Federation of State County and Municipal Employees; OCA--
     Asican Pacific American Advocates; National Urban League; 
     HRC; Feminist Majority Foundation; Tri-Caucus; NASSP; 
     YouthCare; Outright Vermont; National Organization of Women; 
     American Federation of Teachers; AFL-CIO; American Federation 
     of State, County, and Municipal Employees; CLASP; Council of 
     Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA); Council of District 
     of Columbia, Chair of Committee on Education; American 
     Association of People with Disabilities; Autistic Self 
     Advocacy Network; Center for Public Representation; 
     Children's Mental Health Network; Disability Rights Education 
     and Defense Fund; Education Law Center-PA; Judge David L. 
     Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
       Juvenile Law Center; National Council on Independent 
     Living; Pennsylvania APSE; Philadelphia HUNE, Inc.; Public 
     Interest Law Center; Southern Poverty Law Center; The Arc of 
     Philadelphia; Transition Consults; Disability Rights 
     Education & Defense Fund; Education Trust; Alabama 
     Association of Elementary School Administrators; American 
     Civil Liberties Union; Americans for Democratic Action (ADA); 
     Americans for Financial Reform; Center for American Progress; 
     Citizens for Effective Schools; Clearinghouse on Women's 
     Issues; Directions for Youth & Families; Easterseals; 
     Educators Rising; Equality Federation; Generation Progress; 
     Hawaii Elementary and Middle Schools Administrators 
     Association; Higher Ed, Not Debt; Indiana Association of 
     School Principals; Kappa Delta Pi; Kentucky Association of 
     Elementary School Principals/KASA; Know Your IX; League of 
     United Latin American Citizens; Maryellen Armour, LICSW; 
     Massachusetts Elementary School Principals' Association; 
     Minnesota Elementary School Principals Association; National 
     Alliance of Black School Educators; National Association of 
     Elementary School Principals; National Association of 
     Secondary School Principals; National Council of Teachers of 
       National PTA; Nebraska Association of Elementary School 
     Principals/NCSA; Oasis Youth Center; Ohio Association of 
     Elementary School Administrators; Oklahoma Association of 
     Elementary School Principals/CCOSA; PolicyLink; Rhode Island 
     Association of School Principals; Sacramento LGBT Community 
     Center; School Administrators Association of New York State; 
     Secular Coalition for America; South Dakota Association of 
     Elementary School Principals/SASD; TASH; Teach Plus; TESOL 
     International Association; Texas Elementary Principals &

[[Page S797]]

     Supervisors Association; The American Federation of State, 
     County, and Municipal Organizations; Utah Association of 
     Elementary School Principals; Vermont Principals' 
     Association; Virginia Association of Elementary School 
     Principals; West Virginia Association of Elementary and 
     Middle School Principals; Wyoming Association of Elementary & 
     Middle School Principals; Young Invincibles; 284 Professors 
     across the country; LCCR; The Leadership Conference on Civil 
     and Human Rights; The Advocacy Institute; African American 
     Ministers In Action (AAMIA); All Our Children National 
     Network; American Association of University Women (AAUW); 
     American Atheists; American Dance Therapy Association; The 
     American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 
     (AFSCME); American Friends Service Committee; Americans for 
     Religious Liberty; Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, 
     AFL-CIO (APALA); Black Women's Blueprint; The Center for 
     Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA's Civil Rights Project; Center 
     for Law and Education; Center for Law and Social Policy 
     (CLASP); CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers.
       Champion Women; Children's Defense Fund; Communications 
     Workers of America; Council of Administrators of Special 
     Education; CREDO; Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and 
     Mentoring (DREAM); Equal Justice Society; Equal Rights 
     Advocates; Family Equality Council; Four Freedoms Forum; 
     Franciscan Action Network; GLSEN; Harriet Tubman Collective; 
     Healthy Teen Network; Helping Educate to Advance the Rights 
     of the Deaf (HEARD); Hispanic Federation; Immigration 
     Equality Action Fund; In Our Own Voices, Inc.; Jewish Women 
     International (JWI); Labor Council for Latin American 
     Advancement; Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; 
     Learning Disabilities Association of America; Legal Aid at 
     Work (formerly Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center); 
     MANA, A National Latina Organization; NAACP; NAACP Legal 
     Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. National Action Network; 
     National Alliance of Black School Educators; National 
     Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE); National 
     Alliance to End Sexual Violence; National Association of 
     Social Workers.
        National Black Justice Coalition; National Center for 
     Transgender Equality; National Coalition Against Domestic 
     Violence; National Council of Asian Pacific Americans 
     (NCAPA); National Council of Gray Panthers Networks; National 
     Council of La Raza; National Council on Educating Black 
     Children; National Employment Law Project; National 
     Immigration Law Center; National Latina Institute for 
     Reproductive Health; National Law Center on Homelessness & 
     Poverty; National Partnership for Women & Families; National 
     Urban League; OCA--Asian Pacific American Advocates; The 
     Opportunity Institute; Parent Advocacy Consortium; Partners 
     for Each and Every Child; People Demanding Action; Poverty & 
     Race Research Action Council; Progressive Congress Action 
     Fund; Project KnuckleHead; Roosevelt Institute; Saving Our 
     Sons & Sisters International; School Social Work Association 
     of America; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC); 
     Stop Sexual Assault in Schools; Students Resisting Trump, a 
     project of Students for Education Reform Action Network; 
     Teaching for Change; The Trevor Project; United Spinal 
     Association; Women Enabled International; Women's 
     Intercultural Network (WIN); World Without Genocide at 
     Mitchell Hamline School of Law; YWCA USA; ADAPT Montana; 
     Advocates for Children of New York.
       ALSO Youth, Inc.; American Federation of Teachers/North 
     Carolina; American Samoa Alliance against Domestic and Sexual 
     Violence; Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic 
     Violence; Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families; 
     Arkansas Coalition Ag; California Down Syndrome Advocacy 
     Coalition; California Foundation for Independent Living 
     Centers; CDCRC Inc.; Center for Pan Asian Community Services, 
     Inc. (CPACS); Chapel Hill-Carrboro Federation of Teachers; 
     Chesapeake Down Syndrome Association; Chicago Coalition for 
     the Homeless; Citizens Against Government Overreach; Citizens 
     for Educational Awareness; Citizens for Public Schools; 
     Coalition for Equal Access for Girls; Collaborative Parent 
     Leadership Action Network; Colorado Coalition Against Sexual 
     Assault; Community 4:12; Community Resources for Independent 
     Living; Connecticut Alliance of School Social Workers; 
     Creative Learning Enterprises, Inc.; Dayle McIntosh Center; 
     Deb Davis Advocacy; Decoding DyslexiaMD.
       Disability Action Center; Disability Policy Consortium of 
     Massachusetts; Education Opportunity Network; Elmhurst Action 
     for a Better Tomorrow; Faculty Senate, Wheelock College; 
     Fannie Lou Hamer Center For Change; Florida Association of 
     School Social Workers; Florida Council Against Sexual 
     Violence; Fort Wayne Urban League; Girls Inc. of Long Island; 
     Grow Your Own Teachers Illinois; Gwinnett Parent Coalition to 
     Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline (Gwinnett SToPP); 
     Illinois Association of School Social Workers; Independent 
     Living Resource Center San Francisco; Indiana Coalition to 
     End Sexual Assault; Institute for Women's Studies and 
     Services, MSU Denver; Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault; 
     Iowa School Social Workers' Association (ISSWA); Jane Doe 
     Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and 
     Domestic Violence; JF STEM Institute; Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian 
     Resource Center; Knoxville Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI); 
     LGBT Center of Raleigh; Los Angeles LGBT Center; Los Angeles 
     Urban League; Loud Voices Together Educational Advocacy 
     Group; Louisiana Association of Special Education 
     Administrators; Louisville Urban League; Made in Durham; 
     Manhattan, Community Board 2; Maryland Multicultural 
     Coalition/State Chapter of NAME; Michigan Alliance for 
     Special Education; Michigan Coalition to End Domestic & 
     Sexual Violence; Michigan NOW; Michigan Unitarian 
     Universalist Social Justice Network; Minneapolis Urban 
     League; Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Minnesota 
     School Social Workers Association; Montana Coalition Against 
     Domestic and Sexual Violence; Mountain State Centers for 
     Independent Living; National Association of Social Workers, 
     CT Chapter; NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault; NCJW 
     Peninsula Section; Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and 
     Domestic Violence; New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; 
     New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault; New York 
     State School Social Work Association; Nollie Jenkins Family 
     Center, Inc.; North Carolina Justice Center; Ohio School 
     Social Work Association; Open Arms Rape Crisis Center & LGBT+ 
     Services; OUT in the High Country; OutReach LGBT Community 
     Center; Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape; Placer 
     Independent Resource Services; Planned Parenthood Keystone; 
     Public Advocates Inc.; R.E.A.C.H. (Resources for Educational 
     Advocacy and Classroom Help); Resource Center; Restorative 
     Schools Vision Project (RSVP); Rich Educational Consulting, 
     LLC; Rockland County Pride Center; Rocky Mountain Victim Law 
       Ruth Ellis Center; Sandy Mislow LLC; SC Coalition Against 
     Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault; SHK Global Health; SKIL 
     Resource Center; Southwest Pennsylvania National Organization 
     for Women; Student Advocacy Inc.; Teachers Unite; The Chicago 
     Urban League; The DC Center for the LGBT Community; The LGBTQ 
     Center of Long Beach; The LOFT LGBT Community Services 
     Center; The Pride Center at Equality Park; The Urban League 
     of Greater Atlanta; Tri-County Independent Living; Urban 
     League of Greater Madison; Urban League of Hampton Roads, 
     Inc.; Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; 
     Voices for Schools; Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual 
     Assault; Women's City Club of New York; 291. Women's Law 
     Project; Wominsport; Youth Justice Coalition; YWCA Allentown; 
     YWCA Aurora; YWCA Binghamton and Broome County, Inc.; YWCA 
     Bradford; YWCA Greater Austin; YWCA Greater Lafayette; YWCA 
     Greater Portland; YWCA Kankakee; YWCA La Crosse; YWCA Mount 
     Desert Island; YWCA National Capital Area; YWCA Northcentral 
     PA; YWCA of Asheville and WNC; YWCA of Kaua`i; YWCA of 
     Rochester and Monroe County.
       YWCA of the Greater Capital Region; YWCA Pierce County; 
     YWCA Princeton; YWCA San Antonio; YWCA South Hampton Roads; 
     YWCA Spokane; YWCA Union County; YWCA Warren; YWCA Yakima; 
     Hundreds of state legislators; Local Progress, 70 local 
     elected officials (mostly school board members); National 
     Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); National 
     Center for Learning Disabilities; Eli Broad.
  Mr. DURBIN. I also want to direct my colleagues--I see my colleague 
on the floor from Connecticut, and I want to yield to him--to a New 
York Times article, which was published on June 28, 2016, entitled ``A 
Sea of Charter Schools in Detroit Leaves Students Adrift,'' by Kate 
  Let me close by saying, this is rare. It is rare that we have a 
nomination for the position of Secretary of Education which has drawn 
such controversy. There were many things that Ms. DeVos could have been 
given as a reward for her loyal support of Republicans and all of the 
things she has done in her life, but to be entrusted with the 
responsibility of running America's public education system at this 
critical moment in our history certainly is not one of them, as far as 
I am concerned.
  We should have taken the time and the President should have taken the 
time to find a person who had the resume, the qualifications, and the 
expertise in education policy for this important responsibility. We owe 
our children nothing less.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut.
  Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am honored to follow my great 
colleague and a champion of education and consumer rights, Senator 
Durbin of Illinois, and to address this body and, most particularly, 
the Presiding Officer, who has contributed so much himself to the cause 
of education. We know, better than anyone, how important the Federal 
commitment to quality education is--not just a C or D education but 
excellence in education.
  The American people deserve a Secretary of Education who embodies and 
exemplifies that commitment to excellence. Unfortunately, the nominee 
before us, Betsy DeVos, fails on every

[[Page S798]]

count to meet that standard. So I am here today to voice my continuing 
concern about this nomination, which is antithetical to the very 
mission of the Department she has been selected to lead.
  She is unquestionably unqualified, unknowledgeable, unprepared for 
this job. She is unfit to run the Department of Education. As hard and 
as unkind as that verdict sounds, we have an obligation to speak truth 
here and speak that truth to power, even when it is the President of 
the United States, even when it is a job as critically important as 
Secretary of Education--especially when it is as important as this job.
  She is wealthy. She is a billionaire. She has committed her career to 
pushing for private school vouchers and unregulated charter schools. 
Having reviewed her full record, including her confirmation hearing and 
her responses and lack of responses to followup questions that my 
colleagues sent to her, I respectfully say to my colleagues: We should 
not approve this person.
  She has committed her career to pushing for private school vouchers 
and unregulated charter schools, not to the public education our 
students deserve. The incoming Secretary of Education will face a 
myriad of challenging and constantly evolving problems that will demand 
a high level of leadership and guidance, from soaring student debt to 
faltering school and student achievement scores across the country, to 
the pervasive school violence and bullying that threatens so many of 
our students, to unscrupulous for-profit schools, profiteering off 
students and veterans.
  Clearly, the problems, these problems and others, require a Secretary 
who will not just rubberstamp or approve the policies of special 
interests or delegate systematic problems to private schools.
  The Secretary of Education is responsible for overseeing a budget of 
Federal spending over $36 billion--that is K-12 education funding--and 
$150 billion in higher education funding each year. In addition, there 
is a portfolio of more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding Federal loans. 
That is the largest consumer debt in this country other than mortgage 
  The leader of this Department is responsible for determining policies 
that affect our neighborhood public schools. She is responsible, if she 
is confirmed, for enforcing key protections under a number of civil 
rights laws designed to ensure every child access to education. This 
job requires a singular level of intellect and energy, preparation, 
devotion to the welfare of students, parents, and, yes, educators and 
teachers. Our educators and teachers are the real heroes of our 
educational system. Our public schoolteachers are second to none in the 
world for their commitment to opening businesses, creating dreams, and 
enabling students to achieve those dreams, and those dreams will be in 
peril if Betsy DeVos is our Secretary of Education because she has 
demonstrated her disrespect for the enterprise of public education.
  From implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, improving education 
quality, protecting Pell Grant Programs, and reducing pervasive student 
debt in higher education, to policing the epidemic of campus sexual 
assault and protecting students' civil rights at schools across the 
country, clearly our Nation's chief education executive needs to be 
immensely qualified--not just questionably qualified--but 
unchallengeably prepared and well versed in these complicated issues.
  The fact is, Mrs. DeVos has no relevant experience as a teacher or as 
a leader of a public school. She has said that neither she nor her 
children have ever received a student loan or a Pell grant. She has no 
direct experience with our public education system that would enable 
her to lead it.
  In addition to her lack of knowledge of higher education public 
schools, she has demonstrated a profound animosity, an antipathy to 
them. She has spent her career systematically privatizing and 
dismantling public schools instead of working to build them and improve 
  For decades, Mrs. DeVos spent millions of her fortune advocating for 
the diversion of public money to unacceptable private schools and 
unaccountable private schools, especially in her home State of 
Michigan. Mrs. DeVos helped to design an ineffective charter school 
system with little accountability for results in Detroit. However, the 
systems that she helped to design and promote actually siphoned money 
from Michigan's already underfunded public school system and caused 
achievement rates there to drastically plummet.
  Despite her rhetoric, school privatization schemes are plagued with 
severe problems. They often strip students with disabilities and their 
families of their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities 
Education Act. This point underscores a fundamental theme for Mrs. 
DeVos's record, indicating how she would pose a threat--in fact, an 
unprecedented danger to students' civil rights across the board.
  When asked during her confirmation hearing about the IDEA, Mrs. DeVos 
admitted that she was ``confused'' and thought that States were best 
positioned to enforce the Federal law. That answer exposed not only her 
lack of knowledge but her lack of caring. Someone who cares about 
students with disabilities would have known that this landmark 
education law depends on Federal enforcement for its effect, and she, 
as Education Secretary, would be the one to do that enforcement.
  Before the passage of the 1975 law that later became the IDEA, when 
decisions about students with disabilities were left to the States, 
only one in five students with disabilities received an education. Does 
she believe that we ought to go back to a time when States were able to 
openly discriminate against students with disabilities, that States 
should be again delegated that responsibility, which they failed to 
enforce effectively?
  Whatever her answer, clearly her blatant disregard for the IDEA 
threatens students with disabilities and already underfunded disability 
  Mrs. DeVos also threatens students' rights and campus safety under 
title IX, including rights that are designed to protect students 
against campus sexual assault and other violence. This issue has 
concerned me. I have held roundtables around the State of Connecticut 
and have submitted a measured bill that would help address this problem 
at the college level. But Mrs. DeVos has advocated for legislation that 
would actually increase the difficulty for victims of sexual assault to 
receive support.
  During her hearing, Mrs. DeVos told Senator Casey, my colleague, that 
she could not commit to continuing the Obama administration's title IX 
guidance that requires schools to have procedures in place to 
investigate and address instances of campus sexual assault or risk 
losing Federal funding. That title IX commitment is at the core of the 
Federal responsibility to protect students against sexual assault. We 
can agree or disagree on the detail, but this blatant disregard for 
title IX responsibilities goes to the essence of her commitment to 
education in this Nation and to protecting students against the scourge 
of sexual assault, which we know is all too pervasive still on many of 
our campuses.
  Even worse, according to tax records, Mrs. DeVos has spent millions 
of dollars funding ultraconservative organizations that promote anti-
choice, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBT policies like conversion therapy. I 
never would have thought that I would be on the floor of the Senate 
considering a candidate who supported anti-LGBT policies or anti-choice 
or anti-Muslim policies. They don't belong in our schools. They 
certainly should not be supported by our Nation's Secretary of 
  On the issue of for-profit education, again, it is a source of great 
concern because it has given rise to so many abusive tactics directed 
often against our veterans. During her Senate hearing, Mrs. DeVos did 
little to allay my concerns about her record as a school choice 
advocate and political donor, averse to protection against the abuses 
of for-profit.
  We know there are for-profit schools and colleges that do great work. 
They contribute vitally, but unfortunately, for-profits also have been 
plagued by abuses that need to be fought and overcome.
  Mrs. DeVos successfully lobbied to expand even failing schools in 
Michigan and to protect those for-profits from scrutiny and oversight. 
This record of enabling for-profits and her own self-dealing in a for-
profit preschool herself does not bode well--that

[[Page S799]]

is an understatement--for the hundreds of thousands of students who 
have been neglected, deceived, and scammed in recent years by predatory 
for-profit college institutions like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech. 
They left in their wake, when they collapsed and failed those students, 
a myriad of tragic stories, tragedies not just for the loss of money 
but for the loss of future opportunities, and that is far from the kind 
of record that we want replicated under our next Secretary of 
  In fact, during her hearing, Senator Murray asked Mrs. DeVos about 17 
specific bad actor for-profit higher education institutions, including 
Corinthian and ITT. They have been accused of using exotic dancers to 
recruit students, falsifying job placement rates, or stealing Federal 
financial aid. Mrs. DeVos would not confirm whether she believes that 
those practices and misuse of taxpayer funds at any of those 17 schools 
are, in fact, unacceptable. She simply would not respond definitively 
to that question.
  The Secretary of Education is responsible for policies that could 
either lift or exacerbate the crushing burden of student debt at those 
for-profit schools. She is the one who could alleviate that burden, yet 
she refused to commit to protecting any current student loan repayment 
options or benefits or even helping severely disabled borrowers receive 
loan discharges that they qualify for.
  She refused to commit to protecting the Pell grant, the Public 
Service Loan Forgiveness Program, or maintaining the existing 
transparency information on the college scorecard or Federal student 
aid data center.
  Mrs. DeVos refused to commit to keep private banks out of the student 
loan system or ensure that taxpayers do not subsidize career education 
programs that consistently leave students with unaffordable mounds of 
debt, without meaningful prospects in the job market.
  Her record and her responses to Senate questioning reveal that 
putting her in charge of the Department of Education would be akin to 
putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. I realize that analogy is 
overused, particularly in this town, where there are so many instances 
of it. But her lack of appropriate, definitive responses are as telling 
and compelling as her answers about her commitment to protecting, 
rather than endangering, the individuals and institutions that will be 
her mission if this body confirms her.
  As a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, I have a 
special interest in protecting our Nation's servicemembers and veterans 
from insidious and pernicious predatory for-profit colleges. It is a 
paramount concern. It ought to be a paramount concern for our Nation 
because all too often, veterans are victims of these predatory for-
profit colleges who lure them even while they are still in the 
military. They lure them with promises and images that create 
expectations never to be fulfilled, and so many veterans emerge from 
these colleges with mounds of debt but no degree.
  Yet Mrs. DeVos refused to say whether she understands that Veterans 
Affairs and Department of Defense student loan and assistance programs 
are even federally funded or whether she would commit to closing the 
90-10 loophole that has enabled colleges to aggressively market and 
mislead many vets.
  We have all spoken on the floor about the need to close that 
loophole. It is the plain vanilla solution that should be a matter of 
consensus, yet Mrs. DeVos refused to commit on that issue.
  She has earned a failing grade for lack of study, complete lack of 
diligence in preparing for her testimony and to lead in higher 
education programs. Her commitment to protect students and veterans 
from massive debt, low-quality education standards and accountability, 
or pernicious for-profit companies and leaders deserves a failing grade 
as well.
  I will not support a nominee who fails to agree that predatory 
practices, exploitation of taxpayers, and deception of students have no 
place in our education system.
  While Mrs. DeVos evaded questions about bringing accountability to 
schools, she also refused to commit to keeping guns out of schools. 
When asked by my colleague Chris Murphy whether guns have any place in 
or around schools, Mrs. DeVos gave the following reply: ``I would 
imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from 
potential grizzlies.''
  That statement has given a lot of amusement to a lot of people around 
the country, but it deals with such an intensely serious subject, that 
it is really no laughing matter. All of us who went through the tragedy 
and grief experienced by those families and loved ones who lost 
children in Sandy Hook, CT, and saw the strength and courage of the 
Newtown community cannot regard with anything but contempt that answer.
  When she was further pressured whether she would support a plan from 
President Trump to ban gun-free school zones, Mrs. DeVos revealed that 
she would support ``whatever the President does.''
  In some ways, that answer is as repugnant as the remark about 
grizzlies, saying she would follow whatever the President does, without 
leading and providing vision and intellectual tools that are necessary 
for the President to act, is an abdication of responsibility.
  These answers are woefully unacceptable.
  We recently observed the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook 
Elementary School shooting. We still remember the 20 beautiful children 
and 6 exceptional educators who were brutally murdered in Newtown.
  The day of the Sandy Hook shooting was the most heartbreaking day of 
all my years in public service. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 
there have been at least 210 school shootings since Sandy Hook. Words 
cannot capture the sense of grief and outrage we must feel in the face 
of continued gun violence around the country--in our schools, malls, 
clubs, churches, public venues, and private homes. This scourge of gun 
violence must be combated, and yet Mrs. DeVos has indicated she is 
impervious to the emotional force of the tragedies arising from gun 
  I want to share a passage from a column written by my friend Erica 
Lafferty, the daughter of Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. Dawn was the heroic 
principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School murdered at the massacre that 
day as she desperately attempted to save her students and staff.

       My mom spent her life preparing to take care of students. 
     She earned a degree in education. She spent years in a 
     classroom, teaching special education for kindergartners and 
     middle-schoolers. By the time she became a principal of Sandy 
     Hook, she knew exactly what elementary schools should be--a 
     happy place for kids where they could learn and grow in a 
     safe environment.
       To claim that she should have done more to take care of her 
     kids is an insult to all that she did, and to the lengths to 
     which so many teachers go to ensure a good and safe learning 
       That Mrs. DeVos thinks ``bears'' when asked about guns in 
     schools proves just how little she has considered the 
     important role of the Education Secretary in keeping students 
     and faculty safe.
       It is insulting to tell teachers that they should add 
     ``sharpshooter'' to their job descriptions. It is absurd to 
     teach students to duck and cover in active shooter drills 
     rather than demanding our legislators do the responsible 
     thing and make it more difficult for dangerous people to get 
     their hands on firearms.

  That is what Betsy DeVos should have said in her hearing when she was 
asked about gun violence in our schools. That is the sense of outrage 
that should have come from her spontaneously, and it should be the 
leadership that she should provide.
  There is nothing more important than keeping our children safe from 
anyone who would do them harm, particularly in a school, which should 
be the safest place in the world, and that means that our Secretary of 
Education must provide leadership, courage, and strength to stand up to 
an administration that fails in its responsibility on the issue of gun 
  The families of Sandy Hook asked us to honor their children and 
family members with action, to make America safer and to make our 
schools safer. I cannot support a nominee who fails to prioritize the 
basic safety of students in our schools or take the scourge of gun 
violence seriously. I cannot support Betsy DeVos because she fails to 
demonstrate basic caring--put aside her lack of knowledge--but a basic 
caring about the fate of students who may be in danger of gun violence 
and equally in danger of failing to achieve the American dream.

[[Page S800]]

  Her responsibility is beyond being a bureaucrat or a placeholder in a 
Federal organization chart. She has a public trust, even as a nominee, 
to show America the importance of public education. Her career is about 
demeaning and detracting from public schools. Her testimony at the 
Senate hearing betrayed a lack of preparing that would disqualify 
students in schools from a passing grade.
  I have received numerous correspondence, letters, and emails about 
this nomination. In fact, 14,000 letters from teachers, concerned 
parents, and citizens expressing outrage at the threat that Mrs. DeVos 
poses to public education, disability rights, and student success. For 
a small State like Connecticut, 14,000 emails and letters is 
unprecedented. It is an outpouring, an uproar that is certainly 
unprecedented in my time in the U.S. Senate and in the memory of staff 
who work here. These letters come from teachers, students, parents, 
really everyone affected by public education.
  I want to close by saluting them and most especially the teachers and 
parents who are so committed to their students.
  Erin, a third grade teacher from Connecticut captured this fear in 
her letter to my office:

       I write this to you as a teacher in despair. After a decade 
     and a half of public service as a teacher, I fear that our 
     basic precepts of our obligation to educate ALL children has 
     come into question.
       I am fearful of what lies ahead for my students if someone 
     like Mrs. DeVos is in charge of our Department of Education. 
     Her lack of experience in public education, her desire to 
     separate and sort our children by their income, academic 
     ability and socioeconomic status, her blatant disregard for 
     students with special needs and our obligations to these 
     students under IDEA--strike panic in the education community.
       One of the best things about being a public school teacher 
     is the challenge and privilege to work with all kinds of 
     students with all kinds of abilities and needs. I have the 
     honor to work in a school that is rooted in the inclusion of 
     all students.
       More than 15% of the students in my school have special 
     needs. We are so proud to provide this group with the 
     services that are specialized just for them to meet their 
     academic, social and emotional needs.
       You see, our work here is not merely about proficiency, it 
     is indeed about growth. We are tasked to help our children 
     grow to their own individual potential--not just meet a 
     mandated standard.
       When I think of some of the beautiful and important 
     achievements that my students make, they are often not about 
     a score on a proficiency test. I think of the autistic 
     student in my class that is working to be able to communicate 
     his wants and need to others.
       When he can play a board game with a peer, that is growth.
       My classroom reflects the tapestry of our American society. 
     I have students of all abilities and needs and we have built 
     a caring classroom community that allows for us all to grow 
     each day.
       I have been highly trained to work with ALL students. I 
     assure that my student's Individualized Education Program 
     goals under the law are being provided for. I seek out and 
     provide resources. I advocate. I accommodate educational 
     programs to meet each child's unique learning needs. I 
       I celebrate the milestones and yes, the growth.
       The public education system as we know it ensures a free 
     and equitable education for all students--regardless of their 
     academic needs, their socioeconomic status, their race, 
     religion or parental involvement.
       Please continue your efforts to convince your fellow 
     Senators that Mrs. DeVos will be a reprehensible choice for 
     our Department of Education.

  Jen, another teacher in Connecticut shared a similar message with me 
in her letter to my office:

       I am a teacher in esteemed Fairfield County, Connecticut--
     but don't let the package fool you. My section of Fairfield 
     County, my very public middle School in Danbury, Connecticut 
     has hosted over 37 nationalities at one time under one roof.
       You see, our public schools are a mirror. Our schools 
     reflect the world as it exists outside our doors. We open 
     them and the world pours in. This is how it works. We offer 
     influence. We set expectations. We administer tests and 
     benchmarks and are tied to terms like ``proficiency'' and 
     ``growth''. Within this academic framework, cultures clash. 
     It's inevitable. Differences abound. And yet, in this sphere 
     of gaps and spaces, we bridge to one another.
       We reach because we have to; there is no option. We see 
     differences and we've learned the inherent power in them. We 
     develop minds of course--but we also develop tolerant 
     citizens who can thrive in a multi-cultural and diverse 
       Vouchers and school choice, as Mrs. DeVos champions, 
     present as an antithesis to these core democratic 
       What is showcased as an opportunity for growth is a thin 
     veil for layered discriminatory practices.
       Vouchers decrease the potential of many to the potential of 
     few. Vouchers are a cousin to segregation, if not a sibling--
     and the consideration of DeVos as secretary undermines, with 
     longevity, the very fabric of a United Nation.
       I was asked to share personal stories and I can--I've seen 
     it all in fifteen years: kids who experience unprecedented 
     success and kids who break your heart in two with the 
     devastation forced upon them. We can't ever know who will 
     triumph, it is impossible to know--we can only keep the 
     playing field as fair and accessible as possible to all.

  Deborah, a fourth grade teacher from Connecticut, was frustrated with 
the conflicts of interest surrounding Mrs. DeVos in her letter to my 

       Mrs. DeVos has a very clear conflict of interest on many 
     levels. Financially, she wants to maintain the $5-25 million 
     dollar investment she has in Neurocore, a biotech company 
     which deals with attention deficit disorder. Her investment 
     in Windquest Group, which backs Neurocare, is a company 
     focused on ``a science and brain-based program that targets 
     children is clearly a conflict. She has presented a clear 
     history of donating to and investing in companies or 
     organizations which affect students.
       As a teacher in a Title I public school, it is essential 
     that the Secretary of Education is equipped to deal with the 
     issues we deal with every day. In my class I routinely deal 
     with issues of poverty, homelessness, underfed students who 
     count on free or reduced meals and extra food sent home 
     weekly for the weekend. Their parents normally work two or 
     three jobs to try to pay the bills. If a student is hungry, 
     they are concerned with where their next meal is coming from, 
     not which genre I'm teaching. This is not a business, it's 
     personal for every student we teach. If students are held to 
     standards which are not realistic, supported, funded, or 
     understood by the federal government then the ability to 
     achieve & thrive as a society will cease to exist.

  Finally, Nancy, a 26 year veteran of teaching and Danbury, CT, 2016 
Teacher of the Year, shared anecdotes of her experiences teaching 
special education students. Here is a passage from her letter:

       Please do not approve a person who has no experience with 
     public education and has no clear understanding about student 
     need or how students learn. This is an extremely important 
     job. We should not take it lightly and just let anyone take 
     that title. Mrs. DeVos' plan for our children will 
     disenfranchise the poor, the disabled and quite honestly, 
     every child in America. Her inaccurate, incomplete and poor 
     answers to questions posed to her by Congress as well as her 
     track record in Michigan where she worked to destroy public 
     education, serve as evidence that she is not qualified for 
     the job. She bought her way to this appointment with huge 
     donations to those who would vote for her. She does not 
     understand that education is not a for-profit business; it is 
     an investment in our most important resource and the future 
     of this country--our children. Betsy DeVos is not the right 
     person to lead education in the United States of America.

  I will finish by saying that I firmly believe we owe our students 
high standards, just as we demand of them high performance, but that 
requires of us a commitment that Betsy DeVos has failed to make. It is 
a commitment to invest more resources in public education, to give back 
and give more to our public schools.
  After observing her testimony, I am convinced she lacks that 
leadership ability or requisite record to serve as the steward of 
public education and to hold that trust that our country desperately 
and urgently needs now, not at some point in the future. That 
commitment is necessary now because every day, every month, every year 
is a lifetime in a student's education. So I will vote against her 
confirmation today, and I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the 
aisle to do the same.
  Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Boozman). The Senator from Maryland.
  Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. President, I will start by thanking my colleague, 
the Senator from Connecticut, for his leadership on public education 
issues and the fight against gun violence. He has been a voice calling 
for commonsense measures to address gun violence and to make our 
schools more safe, and I thank him for all he has done in that regard.
  Yesterday I came to this floor to discuss the risk that Betsy DeVos 
would pose to our public education system for students from 
kindergarten through 12th grade. With her zealous focus on vouchers for 
private schools, she has ignored accountability and the unique needs of 
communities in Maryland and

[[Page S801]]

throughout the Nation. Education is a public trust, and we should not 
contract it out to the highest bidders in various voucher schemes.
  In addition to overseeing support for K-12 education, the Secretary 
of Education is also responsible for Federal efforts in the area of 
higher education. So this morning, I would like to talk a little bit 
about higher education.
  We know very little about the position the new President will take in 
the area of higher education. However, what we do know about his track 
record is very troubling. Based on the testimony of Ms. DeVos and her 
responses to questions for the Record, we can have little confidence 
that she will be a check on President Trump's worst instincts.
  Here is what we know: We know that President Trump's main foray into 
continuing education was the now-extinct Trump University. Make no 
mistake about it, Trump University was a scam. It was a con game. It 
promised students great wealth if they only paid thousands of dollars 
for seminars on Mr. Trump's real estate ``secrets.''
  As Senator Rubio once pointed out not that long ago, ``There are 
people who borrowed $36,000 to go to Trump University, and they are 
suing now--$36,000 to go to a university that is a fake school. And you 
know what they got,'' Senator Rubio asked, ``They got to take a picture 
with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump.''
  Senator Rubio was absolutely right when he made that statement.
  First of all, the word ``university'' in Trump University was totally 
misleading. Trump University was not an accredited institution, but it 
did promise to educate its students in the real estate industry so they 
could become skilled investors.
  An article in the conservative National Review entitled ``Yes, Trump 
University Was a Massive Scam'' explained that prospective students 
were offered a free seminar where they would be pressured to purchase a 
class, where they would be ``mentored by hand-picked real estate 
experts who would use President Trump's own real estate strategies.''
  Of course, Mr. Trump was neither handpicking instructors nor 
developing class materials, and instructors did not even necessarily 
have a real estate background. In a deposition, Mr. Trump could not 
identify a single instructor at Trump University.
  Students were promised access to lenders, improved credit scores, and 
longterm mentoring. The university did not deliver. According to a 
former employee, Trump University ``preyed upon the elderly and 
uneducated to separate them from their money.'' Employees were told to 
rank students based on their liquid assets so they could target them to 
sell more seminars. They took advantage of people.
  Because of its fraudulent practices, Trump University was sued 
multiple times. In February 2016, Mr. Trump dismissed those suits 
saying: ``I could settle it right now for very little money, but I 
don't want to do it out of principle.''
  Right before the class action lawsuit in San Diego was scheduled to 
be heard by a jury, those principles evaporated and Mr. Trump settled 
all the lawsuits for a whopping $25 million, and about 7,000 former 
students were granted a full or partial refund.
  Now, because Trump University was a university in name only and not 
accredited, students attending Trump University were not eligible to 
use Federal student loans or grants--thank goodness. But there are many 
accredited, for-profit colleges and universities that do take large 
sums of money from students who obtain Federal student loans or Federal 
grants, and it is the job of the Secretary of Education to make sure 
that those for-profit colleges are good stewards of those taxpayer 
dollars and that they are giving their students a good education.
  For example, under President Obama's leadership, the Department of 
Education took action against the for-profit Corinthian College for 
fraudulently enticing students to enroll by lying about their job 
placement rates. They told students: You enroll in our programs, and we 
can get you a job. It wasn't true.
  As California's attorney general, our colleague Senator Harris, 
pointed out in her lawsuit, they got more than $1 billion in damages 
and restitution from Corinthian College because they targeted 
vulnerable, low-income populations, including the homeless. They 
directed them to predatory lending and failed to deliver an education 
that could really help them get a job. Their tactics were similar to 
those of Trump University--callously targeting ``prospects they 
perceived as having low self-esteem,'' who were ``unable to see and 
plan well for the future, and those who had few people in their lives 
who cared about them.''
  In order to stop these kinds of abuses, the Department of Education, 
under the Obama administration, put in place something called the 
gainful employment rule, which requires for-profit colleges to 
demonstrate real results for their students in order to continue to 
enroll students who use Federal student loans and grants. We want to 
make sure that students enrolling in those programs have a decent shot 
at success and are not simply being separated from their money, 
including Federal student loans.
  This gainful employment rule is important for protecting both 
students and taxpayers. That is why it was alarming that during her 
hearing, Mrs. DeVos would not commit to enforcing the gainful 
employment rule.
  Our veterans have been among the students who have been most targeted 
by these abusive practices. Just last week, I received a copy of a 
letter that was sent to Senators Alexander and Murray and 
Representatives Fox and Scott from a coalition of veterans 
organizations. I have it here. It is a letter from the Paralyzed 
Veterans of America, the Reserve Officers Association of the United 
States, the National Military Family Association, AMVETS, Blue Star 
Families, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Wounded Warrior Project, and 
Student Veterans of America, all opposing any weakening of the gainful 
employment rule and urging greater, not fewer, consumer protections.
  As they note in this letter, a loophole in what is known as the 90-10 
law, which caps the amount of funding for-profit schools can obtain 
from Federal sources, exempts funds from the Departments of Defense and 
Veterans Affairs. They write: As a result, our Nation's heroes are 
targeted with the most deceptive and aggressive recruiting.

  The letter quotes Holly Petraeus of the U.S. Consumer Financial 
Protection Bureau, who said that some for-profit colleges are motivated 
to view veterans and their families as ``nothing more than dollar signs 
in uniform.''
  The letter further states that ``veterans express anger when they 
discover that the government knew that a career education program had a 
lousy record, but allowed them to waste their time and GI Bill benefits 
enrolled in it.''
  That should make all of us angry. It should make us angry because of 
the service our veterans have performed for our country. It should make 
us angry because it is a waste of taxpayer dollars to have these monies 
spent in institutions that are not providing an education to our 
veterans or other students in the way they advertise.
  Yet Mrs. DeVos provided no assurance--none, none--that she would 
enforce the gainful employment rule that these veterans groups are 
calling to strengthen. She also provided no assurance that she would 
pursue other protections to help our students and veterans. In fact, 
when asked, she pointedly did not make that commitment.
  Taxpayers and students should also be troubled by statements that 
have been made by the Trump team regarding their plans for the Federal 
student loan program. As many people know, the Department of Education 
is responsible for managing a $1 trillion bank of student loans and $30 
billion in Pell grants each year. It is very important that these funds 
be managed in a way that protects the best interests of both students 
and taxpayers, rather than simply fattening the bottom lines of the big 
banks and big lenders.
  In fact, 7 years ago, Congress--the House and the Senate--passed and 
the President signed the bill that ``made important reforms to the 
Federal student loan program.''
  Under the old system, banks distributed Federally guaranteed loans in 
exchange for a subsidy from the Federal Government. In effect, banks 
were paid a premium to be the middleman and

[[Page S802]]

were also insured against most of the risks of the loan with the 
Federal guarantee. In other words, they got a great return and took 
very little risk. In fact, the old system was rigged to provide huge 
returns to banks on certain loans.
  Shortly after I came to Congress, I worked with my colleagues to 
close what was then called the 9.5 percent loophole.
  The way it worked was like this. Written right into the code, some 
banks were able to make loans guaranteed by the government to give them 
a 9.5 percent return, even though students receiving those loans were 
paying a 3.5 percent interest rate. The difference--6 percent--was pure 
profit paid by the taxpayers to the banks for zero risk.
  We were able to close that loophole after a number of years, and then 
in 2010 the Congress and President Obama agreed that we should stop 
using banks as the middlemen in the student loan process. We shifted 
entirely to the direct loan program through the Department of 
Education. That move saved taxpayers $61 billion over a 10-year period, 
and we were able to use the savings to increase support for students to 
make college more affordable. By increasing funding for Pell grants and 
indexing them to new inflation, we were able to expand the income-based 
repayment program so more students could afford college, and we put $10 
million toward deficit reduction.
  The Republican Party platform under President Trump calls for rolling 
back those important reforms and putting student loans back in the 
hands of the big banks. When Senator Murray, the ranking member of the 
Education Committee, asked Mrs. DeVos in a question for the record 
about privatization of the student loan industry, Mrs. DeVos refused to 
rule out a return to the days when the big banks reaped huge profits 
off students and taxpayers while taking very little risk.
  It turns out that Mrs. DeVos may herself have investments that 
represent conflicts of interest for the job of Secretary of Education 
or indicate a preference for privatization within higher education. For 
example, according to her ethics forms, she has an investment in 
Procurement Recovery, Inc., which had a contract with the Department of 
Education for student loan debt collection. The court blocked that 
contract last year and it is currently challenging the decision.
  There is a common thread connecting the approach that both President 
Trump and Mrs. DeVos have taken with respect to both K-12 education and 
higher education; that is, the idea that we should put for-profit 
private interests over the interests of students and taxpayers. As we 
have heard, in Michigan Mrs. DeVos was very instrumental in changing 
Michigan State law in a way that attracted for-profit charter schools 
to the State of Michigan. Those schools have a very sorry record in 
terms of the education they provided to students in Michigan. Now, when 
it comes to higher education, in her hearing she refused to commit to 
enforcing the gainful employment rule, which is designed to protect 
students and taxpayers from the kind of predatory practices engaged in 
by the likes of Trump University. She did not disavow proposals to turn 
the student loan program back over to the big banks.
  We need a Secretary of Education who understands that our education 
system is a public trust and not simply a vehicle that allows for-
profit schools and big banks to make a profit off of these important 
taxpayer investments.
  I wish to say a word, as well, about community colleges. I think all 
of us recognize the really important role that community colleges play 
in our education system. Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to 
attend a meeting of the presidents of Maryland's community colleges. It 
was organized by the Maryland Association of Community Colleges and 
included folks from all over the State. We are fortunate in Maryland 
and around the country to have some terrific community colleges that 
provide associate's degrees and certifications for advanced careers, 2-
year programs for those students who plan to go on to get a 4-year 
education, and continuing education classes for people who want to go 
back to school to learn new skills. Our community colleges are 
particularly important because they are able to work closely with 
employers to identify skills that are in demand and adjust programs to 
prepare students to move directly into the workforce.
  A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to work with my 
colleague, Senator Mikulski, and others, to obtain a Federal grant for 
a consortium of Maryland community colleges to train and prepare 
students in the area of cyber security.
  Cyber security is something that is important to all Americans. We 
are realizing more and more the costs and dangers of hacking, both in 
the government sector as well as the private sector. It is really 
important we build a workforce which has those important skills, and I 
am pleased that Maryland is home to the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort 
Meade, alongside NSA. We need to make sure we have students who have 
those important skills, and community colleges, along with other 
institutions, can help fill that skills gap.
  I also visited the Community College of Baltimore County, where they 
are responding to the need for medical professionals by providing 
training to nurses and other medical assistants. They use something 
called SimMan technology--lifelike mannequins that can simulate medical 
conditions--to help train nurses, emergency medical technicians, and 
physician assistants. I think we would all agree these community 
college programs are a really important block in our education system, 
and we should be supporting those colleges and the students who want to 
  I was pleased that at the hearing, Mrs. DeVos acknowledged the 
importance of community college. Unfortunately, she didn't put forward 
any concrete recommendations about how we can help community colleges 
succeed. That is particularly troubling in light of the fact that if we 
look at previous Republican budgets, especially those coming out of the 
House of Representatives but also those adopted in a Republican-
controlled Senate, they would do great damage to students' ability to 
access community college programs.
  Let's just look at the last budget conference agreement that passed 
from fiscal year 2016. It contains a whopping 35-percent cut to Pell 
grants, which would eliminate all mandatory funding for Pell and 
eliminate another almost $30 billion in discretionary funding. 
Altogether, it is a $117 billion cut over 10 years.
  Nearly 3 million community college students in Maryland and around 
the country depend on Pell grants in order to afford an education. 
Rather than making dramatic cuts to the program, we should listen to 
our community colleges and expand the program to a year-round grant to 
give students greater flexibility to finish their degrees in less time. 
Those are the cuts the Republican budget would make to the Pell Grant 
Program. At the same time, when it comes to the other components of the 
Federal student loan program, the Republican budget would cut so much 
that in order to compensate, we would have to raise student loan rates 
to make up the difference.
  Those troubling positions are on top of a proposal made by the Trump 
team to require colleges to ``risk share'' by taking some 
responsibility for nonrepayment of loans among their students, which 
would have a particularly damaging impact for community colleges. 
Community colleges already operate on very narrow margins. Any cut to 
their budget from risk-sharing would require them to do one of two 
things: increase tuition, making college less affordable, or cutting 
programs, including the kind of program I just talked about that helps 
students build the skills needed in the workforce of today.
  Sam Clovis, a Trump campaign cochair, also said that Mr. Trump would 
reject President Obama's plan for free community college for our 
students. In an interview with the daily online publication Inside 
Higher Ed, Mr. Clovis contended that community college is already 
``damn near free,'' and therefore did not require additional 
assistance. I hope Mr. Clovis will come out to the State of Maryland 
and talk to our students. We work very hard in the State of Maryland to 
keep tuition low at community colleges, but for those who are just 
trying to scrape by, I can assure him that it is not ``damn near 
free.'' I certainly hope Mrs. DeVos does

[[Page S803]]

not share this gross misunderstanding of student needs.
  We heard from Senator Blumenthal, we have heard from others on this 
floor, about the incredible grassroots outpouring of opposition to the 
nomination of Mrs. DeVos. She has drawn opposition from teachers, 
parents, and civil rights organizations. We have seen that groundswell 
overwhelm the phone system here in the United States Senate.
  Maryland's schools, and schools throughout the country, deserve a 
champion in their Secretary of Education. When President Trump and 
congressional Republicans propose plans to cut and divert Federal 
education funding, we need a Secretary of Education who is going to 
fight for public education. Mrs. DeVos is clearly not that person.
  Our Founders understood from the earliest days of this Republic that 
a free public education is a fundamental American value. Free public 
education at neighborhood schools throughout our land has helped make 
America more productive, broaden opportunity, and sustain local 
neighborhood schools and communities. I share my colleagues' deep 
concern that Mrs. DeVos does not appear to share a commitment to that 
American idea. She has devoted much of her adult life and career to 
advancing private education plans that would divert resources from our 
public schools. She has shown a lack of awareness and, in many 
statements, alarming views about our Nation's commitment to equal 
rights for children with disabilities. We cannot retreat from the 
commitment we made as a country, and we cannot return to an era where 
equal rights were just another concern for States to decide on their 
  We also heard, as Senator Blumenthal discussed, flippant statements 
about guns in schools and the safety of our children. We cannot retreat 
from our determination to keep our schools safe and gun-free.
  When President Trump has a history of promoting a sham, for-profit 
Trump University, we need a Secretary of Education who will zealously 
oversee for-profit colleges that receive students with Federal student 
loans and grants. Nothing in her testimony, statements, or responses to 
questions from Senator Murray or others gives me any comfort that Mrs. 
DeVos can be that person.
  Education holds the key to a more prosperous America, a better 
informed electorate, and a society in which the Nation's bounty is more 
fairly shared as more citizens have access to a good education. We 
cannot advance those goals without a strong Secretary of Education. We 
cannot leave this job to just happen on its own. We need somebody who 
is going to fight for those ideals. Unfortunately, the record indicates 
that Mrs. DeVos is not that person.
  I join with my colleagues in opposing the nomination. I hope between 
now and the time of the vote, other Senators will take another look at 
the record because it is important we muster the votes to defeat this 
nomination. We also must show very clearly that we will not accept a 
Department of Education focused more on undermining our commitment to a 
public education than one that is upholding that important American 
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I have been so impressed by the large 
number of Senators who have come to the floor to tell their stories of 
why public education is so personal and important to them and to their 
  I want to thank all of the staff who were here all night long--our 
clerks, pages, people in the cloakrooms--everyone who has given time of 
their own to be here to support us to be able to talk about this 
critical important nomination, the Secretary of Education.
  I think all of my colleagues will agree with me that there has been 
an unprecedented outpouring of concern from across the country about 
this Cabinet nominee. Why is that? Why is it that the Secretary of 
Education has brought such emotion and discussion to this country? For 
a very important reason: Education is a critical part of everyone's 
  The Founders of this country knew that when they determined we in 
this country were going to have a free public education system. Why? 
Because they want to make sure that every citizen had the opportunity 
to read and write and participate in this democracy, a core principle 
to assure that all of us would have a voice in who our President and 
elected officials were so we would understand and be educated and make 
the right decisions.
  That core principle is so important to this country and has allowed 
us for centuries to be the kind of country where we have a middle 
class. People who are born into poverty know there is a school they can 
go to, to learn to read and write and get the skills they need to be a 
participant in our democracy and in our economy. That is what is at 
stake in this nomination. People across the country are writing in, 
calling, holding rallies, talking to their neighbors and friends, and 
letting us know how important this is because they do not want to lose 
that principle. In this nominee who has been sent to us is a threat to 
that very basic core value that so many people believe in, in this 
country; that no matter who you are or where you grow up or how much 
money you have and who your parents are, you will have that public 
education, that public school in your community that you will be able 
to go to.
  I was a school board member before I was a U.S. Senator, before I was 
in the State senate. Those school board meetings were jammed with 
parents who wanted to know what was happening in their schools, who 
would call me at midnight and complain about a school policy and what 
was going on. As a school board member, I had to listen and respond to 
that. People value their schools. They want to know they are there. Our 
schools are the heart of our communities. It is where people from 
different backgrounds who may be fighting with their neighbor across 
the street during the day, show up Friday night to cheer together for 
that football team. It is the center and epicenter of our communities. 
It is the epicenter of our country, and that is what is at stake in 
this nomination.
  People want the Secretary of Education to be a champion for their 
public schools. In this nomination that has been sent to us by the 
President, Betsy DeVos, we have someone who values and speaks out for--
and has used her fortune to fight for--something very different. She 
has denigrated public schools. She says they need to end. She advocates 
giving our young kids a voucher and telling them to find a private 
school, leaving behind kids who can't afford to go hours to another 
school or to pay the extra money the voucher doesn't cover, leaving 
kids in poverty, robbing really critical money from our schools and 
from the kids who would be left behind.
  Yes, our kids want choices. This is not a debate about charter 
schools. Many States, including mine, have charter schools, but the 
difference is, in those States--in my State and many--those charter 
schools are held accountable, just like the public schools so you know 
your child is getting the education they have been promised and that it 
is held accountable to taxpayers. Mrs. DeVos refused in our committee 
to say that those charter schools, those private schools, if they take 
taxpayer dollars--which a voucher is--would be held accountable to the 
taxpayers. To the parents in those communities who showed up at my 
school board meetings to tell what they thought of their schools and 
what we should be doing and had a voice, it would not be accountable to 
them. I find that wrong, as a principle in this country and our 
democracy and what we have fought so hard for. That is why so many 
parents are speaking out. That is why so many Senators have been here 
on the floor. That is why we have been here all night long and will be 
here until noon today during this vote.

  That is what is at stake. In our higher education system, all of us 
know that so many young people today want that ticket to success and 
student loan debt is such an incredibly huge challenge to so many 
people, a barrier to getting the education they need. They want someone 
who is going to head up the Department of Education who understands 
  Betsy DeVos has no experience in higher education, none. And she is 
going to lead the agency and be the voice and be the vision? That is 

[[Page S804]]

parents, students, teachers, community leaders, superintendents, school 
board members, and families across the country have stood up and said 
  This is so close. We are within one vote of sending this nomination 
back and asking the President to send us a nominee who can be supported 
by Members on both sides of the aisle, who can set a vision, who can 
fight for public schools, who can be that champion and that leader who 
sets us apart in the world as a country, who values the core principle 
that every child--no matter who they are or where they live--will get a 
good education.
  The Secretary of Education is not a figurehead. The Secretary of 
Education spends his or her days trying to make the right decision and 
being a champion across the country on issues across the board.
  They oversee the Office for Civil Rights. Last night I had the 
opportunity to listen to Senator Booker speak about the importance of 
their office and what it meant to him and what it means to so many kids 
today to know that there is in this country an agency, the Office for 
Civil Rights, embedded in the Department of Education to assure that 
they will not be denied an education because of the color of their 
  Isn't that a value we all want to continue? That is why people have 
spoken out and written letters and made phone calls and had their 
voices heard. So many parents in this country today want to make sure 
the basic education law that we have fought for for so long, IDEA, 
which assures that students with disabilities get a good education, is 
not put in jeopardy.
  When Mrs. DeVos came to our education committee and was asked about 
this, she had no idea that it was the law of the land. She said to our 
committee: The States can do that.
  Well, no--why is it the law of the land? Why is it a principle of the 
United States of America to assure that no matter where you live, if 
you are someone with a disability, you will get access to an education?
  I listened to Senator Hassan last night talk about her own young son 
and the challenges he has had. He is a bright man, but he is unable to 
speak or move, but he got an education in this country. He can give 
back, and he can participate.
  Disabilities come in all sizes and all different shapes and all 
different forms. I assure you, when you are a parent of a disabled 
child, you are passionate and you want to make sure that your child has 
access to education, and you want a Secretary of Education, the top 
person in this land to be your advocate, too--not someone who doesn't 
know the law, not someone who isn't directing her staff to make sure 
that no matter where you are, if you are a student of disability, you 
get access to public education and are not denied.
  Our country is great because we have these principles. Our country is 
great because we value each individual. Our country is great and will 
continue to be great if we continue to do that, but it will not be 
great if this body gives their imprimatur to a Secretary of Education 
who doesn't value that.
  What does that say to young kids across the country, to parents with 
students of disabilities, to young people in this country living in 
poverty or living in a community or having family issues who wants to 
know that they, too, live in a land of opportunity?
  That is why we have heard from so many parents and so many 
administrators and so many community leaders. This is a core value of 
our country--the ability to know that you can get an education.
  Again, this is not a debate about charter schools. There are charter 
schools in many States. This is a debate about taking as much as $20 
billion from our public education system and using it for vouchers for 
private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers.
  If nothing else, I appeal to my Republican colleagues to think about 
that, to think about the fact that taxpayer dollars will not be held 
accountable under Mrs. DeVos's plans and policies. If you give 
a voucher to a student and they go to a school and they are not 
teaching what they should be, there is nowhere to go for those parents. 
It is their taxpayer dollars, and it is our taxpayer dollars. That is 
why this nominee is so important. That is why so many have stood up on 
our side and two Republicans have stood up and spoken out against this 

  Title IX makes sure that we protect students and makes sure that 
their rights are protected and that women have the opportunity to go 
and get a degree without being challenged or being put down or being a 
victim of sexual harassment. We need a Secretary of Education who knows 
that law and will enforce it so that students across the country know 
there is a champion at the top office in this land who is telling their 
staff to enforce this law and to back up those students. That is what 
this debate is about.
  I heard some of my colleagues on the other side talk about the fact 
that we have a GI bill, which they essentially called in the debate a 
voucher for men and women who served our country to go to higher 
education and likened that to the voucher system they are talking about 
in K-12. That is not equal. That is given to members of our service, 
rightly so, to say: You served our country; we will make sure you get 
an education.
  In our country, we value every student in every community. To give 
them a voucher and say ``Go find a school'' is not a way of providing 
education. Ask any school board member in this country. Ask any parent 
in this country. They want that public education school, that school in 
their community that is valued. They don't want that money taken away 
from that school, and they want every child to know that just as our 
Founders said, a public education will assure that every child has that 
  This is an important debate, and we are very close to the hour when 
we are going to have a vote. It will take only one more courageous 
Republican to say: You know, I have thought about this. I listened to 
her testimony--the short testimony that we had. I have looked at her 
answers to their questions, and I, too, want to send a message to this 
country that the value of public education is critical.
  The President has other people he could send over, a lot of them who 
value education, who have had experience--unlike this candidate--who 
will send a message to this country that, truly, we do value public 
  I hope that in the next few hours we can take pause and have that 
happen. It will not be the end of the world. It will not be the first 
nominee who doesn't get the votes they need in the Senate, but it 
virtually will be a moment in the history of this country where we will 
stand up and are proud to say: Not on our watch; not on our watch. We 
want a head of the Department of Education who actually values 
education for all students, public education for all students.
  I have a colleague behind me who is ready to speak, and I thank him 
for being here this morning. We will yield him the floor. I want to 
say, again, thank you to all the parents, students, family members, 
school officials, community leaders, and so many people who have called 
and written and spoken up. Your voice matters. Your country matters. 
Public education matters. I am so proud to stand with all of you and to 
fight to make sure that this country remembers that and votes right at 
the end of the day.
  I yield to my colleague.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, before I begin my remarks, I want to make 
sure that everyone understands that Senator Murray has been on this 
floor hour after hour for a reason; that is, these nominations are 
enormously important. This one is right at the heart of what families 
and parents and communities want because it deals with education.
  I heard that again this weekend. I had three townhall meetings, 
mostly in rural areas. We had record turnouts. As Senator Murray knows, 
Oregon and Washington have been pounded in the last few weeks with bad 
weather--had to fly all night to get back for this debate. Everybody 
said how important this was because they understand what Betsy DeVos, 
if she is confirmed, would mean for our country.
  I want to start by putting a focus on this issue around what 
Oregonians are particularly concerned about this morning. They are 
concerned, when we talk about education, about boosting our high school 
graduation rates. Parents, teachers, and communities are all

[[Page S805]]

mobilized. I want to start my remarks by saying that I know people 
across the country are concerned about this. We worked very closely 
with Senator Murray and Senator Alexander on this.
  The reason that Oregonians feel so strongly is that we have been 
first in so many areas, for example, protecting our natural treasures, 
but we are not where we want to be in terms of high school graduation 
rates. For communities across Oregon, the business community, 
Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, Independents--you name 
it--it is top priority business for our State to improve high school 
graduation rates. That is because we understand that getting those 
graduation rates up is crucial to making sure that young people can be 
better prepared for their next step, whether that is college, whether 
it is the workforce--anything they want to do.
  I want to start my remarks with respect to the DeVos nomination very 
specifically. I do not believe improving high school graduation rates 
can be built on a foundation of alternative facts. Yet that is what 
Betsy DeVos has been promoting. For example, she recently told the 
Senate that graduation rates at virtual private schools--private 
schools which she has invested in--were almost twice as high as the 
actual graduation rates at those schools.
  She said that at the Nevada Virtual Academy there was a graduation 
rate of 100 percent. The actual graduation rate is 57 percent. She 
claimed that at the Ohio Virtual Academy there was a graduation rate of 
92 percent. The actual rate is 46 percent.
  I think this pretty much qualifies as a set of alternative facts. At 
home, at the kinds of townhall meetings I had this weekend, people 
would probably call them four-Pinocchio falsehoods and ideological 
hocus-pocus. The alternative facts may be the DeVos way, but they 
aren't the Oregon way.
  As I said to Oregonians this weekend--we had teachers and community 
leaders come to these meetings--what we do is operate on something we 
call the Oregon way. The Oregon way is about Democrats and Republicans, 
people of all philosophies. We had great Republican Governors--Tom 
McCall, Mark Hatfield--who also served in this body and were 
independent. We want fresh, practical approaches.
  We focused on our ideas that work, ideas that get results, and we 
focus not on alternative facts but on the truth. What I heard again 
this weekend at home is that we are bringing together teachers in the 
classrooms and parents and community leaders and trying to determine 
what are the key factors in why students are not graduating. At home 
people are asking, how do you get results? What actually is going to 
work in the classroom and at our schools? Educators and principals tell 
me that mentoring programs work. They tell me at home that summer 
learning programs work. They point out the track record of afterschool 
programs, and they have the facts to back them up. These facts aren't 
alternative facts. They are not inflated graduation rates, the way 
Betsy DeVos told the Senate. These are based on actual studies: Studies 
that have shown that youth--especially at-risk youth--with mentors are 
more likely to join extracurricular activities, take on leadership 
roles at school, or volunteer in their communities. Afterschool and 
summer learning programs, again, have very solid track records, 
providing a safe place to learn and keeping low-income and at-risk 
youngsters on a path towards graduation.

  Those same educators have told me in my townhalls that they oppose 
elevating Betsy DeVos to a job with the important responsibility of 
steering the future of our Nation's children. The reason they have 
expressed these views is much like what I have stated to the Senate; 
and that is, that the evidence--not alternative facts but hard 
evidence--doesn't back up many of the judgments Betsy DeVos has made in 
guiding her work in this field.
  In Oregon, citizens--thousands of them--worry that the confirmation 
of Betsy DeVos is going to make it harder to help students succeed in 
the classroom and graduate from high school. This graduation rate for 
us in Oregon--and I am sure we are not alone--takes on a new and 
important urgency because of the changes that were made last year--
bipartisan changes Senators Murray and Alexander made to pass the Every 
Student Succeeds Act. The whole point of this bill was because, of 
course, there was great frustration across the country with No Child 
Left Behind, the predecessor.
  I remember at one point illustrating the frustration with that law. 
We had a wonderful school in rural Oregon with mostly low-income 
youngsters and mostly minority youngsters. They worked like crazy. 
Their parents were very involved. Their teachers rolled up their 
sleeves, and they were doing well at getting their test scores up. At 
one point, we were told they were going to be labeled a failing school, 
because, apparently, for a short period of time, a number of youngsters 
had the flu, and so the attendance rate wasn't what it should be. Those 
were the kinds of stories that illustrated why it was so important to 
fix No Child Left Behind and focus on approaches that work.
  It is my view that what Senator Murray and Senator Alexander did with 
respect to bipartisan leadership was to work for an important bill--
important for the future of students, important for their ability to 
get a job and do what they want in their years ahead. When you have a 
bipartisan bill that the President has signed into law, replacing 
failed education policies, and giving teachers more control over their 
classrooms, you ought to move quickly and boldly to carry out that law. 
That law included a provision that I wrote to help high schools with 
low graduation rates turn around student achievement by putting the 
most disadvantaged students on a path to success. It allows local 
educators--this isn't run by Washington, DC. I am always hearing that 
everybody is talking about having it run from Washington, DC. That is 
not what I voted for. What I voted for--and the majority of Senators 
voted for--was a fresh approach allowing local educators to promote and 
expand programs and policies that actually work in their community. 
They recognized that what works in Coos Bay or Roseburg, OR, may not 
necessarily work in Tallahassee.
  We wrote a bipartisan bill to come up with approaches tailored to 
what local educators want to pursue. Now as we are moving to see this 
law implemented in the States and as schools across the country are 
moving to implementation, it is more important than ever that the 
Senate get this right, that we get it right now, and that we use 
approaches grounded in the facts and grounded in the reality of public 
education. My concern is that--based on Betsy DeVos's record, which I 
have looked at in length--bipartisan work could be undercut by a system 
that has not been shown to improve academic outcomes for students.
  In Detroit, Mrs. DeVos has spent years advocating for a voucher 
system that gives taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools. 
Her efforts have essentially left public schools to do more for their 
students with less of the funding they desperately need. I was on a 
program this morning, a radio program. They were discussing the views 
of various Senators on this. I heard discussion of my colleagues on the 
other side of the aisle describing the fact that they were supportive 
of Mrs. DeVos because they thought her unconventional approaches and 
her fresh ideas were a real advantage in her having this position.
  I don't take a back seat to anybody in terms of being for 
unconventional approaches. I think it would be fair to say that pretty 
much most of my time in public life has been defined by taking 
unconventional approaches. So I welcome new ideas from people who have 
not been involved in government--and ideas that, frankly, are out of 
the box, that are unconventional. But they still have to be based on 
hard evidence that they are going to work.
  We are trying fresh approaches in Medicare, for example. The idea is 
that Medicare today is no longer the Medicare of 1965. It is all about 
chronic disease--cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. A big 
bipartisan group of us here in the Senate have written bipartisan 
legislation to try a very different approach--certainly 
unconventional--but it is grounded on the facts. It is grounded on what 
we know about taking care of folks at home and on the benefits of 
  So that is why I am opposing the DeVos nomination. It is not because 

[[Page S806]]

am hostile to unconventional approaches or fresh faces or people who 
haven't been involved in government--quite the contrary. I probably 
have a bit of a bias for just that. I am opposing the nomination, No. 
1, because of the track record that much of what she has advocated for 
hasn't worked, and, No. 2, when she was challenged on it--such as the 
question of the graduation rates and some of those programs she 
invested in--she inflated the rates. She said they were almost twice as 
high as they actually were. So the country can't afford to allow failed 
policies--particularly as we move to implement the new laws that do not 
suggest a very positive set of opportunities for public schools at the 
local level.
  We have recognized as a nation for years how vital public education 
is to giving children in America the chance to climb the economic 
ladder. It is a bedrock principle of public education that investments 
in public schools and investments where there is a track record of 
fresh ideas that work, rather than ideological approaches where the 
evidence suggests it doesn't work, can serve everyone.
  I cannot support an Education Secretary with a track record that 
flies in the face of the need for our country to make smart investments 
in public schools. I described how the next Education Secretary faces a 
challenging agenda with huge stakes. Graduation rates and improving 
them are right at the heart of it. But, obviously, we are going to have 
a need for other fresh ideas, like making college more affordable.
  Mrs. DeVos just doesn't have the qualifications to achieve the 
success that 50 million students in American public schools demand. The 
person entrusted with our children's future should not be put at the 
head of the class just because she is part of a family that wields 
enormous public influence. You get these jobs because you earn them, 
because you have been involved in your community and various kinds of 
charitable or philanthropic efforts, and your work produces concrete, 
tangible results that indicate that you can carry out a job of this 
importance. The reality is that these nominations are some of the most 
important judgments we make as a Senate. The people we put in these 
offices are going to control, literally, billions of dollars in 
spending. They are going to enforce laws that in some instances are 
decades old and, at a minimum, update the ones that need updating.
  I can tell you that what I heard again this weekend in rural Oregon 
indicates that the people I have the honor to represent do not believe 
Betsy DeVos is up for the job. So this morning, I stand up for kids, 
parents, and families who deserve education policies that will let them 
go after their dreams and secure their futures. I believe they deserve 
better. I believe Betsy DeVos is going to make it harder for working 
families to achieve those aspirations. That is why I will vote this 
morning against the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of 
Education. I encourage my colleagues to do the same.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Lankford). The Senator from Delaware.
  Mr. COONS. Mr. President, I would like to thank my colleague from the 
State of Oregon for his detailed, lengthy, and compelling remarks on 
the floor this morning about why he will vote against Betsy DeVos for 
Secretary of Education for the United States. You have heard from my 
colleagues last night, this morning, and for an entire day the concerns 
they have come away with from her confirmation hearing and the concerns 
they heard from their home State and from educators and parents, 
teachers, and administrators--all concerned about education in their 
home State.
  I am honored to have a chance to add my few brief words this morning 
to explain to my constituents and to everyone in this Chamber why I, 
too, believe that Betsy DeVos is not qualified to serve as Secretary of 
Education of the United States. A simple question for any parent out 
there is this: Why would a parent want a classroom teacher who wasn't 
qualified to stand before that class and teach their children? Why 
would any community leader, civic leader, parent, or educator want a 
principal who wasn't qualified to lead the school building, to lead 
instruction, and to make sure that the school was moving forward in a 
good and positive way? The answer is that they wouldn't. Why would any 
parent, why would any business leader, why would any legislator want a 
superintendent for a school district who had no previous experience in 
public education and whose agenda was well outside the mainstream in 
education? The answer is that they wouldn't.
  So I think the question before us in the Senate today is, Why would 
any of us want, support, or vote for a nominee to be Secretary of 
Education who has demonstrated a lack of grasp for the basics of 
education, which makes her, obviously, unqualified? The answer is, I 
don't. We don't. We shouldn't.
  As we saw during her abbreviated Senate hearing, Mrs. DeVos has no 
grasp of basic public education issues. She has zero direct experience. 
She hasn't taught in the public schools. She hasn't sent her kids to 
public schools. She hasn't been educated or trained in teaching in the 
public schools. She doesn't seem to understand, for example, that 
Federal law provides basic protections for students with disabilities. 
She has no idea what the IDEA is and why it is a central part of 
protecting, supporting, and serving students with intellectual 
disabilities. She refused to rule out privatizing public schools and 
refused to commit to enforcing Federal laws that protect women and 
girls in schools from sexual assault.
  But that is not all. As if that weren't enough, Betsy DeVos has spent 
her entire career and millions--even tens of millions of dollars--
methodically undermining the public school system in the United States, 
from privatizing and defunding public education to undermining 
accountability standards in Michigan and across the country. Betsy 
DeVos has turned Michigan into the biggest school choice experiment in 
the Nation. Unfortunately, for Michigan students and families, that 
experiment has gone terribly wrong. There is a lot of talk in education 
circles about two key issues--access and accountability.
  What is stunning about Betsy DeVos's record in Michigan is that she 
worked tirelessly to ensure access to taxpayer dollars for the widest 
possible range of private and parochial schools, charters, and through 
vouchers--schools of all types--academies newly established to take 
advantage of taxpayer dollars and to siphon them into nontraditional 
nonpublic schools but without accountability.
  Without accountability, charters and choice can lead to tragic 
results, can literally lead to siphoning desperately needed dollars out 
of our public schools and into the pockets of those who would profit 
from experiments in public education. Why would we allow access to 
taxpayer dollars with no accountability for the performance? When did 
it become something the other party would champion, that they would 
have access to taxpayer dollars without accountability for results?
  I understand the drive, the desire, even the passion for 
experimentation in public education. I spent more than 20 years working 
with the ``I Have A Dream'' Foundation. We served parents and students 
in some of the toughest, most struggling public schools in the entire 
United States.
  I heard from parents that they wanted better schools for their kids. 
I understand that in some communities there is a passion for 
experimentation with charters and with choice, but to embrace that 
without accountability, to ensure that the outcomes are better without 
making any serious effort to ensure that these diverted taxpayer 
dollars are not simply wasted or turned into a mill and a machine for 
profit, I think is the worst sort of taking advantage of the hopes and 
dreams of parents and students who are seeking progress, and it ends up 
undermining and defunding and devaluing traditional public schools all 
across our country.
  As my colleagues, my friend from the State of Washington and many 
others have pointed out, there are serious concerns with how 
Republicans have considered her nomination. Mrs. DeVos was rushed into 
her confirmation hearing before she had submitted the basic and 
appropriate ethics paperwork, meaning Senators had no way of clearing 
her from potential conflicts of interest.

[[Page S807]]

  Traditionally, this has not been much of a concern, since we have 
often had Secretaries of Education with long public careers who had 
been subject to some transparency and some review previously. I cannot 
remember a time when we had a Secretary of Education who was a 
billionaire and thus subject to much broader potential conflicts of 
interest. I frankly cannot remember a time when we had a President who 
was a billionaire and declined--refused to release his taxes or to 
address his manifest conflicts of interest.
  So, frankly, the fact that the Senate HELP Committee raced forward 
with Mrs. DeVos's confirmation without addressing some of these basic 
issues is more concerning in this context than at any previous time.
  As the members of this committee, who represent a broad range of 
views and experiences--and it is exactly what the Senate is for--were 
limited to one round of 5 minutes for questions, hardly sufficient for 
any nominee, let alone a controversial nominee with no public education 
experience other than undermining the underpinnings of the public 
school system, we can only conclude that there was something behind 
this effort to race Mrs. DeVos forward.
  We have seen here on the floor, she has become so unpopular that the 
other party has had to delay the confirmation vote in order to ensure 
her confirmation. It is my guess that later this morning, we will see 
the President of the Senate cast the deciding vote, something that 
although not unprecedented, is certainly unusual and suggests that 
other Senators have heard from their States, as I have from mine, a 
chorus of opposition.
  In her confirmation hearing, Mrs. DeVos struggled to articulate basic 
concepts central to current debates in public education. In trying to 
identify and reconcile the simple concepts of growth and proficiency, 
she showed neither growth nor proficiency. She showed neither a grasp 
of the basics, nor an ability to learn, nor a mastery of simple 
concepts central to how we make progress in public education.
  You know in the Senate, the Congress in recent years, after years of 
disagreement and fighting with the Every Student Succeeds Act, we had 
reached a modicum of agreement. We had reached a point of equilibrium 
and had hopefully turned to a point where we could work together in a 
bipartisan and balanced way on some of the pressing issues in higher 
education, in elementary education, in career and technical education.
  Instead, we see one of the more radical nominees ever for Secretary 
of Education, someone who brings, I am afraid, an agenda, a strong and 
forceful agenda that if it is continued nationally, as it was in 
Michigan, I am concerned predicts a difficult future even for those who 
are most in need of support, of engagement, of quality schools.
  Even those who Mrs. DeVos claims to have dedicated her education 
activism to advancing I think will be deeply harmed. None of these 
reasons that I just laid out about the timing, about the length of the 
hearing, about the disclosures, about her performance in the 
confirmation hearing, none of them would, necessarily taken alone, be 
cause for grave concern and alarm, but taken in combination, they are 
fundamentally disqualifying.
  Don't take my word for it. I am on five different committees. I have 
lots of other confirmations I am challenged to be engaged in. I have 
other issues going on that have made it hard for me to attend every 
single meeting and hearing about Mrs. DeVos, but there are folks in my 
home State of Delaware who have watched every minute, who have followed 
it very closely, and who have, in an unprecedented wave of input, 
reached out to my office.
  Now, these numbers, if I were from a State like California or Texas 
or New York, might not seem striking, but from my little State of 
900,000 constituents, the idea that more than 3,000 Delawareans have 
reached out to me urgently and directly is fairly striking. I have 
gotten more than 450 phone calls in opposition to Mrs. DeVos.
  My office in Wilmington received a signed petition with 800 
signatures from Delawareans asking me, urging me to vote no. Someone 
buttonholed me, literally, on the train this morning to make certain 
that I was going to vote no. I have received more than 2,200 letters 
from Delawareans, letters from educators, from parents, from community 
and civic leaders, of all different backgrounds, all up and down my 
  Those 2,200 letters make this one of the top issues that Delawareans 
have reached out to me on in this past year. As I said, that may not 
sound like a lot of input if I were from California, New York, 
Oklahoma, Washington State--3,000 would be relatively few--but in my 
State, that is a loud and clear message. So let me be just as loud and 
clear in my reply. I hear you, and I will today vote against Betsy 
DeVos for Secretary of Education. Let me take a minute and share with 
you some of the concerns I have heard from Delawareans, constituents 
who followed her confirmation hearing closely, who followed the record 
of its progress from committee to floor closely and who raised the 
alarm and who shared that with me.
  One educator, a career teacher, somebody who is very agitated about 
the record she showed in Michigan and what it might mean for our State 
of Delaware, said--concisely: Why should we welcome a billionaire 
President who nominates a billionaire friend who sees children not so 
much as children to be educated and supported and served but as tokens 
to be used as an experiment in privatization and profit made off our 
public school system.
  That educator said he was terrified. Jen, a middle school teacher at 
Redding Middle School in Appoquiniminck School District tells me that 
``her first thought after watching Mrs. DeVos's Senate hearing was that 
students deserve better than her.''
  Jen goes on to say that ``students deserve a national leader in 
education who has real experience working in public schools, someone 
who knows the strengths and challenges that each student brings to the 
  Jen said: ``As a teacher, I need someone who will fight for all 
students--low-income, gifted and talented, and especially our students 
with disabilities.'' Jen said: ``I work in a classroom filled with 
students like these,'' students of every background, skill level and 
need, and ``they deserve someone better.''
  Cheri wrote to me from Lewes, DE. She is a retired lifetime educator, 
a district supervisor and coordinator. Just a few years ago, she 
retired to Lewes after spending her life advancing public education. 
She wrote that until now she never felt it necessary to write my 
Senators to oppose a presidential nomination. But here's why this time 
is different. As Cheri writes, Betsy DeVos is ``a proponent of school 
vouchers which siphon dollars off from public schools. She does not 
have a degree in education, has no experience in public education, and 
has not shown a willingness to listen to and learn from practitioners 
and experts in the field.''
  Cheri is exactly right. Our kids deserve better. That is why, when it 
comes to Betsy DeVos's nomination to serve as Secretary of Education, I 
am not just voting no, I am voting no way.
  It is important to me that everybody here knows that my constituents 
in my State have spoken with nearly a unanimous voice. A very, very few 
have conveyed any support whatsoever for Mrs. DeVos, and an 
overwhelming voice of thousands have expressed concern, agitation, even 
alarm at the idea that this person, with this record, would be handed 
the reins of the Federal Department of Education with likely disastrous 
  For this most foundational experiment, that is at the core of 
American democracy, that is essential to our being a country where 
equality of opportunity, the freedom to pursue our own skills and gifts 
and have them enlightened, educated, uplifted is at the very core of 
what it means to be American--public schools in which any child of any 
background has a free and fair opportunity to pursue their God-given 
talents and to rise through our society and contribute at the highest 
levels--is not something to be played with, isn't something to be 
experimented with casually.
  It is something to be taken deeply seriously. We have challenges in 
our public schools. We have challenges in our society. They are 
reflected in our schools, but if our schools are not strong, if our 
schools are not educating our children, we have no hope of becoming a 
more just, a more equal, a more constructive, a more coherent, and a 
more inspiring society.

[[Page S808]]

  Our public schools are the very foundation of what it means to be 
American. To put in charge of our Department of Education someone who 
does not share that view pains me deeply, concerns my constituents, and 
alarms many of us who have spent year after year trying to support, to 
improve, and to advance public education in the United States.
  For all these reasons, it is my intention to vote no; in fact, no way 
today on Mrs. DeVos.
  I yield the floor.
  Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss why I do not 
think Betsy DeVos is the right person for this very important job.
  As you know, I have been a long and proud supporter of our education 
system. I have supported public, charter, private, and magnet schools 
across the great State of California. I have always supported a 
parent's right to choose the right school for his or her child, and I 
have always believed that different models of schools provide students 
with more individualized experiences that are tailored to meet their 
needs and how they best learn and are enabled to succeed.
  While Mrs. DeVos is also a proponent of school choice, I believe we 
have very different philosophies on this issue. Personally, I can only 
support schools when there is accountability. Schools should be 
accredited, well managed with proper fiscal controls, and transparent 
in regard to student performance for all of the students they serve. We 
owe it to our parents and students to protect their right to access a 
high quality education. We owe it to our teachers to provide them with 
the resources and leadership they need to become master educators.
  Mrs. DeVos has never worked in the classroom or as a school 
administrator, and during the Senate committee hearing on her 
nomination, she clearly showed she does not have a firm grasp of basic 
tenets of education policy or program implementation. Mrs. DeVos and 
her family have been longtime donors to efforts to expand unregulated 
school choice. Their financial efforts prevented accountability efforts 
to go into effect that would have provided regulation over the 
proliferation of the for-profit charter schools throughout Michigan.
  Additionally, I found it troubling that, during Mrs. DeVos's 
confirmation hearing before the Senate Health Education and Pensions 
Committee, she testified that she would support the repeal of the Gun 
Free School Zones Act, which bans guns in schools. Mrs. DeVos cited 
that grizzly bears in Wyoming is one legitimate reason why guns should 
be allowed in schools; yet the vast majority of our Nation's schools 
face zero threat of an attack from grizzly bears that would justify the 
risk of allowing guns on their premises.
  Throughout my career, I have been a strong supporter of gun free 
school zones. And educators, parents, and students--who are all 
directly affected by this law--support gun free school zones. I find it 
problematic that Mrs. DeVos makes light of this issue and would go 
along with the President's opinion on this issue, considering we had 15 
school shootings throughout 2016.
  The Secretary of Education serves in a very important role. The 
Secretary ensures that all of our Nation's students have equitable 
access to a high quality education. They ensure that students' civil 
rights are protected under Federal law and that schools are held 
accountable for the performance of all students regardless of 
socioeconomic status, language barrier or disability.
  My colleagues and I have an opportunity to stand up for our children 
by opposing Betsy DeVos and demand that the President put forward a 
highly qualified candidate that can best serve our students, parents, 
and teachers in this important role.
  I would also like to mention that I have heard from over 96,000 of my 
constituents, whether they left comments with my staff or wrote me a 
letter, explaining why Mrs. DeVos was an unacceptable candidate for 
Secretary of Education. I heard you all loud and clear, and I want you 
to know that I am here to serve you, and I will continue to be your 
  Thank you.
  Mr. COONS. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, again, I am on the floor, and I want to 
thank all of our staff and clerks and everyone who has been here 
throughout the last 20 hours. I thank everyone for speaking from their 
hearts about the issue of public education, why it is so important to 
them, and why they want a Secretary of Education who has that value and 
promotes that value and has the vision of that value, which is really 
why so many people in this country have spoken out and sent us letters 
and held rallies and inundated our phones. And I thank all those people 
who have done that. It has made an impact here and has made a 
difference. I think it has woken up each one of us to what we care 
about in this country and what we value and what we want.
  Like many people, I received so many letters from my constituents, 
over 48,000 letters. That is just the letters--not phone calls--that I 
got, and I want to share some of them with you because they come from 
people's hearts. They are not form letters. They are not something they 
got from somebody else and forwarded. These are personal. And I think 
it is important that we hear these people.
  I thank Marie Carlsen from Federal Way. She sent me a letter, and she 

       Dear Senator Murray,
       Thank you for your continuing efforts at trying to prevent 
     Betsy DeVos from becoming the head of the Department of 
     Education. I have a child who has just started his schooling 
     in our public school system, and from everything I have read 
     or listened to about this woman, she has no business in 
     education at all. She has no knowledge of the laws and 
     protections guaranteed to our children, no comprehension of 
     what our educators deal with on a daily basis, and would 
     regress, gut, and otherwise destroy our educational system if 
     she were allowed to become the head of the Department. I fear 
     for my child's education, his safety, and his ability to 
     compete in a global community in the future. I stand with you 
     and thank you again for your efforts.

  I thank Marie for writing in. Like so many people across the country, 
she watched the hearing Mrs. DeVos came to where she spoke to our 
committee. We were only allowed 5 minutes each, which I really regret 
because I think it is important that we see who is going to be leading 
this agency, and our inability to ask her questions with full 
information really gave just a shallow picture of who she was. But like 
many people, my constituents and those across the country watched and 
were just shocked that somebody who had been nominated to head the 
Department of Education had such little experience and knowledge and 
understanding of the agency they had been tapped to lead.
  I heard from Ms. Ina Howell in Seattle. She wrote to me, and she 

       I am writing to express opposition to the nomination of 
     Mrs. Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Mrs. DeVos does not 
     have any experience in the field of education and, as a 
     result, will not effectively lead the Department of Education 
     in maintaining and improving public education in the country. 
     She did not seem to possess a basic understanding of key 
     education policies, including the responsibilities of the 
     IDEA Act.
       She did not understand the difference between student 
     proficiency and student growth measures. She did not 
     understand simple facts and figures, like the percent 
     increase in student debt from 2008 to 2016. She failed to 
     adequately answer questions on equal protection for LGBT 
     students and their civil rights, confronting campus sexual 
     assault and the regulation of the for-profit higher education 

  This is Ms. Ina Howell--she happens to be with the National Alliance 
of Black School Educators--expressing deep concerns that the nominee 
doesn't have the basic issues and knowledge that she should have in 
running this agency, nor the passion for it, which is so important as 
the leading spokesperson in the country.
  I heard from Dana Hayden from Poulsbo, WA, and she said:

       Dear Senator Patty Murray,
       I have been an educator in our State since 1984. I have 
     seen your positive efforts for the citizens of WA firsthand.
       Last night, we found out that our family will be welcoming 
     our first grandchild in July--a girl. I am so joyful, yet 
     quite worried about the world she is coming into.

[[Page S809]]

     Then I saw you on the news. You give me hope! Thank you!
       I wonder what kind of school experience the next generation 
     will have if DeVos is allowed to decimate our education 
     system, the way Trump is decimating our Nation with orders.

  These are people who have not written in before. They are writing 
long letters, many of them pages long, speaking from their hearts about 
the value of public education, what it means to them and their 
grandchildren. They know this country was built on a system of public 
education that ensured every child would be provided a school in their 
community to go to so that they could have the opportunity their 
parents and grandparents and great-grandparents had.
  I could read through so many of these. Here is one from Miles Erdly 
from Kent, WA. He says:

       My name is Miles Erdly, and I am the principal of Horizon 
     Elementary in Kent. As a strong supporter of public 
     education, I ask that you vehemently oppose the confirmation 
     of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the U.S. Department of 
     Education. Educators and students deserve a Secretary who can 
     commit to supporting every student in all public schools, and 
     a leader who will work tirelessly to promote a public 
     education system that provides each child with the optimum 
     conditions for teaching and learning. Betsy DeVos's past work 
     in education and her performance at the recent confirmation 
     hearing demonstrated neither a depth of experience nor 
     knowledge base in education policy and on critical issues 
     facing the community. As a principal, I have spoken with 
     teachers, parents, students, and community members across the 
     political spectrum, and there is widespread agreement that 
     Betsy DeVos is not the right person for the job.

  This is Miles Erdly, a principal, and he watched the hearings, like 
so many people did, and was so concerned that we had in front of us a 
nominee for the Secretary of Education who didn't share that core value 
of public education for all students.
  Ms. Gabrielle Gersten from Seattle, WA:

       As a college student, the idea of Betsy DeVos becoming the 
     Secretary of Education concerns me for multiple reasons. She 
     obviously has been fortunate enough to go through school and 
     a higher education without a worry about money, but that is 
     not the case for most college students. I, myself, am lucky 
     enough that my mom saved money for me to attend college, but 
     many of my friends are working hard on their own to pay for 
     college education themselves. Also, her zeroing the funds for 
     title I is worrisome because every State should be held to 
     the same standard to give children in poverty access to an 
     education. An educated nation is a stronger nation. Not 
     everyone can afford to go to private school or have the 
     opportunity to attend one, whether that be the money or even 
     finding a way to get to school. She has goals, but they are 
     not as easy to achieve for everyone, and I don't think she 
     keeps that in mind.
       Additionally, title IX is very important to me, as a female 
     college student, and the rest of my peers. She needs to 
     support title IX and keep universities accountable to it.

  Mr. President, I couldn't agree more. Title IX is critically 
important in our higher education system. We have worked on a 
bipartisan basis to ensure that title IX is enforced. And to have a 
nominee for Secretary of Education who came before our committee, did 
not understand title IX, didn't have a commitment to title IX, sends 
shock waves through students across this country and their parents who 
have pushed and pushed for us to make sure that title IX is overseen in 
a way that makes sure our students at schools have the support they 
need from our highest education person in this country.
  I could go on forever. I know several other Senators are going to be 
here on the floor shortly. Let me just say this: I have had the 
opportunity to be out here on the floor to hear from so many Senators 
who gave their personal stories about what education meant to them. 
Young people growing up in poverty knew that school was there for them. 
They knew they had teachers and friends who were there for them. Not 
everyone was perfect. Certainly not every school is perfect. Certainly 
all of us who have been involved in public education strive for better 
every day, but that school was there for them.
  The thought that we have a Secretary of Education nominee who doesn't 
share that basic value, who wants to change the system to privatize 
it--she has said herself that she wants to end public education. 
Privatizing schools, having some kind of corporation running our 
schools, is just not what our country is about, is not what we want. We 
are not even leaning in that direction. They want our country to lean 
in the other direction--to strengthen all of our public schools, to 
have taxpayers across the country investing in every student, and that 
those schools be held accountable and that we ask our elected 
representatives to hold them accountable. That is not the vision that 
this nominee has presented to us, and it is a vision that I have worked 
passionately on through all of my life, and really that is why I am 
here to oppose this nomination.

  I want to thank everybody who has written in and called and been 
passionate about public education in this country, and I encourage them 
to keep using their voices to fight for that passion. It is well worth 
the fight.
  With that, I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, ``Now is the time to put country before 
party.'' That was an observation by the Democratic leader just 
yesterday on the Senate floor. Our friend from New York makes a good 
point, and I am hopeful it is a principle his own caucus will follow in 
the days to come.
  We are no longer in the midst of a contentious Presidential election. 
We have a new President, and that President has now put forth an 
exceptional Supreme Court nominee and a number of well-qualified 
Cabinet nominees. Yet, more than 2 weeks into his term, President Trump 
has the fewest Cabinet Secretaries confirmed at this point than any 
other President since George Washington.
  The President deserves to have his Cabinet in place. The American 
people deserve that as well. I would remind our Democratic colleagues 
of the things they themselves have said when the shoe was on the other 
  Here is what their last Vice Presidential candidate, our colleague 
from Virginia, had to say: ``I think we owe deference to a President 
for choices to executive positions.'' So yes, ``Now is the time,'' as 
the Democratic leader said, ``to put country before party.''
  One way to do so is by ending the unprecedented delay we have seen by 
Democrats on the President's Cabinet appointments. Our colleagues will 
have an opportunity to chart a different path later this afternoon and 
the rest of the week as we vote to confirm more nominees.
  This afternoon we will vote on the President's nominee for Secretary 
of Education, Betsy DeVos. I look forward to confirming her to this 
important position so that she can get to work on behalf of America's 
students and schools.
  As I said yesterday, this well-qualified candidate has earned the 
support of several education groups and nearly two dozen Governors from 
across the Nation. She understands that teachers, students, parents, 
school boards, and State and local governments, not Washington 
bureaucrats, are best suited to make education decisions for our kids. 
And I know she is committed to improving our education system so that 
every child--every child--has a brighter future.
  After we confirm Mrs. DeVos, the Senate will turn to another well-
qualified Cabinet nominee, our own colleague, Senator Jeff Sessions of 
Alabama. We all know Senator Sessions, and we know him to be a man of 
his word. We know he is a man who believes in the rule of law. We know 
him as someone who is willing to work with anyone, regardless of party, 
as he did when he teamed up on legislation with Democratic colleagues 
such as Senator Durbin and our late colleague, Ted Kennedy.
  I would remind Democratic colleagues that Republicans did not 
filibuster when a newly elected President Obama put forward his own 
Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder. In fact, the nominee who will 
soon be before us, Senator Sessions, crossed the aisle to vote for Eric 
Holder; this, despite the fact that the Holder nomination in the 
Republican conference here in the Senate was one steeped in 
considerable controversy.

[[Page S810]]

  What a contrast with the way the Democrats are now treating our 
colleague's own nomination now. They are looking to waste even more 
time for its own sake today. It has been unfortunate to hear the 
attacks that some on the far left have directed at our friend over the 
past few weeks, but I am pleased the American people have had the 
opportunity to learn the truth about Senator Sessions and to see for 
themselves how qualified he is to lead the Justice Department.
  We can expect that Senator Sessions in his new role will continue 
fighting to protect the rights and freedoms of all Americans as he also 
defends the safety and security of our Nation.
  Tomorrow I will have more to say about Senator Sessions and the 
impact that he has had on each of us here in the Senate, but for now, I 
would encourage colleagues to finally come together and show him and 
each of the remaining nominees the fair consideration they deserve.
  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, I just listened to my friend the majority 
leader and the majority whip on the floor. They are able legislators, 
but they are sort of misleading the public as to our motivation. They 
have tried to paint every Democratic request as leftover resentment 
from the election. ``Sour grapes'' the majority leader said a few weeks 
ago. They can say it day after day after day, but it will never be 
  All we Democrats are insisting on is careful, careful consideration 
of nominees who we believe almost universally are below par. These 
nominees are going to have a tremendous effect on the American people.
  Every mother and father in America should worry about Betsy DeVos's 
lack of dedication and almost negative feelings about public education. 
She heaps abuse on public education. Ninety percent of our children are 
in public schools. Of course, there should be discussion about it. She 
shouldn't be the nominee.

  Yes, I understand, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, 
there is a new President. My guess is, if we went in their cloakroom 
and heard their whispers, our Republican colleagues would say: I wish 
he could have come up with someone else.
  Betsy DeVos is the negative trifecta. She is negative on competence. 
She doesn't even understand the basic aspects of education. She is 
negative on philosophy. She disdains public education, where 90 percent 
of our kids are. She is negative on ethics. Her conflicts of interest 
are legion, and she hasn't, unlike some other of the Cabinet nominees, 
tried to erase them.
  So of course there should be a tremendous amount of discussion. Of 
course Democrats ought to bring to light who Betsy DeVos is. So when 
she does her acts as Secretary, when she does things that hurt public 
education as Secretary, the American people know what is happening and 
can stand up against it.
  I have to tell my colleagues, it is not Democrats who are bitter 
about the election; it is the American people who are bitter about the 
nomination of Betsy DeVos, and that is why millions and millions of 
calls--almost unprecedented on a Cabinet nomination--have poured into 
this Capitol, into Democratic and Republican offices alike. The 
distinguished chairman of this committee--who is a dear friend; I have 
such respect and admiration for him, and we have spent time together 
socially--was put in the awkward position of having to rush through a 
nominee, 5 minutes of questions, that is it, for each Senator; 5 
minutes at night, no second rounds. There was no rationale for that, 
other than he was afraid of what she would say or might not say. Sure 
enough, when she testified, those fears were actualized because Betsy 
DeVos couldn't answer the most fundamental questions about public 
  She couldn't get her paperwork in on time. What kind of nominee is 
that? How is someone who is going to run the Department of Education, 
with tens of thousands of employees, unable to get her paperwork 
submitted in enough time to clear the ethics organizations? How was she 
unable to get her paperwork in on time? Every nominee of President 
Obama's did, and we didn't hear from them until they did.
  The rush; a few extra days, some hours last night so we might examine 
a nominee who has tremendous power over the future of millions of 
American kids and their families--oh, no. If anything, we should be 
spending more time on Betsy DeVos, not less. What should be happening 
is she should go back for a second hearing now that her paperwork is 
in. What should happen is she should be asked more questions because 
she was so unable to answer so many rudiments last time. What should 
happen is, there should be more time, not less, on debating this 
nominee, not because we want to be dilatory but because we want a 
nominee who at least meets some basic tests, and she does not.
  That is why every Democrat will be voting against her, and two 
Republicans, who showed tremendous courage. Again, I have been around 
here a while. I know the pressures. That is why I have such respect for 
the Senators from Alaska and Maine who voted against Betsy DeVos not 
for political considerations, not in frustration that they lost the 
election but because they knew how bad she would be for public 
education because their States are largely rural. In rural America, 
there is not much choice, which has been Betsy DeVos's watchword, 
although the charter schools she set up have been, by and large, a 
failure. They don't have that choice. So someone who decries public 
education, who disdains public education, is not good for their State 
and, I would dare say, is not good for the States of a lot of Senators 
on the other side of the aisle who feel compelled--that party loyalty--
to vote for her. In fact, when we talk about parties demanding things, 
it is the Republican side demanding a vote for an unqualified 
candidate, not the Democrats delaying the vote.
  I hope against hope that another Republican will have the courage of 
the Senators from Alaska and Maine and join us. Then what can happen is 
the President will get to make the nomination. We Democrats are not 
going to pick the Secretary of Education, but it will be a qualified 
nominee because they will have learned their lesson at the White House 
that they can't brush through these nominations with such little 

                      Nomination of Jeff Sessions

  Mr. President, now I would like to say a word--we will be saying more 
later--on Senator Sessions, who will be coming forward after we vote on 
Mrs. DeVos at noon today.
  The nominee for Attorney General has huge importance--far greater 
importance than the nominee would have had 3 or 4 weeks ago. We need a 
lot of discussion on that. What we have seen is a President who 
belittles judges when they don't agree with him. What we have seen is a 
President who is willing to shake the roots of the Constitution and a 
fundamental premise--no religious test--that is embodied within our 
Constitution within his first few weeks in office.
  We certainly need an Attorney General who will stand up to the 
President. We have seen other Attorneys General do it, most notably in 
the Clinton administration. Senator Sessions--I ride with him on the 
bike in the gym--is not--if you can say one thing about him, he is not 
independent of Donald Trump.
  He supported Donald Trump from the very beginning. Even when Donald 
Trump didn't look like he was going to be much of a candidate, if you 
had to pick someone who would not stand up to a President when the 
President goes too far--well, let's put it the other way. If you had to 
pick someone who would stand up to a President when the President goes 
too far on picking on the judiciary, on avoiding the tenants, breaking 
the tenants of the Constitution, whatever the legal case shows, you 
wouldn't pick Jeff Sessions.
  His record is clearly troubling. We will hear a lot more about it 
later. He is probably the most anti-immigrant Member of this body, 
Democrat or Republican. And many of us on this side believe that 
immigrants are an asset to

[[Page S811]]

America, not a liability. Many on the other side of the aisle probably 
do too. When it comes to voting rights--so important, so fundamental, 
and under attack right now--again, Jeff Sessions has not been a 
stalwart. He has had a record that leaves much, much to be desired. On 
the issue of civil rights as well, Senator Sessions' record is not a 
record that I think anyone who believes in civil rights could admire.
  We just had an acting Attorney General stand up to the President. 
That is going to be a real test in this administration because there 
seems so little regard for an independent judiciary and even for the 
Constitution itself. That is probably the most important quality of 
this new Attorney General. I have to say, as much as I agree with Jeff 
Sessions on an issue like trade, he is the wrong, wrong, wrong choice 
for Attorney General. He would be at any time because of his record on 
immigration, civil rights, and voting rights, but particularly wrong 
now because we need someone who has some degree of independence from 
the President.
  I am going to yield the floor. I hope one of our Republican 
colleagues will step up to the plate in a few hours, but even if they 
don't, we Democrats are very proud of what we have done here because 
the nominee is so unqualified and the American people now know it. That 
is an important tenet of this democracy, for the public to understand 
who is running the government.
  I hope my colleagues will listen to our arguments for the sake of 
America--not for any partisan sake--about the Attorney General in these 
very troubled times when it comes to the independent judiciary and the 
Constitution of the United States.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Mexico.
  Mr. UDALL. Mr. President, let me first of all begin by thanking 
Senator Murray for her leadership in terms of leading us to scrutinize 
this nominee, Betsy DeVos. It seems to me the more we dig into this, 
the more we look at it, the worse it gets. So I rise in strong 
opposition to the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of 
  Mrs. DeVos is nominated to lead our Nation's public education system. 
Yet she has worked for decades to privatize it and even to create 
profitmaking centers. She wants to siphon public funds to private 
schools. She has led a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign to fund 
private, religious, and for-profit schools with public education 
  We can all agree that we want our Nation's schools to be the very 
best they can be. We want our children to have all the opportunities we 
can provide, but that really is the issue. That is why Democrats have 
held the floor all night long to do everything in our power to convince 
the Senate to reject this nomination.
  I believe in the public school system. I want all of our children to 
have opportunities. That is the fundamental principle of our American 
school system. Everyone should be able to get a great education.
  Mrs. DeVos wants to dismantle our public schools. She would drain 
resources from the children and teachers who need it the most. I can't 
say it strongly enough: A vote for Mrs. DeVos is a vote to destroy our 
public school system. My constituents agree. We have received over 
63,000 emails and over 2,000 telephone calls in the last month alone 
opposing this nomination. These are recordbreaking numbers from my 
office for a Cabinet nominee. Many of those calls and letters are from 
public school parents and teachers, men and women who are dedicated to 
our students and our public education system. They understand that 
Betsy DeVos is not qualified to lead our Nation's public education 
  Betsy DeVos is the first nominee in history for Secretary of 
Education with no experience in education or public administration. She 
is not a teacher. She is not a school administrator. She didn't attend 
public schools. Her children didn't attend public schools. She has 
never held a government position, let alone one in education. In fact, 
she has open disdain for government.
  Mrs. DeVos's complete lack of experience and profound lack of 
understanding of education policy were on full display during her 
confirmation hearing. Under questioning, it was clear that Mrs. DeVos 
was completely uninformed about the ongoing debate in education policy 
between proficiency and growth. This issue is critical. It is well 
documented that there is a correlation between test scores and 
students' socioeconomic status and race. So evaluating schools based on 
average test scores tends to penalize schools with large numbers of 
low-income and racial minority students. Even if those schools produce 
significant student growth on math and reading test scores, proficiency 
or growth is one of the most basic education policy questions, and yet 
the President's nominee for Secretary of Education doesn't understand 
the issue. Maybe this is because she has been single-mindedly focused 
on feeding private, for-profit charter schools with public dollars and 
the religious and other private schools through vouchers. So her 
knowledge about education is limited to her pet issue.

  Valerie Siow, who has taught in public schools in New Mexico for 13 
years, observed that Mrs. DeVos ``had not bothered to do her homework'' 
for the hearing. It is clear that Mrs. DeVos does not have the breadth 
or depth in education policy or finance to be the Secretary of 
  Senator Hassan has a son who has cerebral palsy. She told us a moving 
story about the good education he received in the New Hampshire public 
schools, despite his disability, because of the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act, or the IDEA.
  Senator Hassan asked if Mrs. DeVos would require schools using 
vouchers to comply with that law. Mrs. DeVos initially responded that 
she believes the decision should be left to the States. When Mrs. DeVos 
was informed that it is Federal law, that it is not up to the States, 
she responded that she must have been ``confused.'' Confused? Mrs. 
DeVos bragged that she has been an education advocate for 30 years. The 
IDEA was passed over 25 years ago, in 1990. Mrs. DeVos was not 
``confused.'' She plainly did not know what the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act is.
  It is very disturbing that she appears not to know how public schools 
educate and accommodate kids with special needs. Does she not know what 
an individual education plan is? She didn't know, as she said in a 
hearing to be Secretary of Education, that the millions of public 
school children with disabilities have a Federal right to a free and 
appropriate education.
  It is just as troublesome that Mrs. DeVos did not know that children 
with disabilities can lose their Federal right to an equal education 
under State voucher programs--voucher programs she has spent years 
advocating for. She did not know that voucher programs can require 
students with disabilities to sign away their IDEA rights. Most 
troubling of all, she would not commit to making sure voucher programs 
comply with the law.
  I am also quite concerned that Mrs. DeVos fails to appreciate the 
important role that tribal cultures play in educating Native American 
children. This Nation has a solemn trust and treaty responsibility to 
provide quality education to Native students, both through the public 
school system and the Federal Bureau of Indian Education. Her testimony 
has proven that she is uneducated about these students as well.
  Many States have significant tribal populations. In my home State of 
New Mexico it is about 10 percent. As vice chair of the Indian Affairs 
Committee, my job is to make sure that any Education Secretary is 
committed to respecting tribal sovereignty and self-determination. Mrs. 
DeVos has given me no assurance she understands, cares about, or is 
prepared to address the needs of Native American students. Nothing in 
her hearing or written answers convinced me that she will respect 
tribal cultures, tribal sovereignty, or the right to self-
determination. In fact, her lobby organization, American Federation for 
Children, supports the expansion of vouchers into Indian Country, 
diverting money from tribal schools to private schools. I cannot 
support taking money away from schools run by tribes and losing self-
determination efforts tribes are making.
  The National Indian Education Association has said: ``Federal funding 
should not be moving over to a private school system . . . move out of 

[[Page S812]]

tribally-run school system and to a system that does not require 
consultation and does not require active engagement of Native 
communities.'' I couldn't agree more. She just shows a basic lack of 
understanding of tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
  Betsy DeVos seems to be driven by her personal religious views. I 
respect the strength of her Dutch Calvinist religious beliefs, but 
imposing her religious beliefs should have no place in funding public 
education, which serves children of all beliefs.
  In 2001, she talked about whether Christian schools should continue 
relying on contributions instead of vouchers. Mrs. DeVos said:

       There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to 
     fund what is currently the need in education. . . . Our 
     desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue 
     to advance God's kingdom.

  I support her right to devote her philanthropic dollars to her church 
and other religious efforts, but I oppose her view of using public 
dollars to advance her view of ``God's kingdom'' in public schools. 
Separation of church and State is a fundamental principal in our 
democracy to protect people and communities from religious coercion by 
the government. I am concerned that Mrs. DeVos does not have the 
necessary respect for other people's religious beliefs and that her 
policies could disregard the importance of tribal perspectives on 
  We need assurance that every public school student--no matter their 
religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or identity, ability or 
disability--will be respected, protected, and included at the highest 
levels in Washington, DC. That is the job of the Secretary of 
Education. Mrs. DeVos has not shown over the many decades she has 
lobbied on education that she agrees with this basic proposition.
  I support making good, quality public school options available. There 
are many great public charter and magnet schools around the country. We 
have some good ones in New Mexico. But these public schools should meet 
the same accountability standards as other public schools--standards 
for student achievement, teacher performance, and fiscal 
  I also support the option of private and religious schools. We have 
great private and religious schools in our country. But public dollars 
must go to public schools, not private or religious schools, and 
certainly not private for-profit schools. The first objective of any 
for-profit venture is to make money. That cannot be the first objective 
of a school using public funds.
  The first and foremost objective of public education funds should be 
education for students. When public dollars are used, their use must be 
fully accountable and transparent to the public. Betsy DeVos would not 
commit that private for-profit charter schools and voucher schools 
should have the same accountability standards as public schools. Why 
didn't she make this commitment? Likely, because the private charter 
schools in Michigan, funded by public dollars--that she has championed 
for decades--do not have to meet the same accountability standards as 
public schools. This is wrong. These same schools--her work for 
decades--have not shown appreciable gains in Michigan over the years. 
In fact, Michigan test scores have gone down over time. These schools 
have not shown significant improvement over public schools in Michigan.
  Finally, I am not convinced that Mrs. DeVos has been transparent in 
her responses to the American public. She did not make her disclosures 
available to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee at 
the time of her confirmation hearing--this is unprecedented--and the 
committee had no opportunity to look into her many, many financial 
  Since then, she has entered into an agreement with the Office of 
Government Ethics. While she will divest from approximately 100 
investments that pose a conflict, we do not know if she has divested 
from all conflicts. Mrs. DeVos benefits from three trusts. She has not 
disclosed the assets in two of those trusts.
  The complexity and enormity of Mrs. DeVos's $5 billion holdings is 
mind-boggling. We know that from one trust at least 100 conflicts 
required divestment. Without transparency in other trusts, the public 
does not know if she has any more conflicts.
  I also want to raise the issue of Mrs. DeVos's unwillingness to 
address her PAC's unpaid $5.3 million fine in the State of Ohio for 
violating campaign finance laws.
  This situation is troubling on a number of levels. First, Mrs. DeVos 
led a multimillion dollar political effort to influence elections 
throughout our Nation. Second, while doing so, Mrs. DeVos's political 
action committee willfully ignored campaign finance laws and warnings 
from State election officials. She racked up an unprecedented $5.3 
million fine in Ohio. Then, third, rather than acknowledging that she 
broke the law and owning up to her responsibility to pay it, her PAC 
simply folded up shop and walked away.
  As Secretary of Education, Mrs. DeVos will be responsible for 
overseeing college loans for millions of students. Yet she refuses to 
acknowledge or pay her own debts. Does she believe the law doesn't 
apply to her?
  I have written to Mrs. DeVos and the HELP Committee several times 
demanding answers about this. Her responses were evasive. She refuses 
to pay the fine--hiding behind the corporate veil--while still paying 
lawyers to fight it. This is hypocrisy, on top of disregard for the 
  We have never had a Cabinet nominee, who led a dark money PAC, which 
broke the law and flouted the judicial system. This is absolutely, 
totally, unprecedented.
  For all these reasons, I must vote no on the confirmation of Mrs. 
DeVos as Secretary of the Department of Education.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, it is pretty clear. It is pretty simple. 
There never has been a nominee for Secretary of Education as 
unqualified as Betsy DeVos. That is clear to pretty much every Member 
of this body--not that every Member of this body is going to stand up 
and vote the way that probably their conscience suggests they do. 
Whether they like her ideology or not, whether they like the hundreds 
of millions of dollars they have contributed to all kinds of political 
campaigns or not, they clearly understand that this nominee, from her 
performance and her lack of depth of knowledge of education, is simply 
not qualified.
  As many have said on this floor, based on her confirmation hearing, 
it appears she has a complete lack of knowledge as to what the 
Department of Education actually does. She didn't seem to understand 
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires public 
schools to provide free and appropriate education to all students with 
  I think that when I first ran for Congress some years ago--I assume 
it was the same for the Presiding Officer; I know it was the same for 
the ranking member from Washington State who sits here in this Chamber 
and who has led the opposition to Betsy DeVos--from my first days in 
Congress, every time I met with school boards, every time I met with 
teachers, every time I met with school administrators, with principals, 
they would talk to me about IDEA. They would talk to me about school 
districts and the costs and their obligation and duty and desire to 
serve these students. Yet the designee for Secretary of Education put 
her hands up when there were discussions in the committee on the 
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  It is astonishing that a nominee for Secretary of Education would 
demonstrate complete ignorance on something as crucial and important to 
public school education--to education as a whole--on this. It isn't her 
hearing performance alone that should disqualify her; it is her record. 
She has no experience with public schools at all.
  The President of the United States has nominated for Secretary of 
Education someone with no experience in public schools at all--not as a 
teacher, not as an administrator, not as a student, not even as a 
parent. Nothing. Her only experience in education is as

[[Page S813]]

a wealthy donor inheriting tens of millions of dollars herself. Her 
only experience in education is as a wealthy donor who spent millions 
of dollars advocating for for-profit--not charter schools like KIPP and 
Breakthrough in my State but for-profit charters in her State, the same 
policy that has ripped off taxpayers and failed students in Ohio. It 
betrays students, and it undermines and fleeces taxpayers.
  It is obvious that if she and her family hadn't donated $200 million 
to Republicans and to conservative causes, there is no chance someone 
this unqualified would ever have been nominated for a position as 
exalted, as crucial, as important as Secretary of Education. Two 
hundred million dollars apparently is the price for the Cabinet slot.
  So much for the President's campaign promise of draining the swamp. 
We see nominee after nominee, appointee after appointee coming from 
Wall Street. Now we see a $200 million contributor has also earned a 
Cabinet slot.
  Because of her crusade, more than 80 percent of Michigan's charter 
schools are operated for profit. She helped design one of the least 
effective charter school systems in the country in Detroit. This 
matters to me because I know a lot about what has happened with for-
profit charter schools in Ohio. For-profit charters have failed in 
Ohio. They have led to a charter school sector. Again, taking out KIPP 
and Breakthrough and the good charters that we have seen in Ohio, we 
have seen a charter school sector that has wasted taxpayers' money, 
that has funneled it to unaccountable for-profit companies, and that 
have been plagued by scandal after scandal.
  I take that personally in Ohio because I know how students have been 
betrayed by this for-profit sector, I know how taxpayers have been 
fleeced in my State in this for-profit sector, and I know the 
devastation it leaves behind in less money, fewer dollars for public 
  People call my State, regrettably, the ``Wild Wild West of charter 
schools.'' What a name to earn--Ohio is the ``Wild Wild West'' of for-
profit charter schools. Students suffer as a result. Students in public 
schools, students in for-profit charter schools, and students in not-
for-profit charter schools suffer as a result. The last thing we need 
to do is take the Wild Wild West model in Ohio or, even worse, the for-
profit charter school structure and model in Michigan and replicate it 
at a national level.
  This is important to remember: Of all the K-12 students in the 
country, public schools educate 90 percent of them, 90 percent of the 
students in this country. Betsy DeVos called traditional public 
education a ``dead end.'' Dead end for whom? She called traditional 
public education a ``dead end.''
  Think of what we have done in this country. From 1789, when George 
Washington took the oath of office, up until now, public education has 
built this country. It has given all kinds of people opportunity, given 
all kinds of people a chance to get ahead. It has educated our 
children. We should be proud of our public school system.
  We may confirm in the vote today a nominee who called a traditional 
public education a ``dead end,'' someone who has never worked in a 
public school, never gone to a public school, never been a parent of 
somebody in a public school.
  She said she doesn't think that all schools that receive taxpayer 
dollars--whether they are public or for-profit charter--should be held 
to the same standards of accountability.
  To me, one of the most telling moments of the committee hearing was 
when she would not commit to the same accountability standards for for-
profit charters as she did for public schools. Do you know why? Because 
she knows her for-profit charters that she is so proud of don't live up 
to the same standards and that they are simply not as good. That is why 
she doesn't want accountability measures applied equally to for-profit 
charters and public education.
  In Michigan, she fought a rescue plan for Detroit Public Schools that 
would have finally provided accountability for charters schools. No. 
She is against that. Why have lower standards for for-profit charters 
schools? Maybe that is because--I don't know about her investments. I 
don't think she has disclosed everything to the committee, but neither 
did Secretary-Designee Mnuchin. Neither did Secretary-Designee Price. I 
can go on and on. She doesn't want the same accountability for profit 
charters because it might hurt some of her investor friends.
  She funneled $25,000--mostly inherited money--every day to 
legislators of Michigan until this accountability proposal was 
defeated. It was probably not $25,000 every day, but over time it 
averaged $25,000 a day to legislators in Michigan so she could have her 
way. Talk about draining the swamp. Yet she can't seem to come up 
with--this I take personally too--the $5 million she owes to Ohio 
taxpayers for violating State election laws. What is that about? She 
came into Ohio with a political action committee that she mostly funded 
and that she was involved in in a number of ways.
  The Ohio Elections Commission and Ohio officials in a nonpartisan way 
found her guilty of campaign finance law violation. This committee was 
assessed a $5 million fine. Guess what. She quit putting money in this 
committee because she didn't want it to be subject to the fine. Our 
attorney general has not gone after her. He wants to be Governor, and 
he is a member of her party. I don't know their relationship or much 
care, but she is depriving our State of $5 million that she owes 
through this committee. Legally, she has found a way, with very 
expensive lawyers, to weasel out of it, to navigate her way through it.
  The fact is, by any standards of decency, she owes my State $5 
million. That could be 60 or 70 or 80 teachers. She cares about 
education. Paying a $5 million fine is probably like me paying 50 
bucks. She is a billionaire, and $5 million won't break her. She will 
hardly notice it. But she is going to be in charge of the Department of 
Education, which collects student loan debt from people coming out of 
school making $30 or $40 or $50,000 a year, burdened with tens of 
thousands in student loan debt and struggling every month to make those 
payments. Yet she owes $5 million, and she just says: Sorry, I am not 
going to pay it.
  Through this confirmation process, she will not even pay the debt of 
$5 million. Are my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle 
saying it is OK to nominate her and confirm her even though she owes 
this money to my State? She sent us a letter finally last week because 
I asked her to explain herself in the promise to repay taxpayers in my 
  She sent us a letter last week again refusing to take any personal 
responsibility for the legal action of this political action committee 
she founded. She chaired it at the time it broke the law, she paid the 
legal bills for it, but she wouldn't pay the fine that this committee 
owes, saying: I don't owe it.
  Is that who you want? Is that the kind of person you want in terms of 
personal integrity, personal responsibility? I don't know how many 
times I have been preached at in this body by my colleagues on personal 
responsibility. But she will not pay her $5 million debt. Again, she 
founded a political action committee. She chaired it at the time she 
broke the law. She paid the legal fees for it, but she will not pay the 
money she owes that could hire 60, 70, 80 teachers in my State.
  She spent millions pushing the same for-profit education model agenda 
that has ripped off Ohio taxpayers and shortchanged our students.
  Most people in this country used to think that billionaires are not 
above the law. In fact, some people--3 million fewer than voted for the 
other candidate--some people voted for this President because he said 
he would drain the swamp. If billionaires are, in fact, above the law--
if we are not holding Betsy DeVos accountable, it is hard to argue that 
billionaires are not above the law.
  She is opposed by the disability community. She is opposed by the 
civil rights community. She is opposed by a number of people in the 
more legitimate charter school community. She is opposed by teachers. 
Even the National Association of Principals has come out against her 
nomination. If Senator Murray's words are correct about this--and I 
know they are because we have talked to them--this is the first time in 
history that the National Association of Principals has come out 
against a Secretary of Education.

[[Page S814]]

  I can't support Betsy DeVos because I can't look Ohio's parents in 
the eye and tell them she will not put profits ahead of their 
children's education. Our children deserve better than that.
  In closing, I will come back to my comments about the Individuals 
with Disabilities Education Act, about which she knew nothing or knew 
little. I think how could a Secretary of Education-designate, who 
prides herself on knowing a lot about education, how could she not know 
much about IDEA? And then it occurred to me. If you are running a for-
profit charter school, you don't want disabled kids coming to your 
school. Why? Because it costs more to educate a disabled child than it 
does a child without any disabilities. It costs more because you might 
need more use of a nurse, a student aide, wheelchair accessibility, you 
might need special tutors. It costs more to educate a disabled child. A 
for-profit charter school doesn't want children with disabilities to 
walk through their doors or come in through a wheelchair through their 
doors. They can't make as much money.

  This is how we do privatization in this country: Let the public 
schools take care of the disabled, the child with disabilities, because 
we are in this for profit. It is a little bit like Medicare. The 
private for-profit insurance companies want the youngest, healthiest 
people in Medicare, the 65- and 70-year-olds who are active, who take 
walks, do all that. They don't really want the sickest and the oldest. 
Let taxpayers pay for them. That is exactly what her model of education 
is all about. Let the for-profit charters skim the cream, if you will; 
take the children who cost the least and are easiest to educate, but 
the public schools take care of the children with disabilities.
  Let the public schools take care of the children who maybe didn't 
have as much advantage in life as Betsy DeVos growing up. Let the 
public schools worry about the kids who might be a little more 
difficult because of discipline and other issues and what is going on 
in their homes. That is pretty clear how she looks at the world and 
looks at this job and, most importantly, how she looks at education in 
our country.
  That is what disturbs me. That is fundamentally why I oppose Betsy 
DeVos and plan to vote emphatically today, no.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Ohio for his 
passionate remarks on this topic. I have had the opportunity over most 
of Friday and over the last 23 hours, to listen to my colleagues come 
to the floor and speak passionately about an issue they care about, 
speaking against DeVos. We heard very little passionate speaking for 
Betsy DeVos, but we heard a tremendous amount of passion against.
  I want to thank the Senator from Ohio, in particular, speaking to the 
issue of the fact that Mrs. DeVos does owe a fine to Ohio that has not 
been paid. I find it incredulous that we are just dismissing that here 
and the Senators are voting for her.
  The Senator from Ohio spoke passionately about what vouchers would 
mean for students with disabilities, and their ability to get a good 
education could be in jeopardy over the vision that this Secretary is 
about to put forward.
  A few moments ago, I listened to the Senator from New Mexico speak 
about our tribal schools and the fact that this Secretary of Education 
has no knowledge of tribal education and her role in being in charge of 
that with no experience and no idea of what that means or how that will 
be enacted.
  Again, I want to just say that we heard from so many people in our 
States because we clearly have a nominee to run the Department of 
Education with no experience and a background that is really in 
opposition to what most of us have stood up for and fought for most of 
our lives. I have mentioned throughout this debate--as I have spoken 
numerous times about the tremendous amount of letters that have come to 
me through our mail over the last several weeks since this nominee came 
before our committee and the public had a chance to see Mrs. DeVos at 
our hearing, without the knowledge she needs to lead this agency, with 
the tremendous conflicts of interest that were portrayed over and over.
  I want to again go back and read some of those letters as we get into 
the last hour of this debate because I think they are quite telling.
  I have one from Dr. Jennifer Kay Lynn of Olympia, WA. She says to me:

       Thank you for your understanding Betsy DeVos would 
     devastate U.S. public education. Betsy DeVos's Senate 
     confirmation hearing underscored how unprepared she is to 
     serve as America's Secretary of Education. Mrs. DeVos has no 
     experience in public schools, either as a student, an 
     educator, administrator or even as a parent. Mrs. DeVos 
     doesn't understand key policy issues, like proficiency versus 
     growth, or the Federal role of the Individuals with 
     Disabilities Act.
       Mrs. DeVos would not even commit to upholding current 
     guidance on preventing sexual assault under title IX. Mrs. 
     DeVos has no idea of how the arts and public education are 
     critical for human development, education. All of the arts 
     help our students grow emotionally, with dedication to task 
     or more and more connections with the brain, and perhaps, 
     most importantly, find out how much the arts enhance their 
     lives. We need a Secretary of Education who will champion 
     innovative strategies that we know how to improve success for 
     all students, including creating more opportunities and 
     equity for all.
       Betsy DeVos is not that person, and I urge you to vote 
     against her for Secretary of Education.

  Those aren't my words. I didn't talk to Jennifer Lynn. She wrote to 
me because she saw this candidate come before our committee. She has 
looked at her record and has said: This is not what our country is 
  I got a letter from Jamie Michaelson of Oroville, WA, very small 

       Senator Murray, as a public school administrator, I am 
     extremely concerned about Betsy DeVos' lack of knowledge and 
     support for public schools. Having never been a teacher or 
     administrator is bothersome enough, but to have not attended 
     a public school herself, nor sent her kids to one, makes her 
     ill-equipped to making educational decisions.
       Furthermore, I worry about her understanding of small, 
     rural districts. We have our own unique needs, which include 
     funding professional development for teachers, Federally-
     funded programs for at-risk youth, and support to recruit and 
     retain high quality teachers.
       As a strong supporter of public education, I ask that you 
     oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the 
     U.S. Department of Education. We must have a Secretary who 
     can commit to supporting every student in our public schools, 
     and provide leadership that will help our neighborhood 
     schools succeed. Betsy DeVos' record in education and her 
     performance at the recent confirmation hearing proves she is 
     the wrong candidate for the job.
       As a principal, I have spoken with teachers, parents, 
     students and community members, who agree that America's 
     future depends on a strong investment in our Nation's public 
       Thank you for your attention to this matter. I understand 
     that you are being inundated with emails concerning Cabinet 
     picks. I feel the nomination of Betsy DeVos is political. 
     Students, families and educators deserve a highly-qualified 
     candidate that understands our complex educational system. I 
     am not writing to you because I have a political motivation. 
     Instead, I am looking for the best of the best for the 
     Secretary of Education position. Unfortunately, in my 
     professional opinion, Betsy DeVos is not the right person for 
     this job.

  I couldn't agree more. Shouldn't we have the best of the best at the 
top of our education system today? That is what my constituents are 
asking--and I know many across this country are hoping that just one 
more Republican Senator will agree. That is what will occur in about an 
  I see my colleague on the floor who has come here to talk. I 
appreciate him being here, and I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.
  Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, thank you for your leadership on this 
issue, and God knows, how many others. You are a force of nature. I am 
happy to be with you on this day.
  I come from Delaware, and we have about a million people who live in 
Delaware, and they are not shy about telling their congressional 
delegation--Senator Coons, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, and me--
what they are thinking. We go home just about every night. They get to 
tell us a lot of times in person. They also call our office. We have 
three offices in Delaware. They call our office here in Washington. 
They send us emails. We used to get a lot of letters, but now mostly we 
receive emails, not too many letters.
  I have never seen the kind of outcry, if you will, from the people of 
my State

[[Page S815]]

on any nomination. I have been privileged to serve. This is my 17th 
year. So we have seen a lot of nominations come and go, seen a number 
of Presidents come and go, but I have never seen anything quite like 
  I asked my staff to compile for me, through yesterday, the number of 
folks who either called us or emailed or sent us letters on the 
nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education.
  As of yesterday, over 3,700 people had contacted my office. That may 
not be a lot from Oklahoma. That may not be a lot from California. That 
is a lot in Delaware. I ask my staff to break down--let us know if we 
heard from anybody outside of Delaware: over 700. Then I said, for the 
folks who contacted us from Delaware with respect to this nomination of 
Betsy DeVos, how many were for her? Out of over 3,700--10. I have never 
seen anything like that.
  So that means there are over 3,700 people in my State who raised 
their voice up against her nomination. Just because the numbers are 
like 370 to 1 against the nomination, that doesn't necessarily mean I 
should oppose the nomination, but it certainly makes me stop and think 
if I had been inclined to do so.
  I rise today, not just as a United States Senator, but as a 
recovering Governor and a father, one who knows the value of public 
education from personal experience. My wife and I grew up--she in North 
Carolina and me in West Virginia, a little bit of Ohio, and mostly 
Virginia--we grew up in public schools. Our sons attended public 
schools throughout high school, graduated and went off to college, and 
we are proud of what they have accomplished. They are 26 and 28 years 
old today. I am very proud of what they have accomplished. I have a 
stepson from my first marriage. He lives in Michigan. He raised a 
family, four children and his wife, and I am very proud of what he 
accomplished--again, a product of public schools.
  When I graduated from high school, I was fortunate to win a Navy ROTC 
scholarship and go to Ohio State. I worked a couple of jobs while I was 
going to school and was able to become one of the first people in my 
family ever to go to college and to graduate from college. I spent five 
as a naval flight officer during the Vietnam war. At the end of the 
war, I came back to the United States and moved to Delaware. There, 
thanks to the GI bill and continuing to fly as a Reserve P-3 aircraft 
mission commander, I was able to make ends meet and get a graduate 
degree in business administration from the University of Delaware.
  The 8 years I was Governor, from 1993 to 2001, I spent a big part of 
those 8 years focusing on creating a more nurturing environment for job 
creation, job preservation. Our Presiding Officer has heard me wax on 
in our committee--more often than he probably wants to remember--about 
a major job of government under State, local, Federal, is to create a 
nurturing environment for job creation, job preservation. In a family, 
you have breadwinners, people earning an income, making a way for 
themselves, for the rest, and our job is a whole lot easier.
  One of the keys to that nurturing environment is to make sure the 
young men and women coming out of our colleges, our high schools, our 
trade schools have the ability to read, to write, to think, to use the 
technology, and to have a good work ethic and go out and be a good 
employee for any employer who might hire them.
  Public education is personal for me. I have had this remarkable 
connection to it for my whole life. In our little State, I visit 
schools almost every week. We have a program called Principal for a 
Day. I have been Principal for a Day. It is from the State chamber of 
commerce. I joke and tell people I have been Principal for a Day in 
about half the schools in Delaware. It is probably not quite right but 
probably 30 or more. I keep running into kids who went to high school 
and say: ``I was your principal, did you know that? Only for a day, but 
it was a good day.'' I learned a lot from doing that.
  I mentored, for probably a couple of decades, a bunch of different 
kids, trying to help be a good role model for them and give them an 
extra person to be able to lean on and to count on.
  Just recently, I was over at the school a couple of miles from our 
home at Mount Pleasant Elementary, which has a terrific elementary 
school in the Brandywine School District in Northern Delaware. The 
Teacher of the Year there for the State was good enough to let me come 
by and shadow her for part of her day and see what a really terrific 
teacher does. During the 8 years I was Governor, one of the highlights 
of every year was the day I would host, in June at the end of the 
school year. We have 19 school districts. Each school district picked 
the Teacher of the Year. They have the chance to have lunch--the 
Delaware Teachers of the Year--and just to focus on their school 
districts and their schools and their classes, what was working to 
raise student achievement and really be inspired by all of them.
  I hear regularly from my constituents about the importance of public 
education. In fact, I was out running late Sunday afternoon, actually 
into the dusk. I was going by a Wawa on Philadelphia Pike, just north 
of Wilmington. Some guy came by and he rolled down his window. As I ran 
along, he said, ``Don't vote for that Betsy DeVos.''
  I said, ``Really. Can't get away from it.''
  But I hear it a lot. I hear the message loud and clear.
  Many of our colleges have covered this nomination at some length. But 
I think it bears repeating. I would just say this: Experience matters. 
Mrs. DeVos has, as far as I can tell, no experience in public education 
as a student, none as a parent, none as a teacher, none as a school 
  Maybe that alone should not disqualify her, but it is concerning. 
During her confirmation hearing, Mrs. DeVos failed to answer the most 
basic questions relating to education policy, and she demonstrated, not 
just in my view but certainly the views of a lot of the people who 
watched and shared their views with me, that she was unqualified, 
really unprepared for what I think is a critical task.
  Many of my colleagues who support Mrs. DeVos point to her experience 
in Michigan, where Mrs. DeVos used her significant wealth and influence 
apparently to push an education reform agenda centered on vouchers, 
centered on for-profit charter schools that delivered questionable 
outcomes for students and taxpayers.
  Let me just say, I was a Governor who proposed legislation, signed 
legislation creating charter schools. I have been a champion of public 
charter schools in my State and in our country. I have been a champion 
here in the Congress. I am not a champion of all these for-profit 
colleges and universities that we have. Some of them are very good; 
some of them are not.
  I am concerned with the advent of for-profit charter schools, 
particularly those that are not doing the job, getting the job done and 
raising student achievement for the young men and women who are 
students there.
  Leading the Department of Education is a very big job. It is a very 
important job. The Secretary of Education is responsible for overseeing 
a budget of some $36 billion for K-12 education and $150 billion for 
higher education, as well as managing a portfolio of more than $1.2 
trillion in outstanding Federal student loans.
  I have been fortunate as a Congressman, as a Governor, as a Senator, 
to work with any number of Secretaries of Education in the 
administration of George Herbert Walker Bush, the administration of 
Bill Clinton, the administration of George W. Bush, and the 
administration of Barack Obama--people like Dick Riley, former Governor 
of South Carolina, people like Arne Duncan, who was a great school 
leader in Illinois and for our country as well. When I think of the 
giants they were and the work they did and how knowledgeable they were, 
how inspiring they were, how uplifting they were, that is the kind of 
leader we need. They were not just all in Democratic administrations or 
Democratic and Republican administrations. As much as ever, we need 
that kind of leader today.
  I will conclude by saying that Mrs. DeVos too often lacks experience, 
just as often has the wrong experience that we should expect from 
someone to lead the Department of Education at what is really a 
critical juncture for our country. I cannot support her nomination 
because I am not a convinced that she is interested in bringing 

[[Page S816]]

and Republicans together on a shared vision of improving public 
education in this country. Reluctantly, I must urge my Democrat and 
Republican colleagues to listen to this groundswell of voices from 
across the country and ultimately oppose this nomination.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Flake). The Senator from Maryland.
  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, as the Senate deliberates the nomination 
of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, I have heard from more 
than 4,200 Marylanders who have called my office, more than 3,700 
Marylanders who have emailed me, and countless others who have sent me 
messages via Twitter and Facebook, and, as Senator Carper has 
indicated, those who have just stopped me on the streets and urged me 
to oppose her nomination.
  They have contacted me to express their strong support for public 
education, and they are concerned about whether Mrs. DeVos is equally 
committed to public schools. I share their concern. Marylanders and I 
agree that our children deserve an advocate in this position who will 
work to strengthen the ability of public school educators to serve our 
  As a proud graduate of the Baltimore City Public Schools, I 
understand the transformative powers that quality public school 
education can provide a child. The education I received at city schools 
has allowed me, the grandchild of immigrants, to represent Maryland in 
the Senate. I owe that to my public education, my public school 
  Maryland has made a commitment to providing adequate funding for 
public education over the past decade. Consequently, Maryland has 
consistently been a national leader in student performance and student 
  Each day, our State's nearly 880,000 students make their way to 
classrooms of more than 60,000 and thousands of more support personnel 
and education leaders in over 1,400 Maryland schools. I appreciate the 
service of Maryland educators, not only from the perspective of a 
lawmaker, a father, and a grandfather but also as a husband of a former 
school teacher.
  Mrs. DeVos appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and 
Pensions Committee to articulate her view on how to best serve our 
students as Secretary of Education. I found several of Mrs. DeVos's 
answers to the committee questions to be troubling, particularly what 
appeared to be her tepid support for our Nation's public schools; her 
failure to recognize the critical Federal civil rights safeguards for 
children with disabilities; her inability to offer an opinion on 
longstanding debates within the education community that she would be 
expected to join as Secretary of Education; her support for President 
Trump's dangerous campaign promise to eliminate gun-free school zones; 
and her overall lack of response on how to provide students and their 
families with affordable higher education.
  Maryland families know and understand the value of a high quality 
public school education. Since 2008, enrollment in our State public 
schools has increased by nearly 36,000 students to a record enrollment 
of approximately 880,000 students for the 2016-2017 school year.
  While enrollment has continued to increase at a record pace, I am 
proud that Maryland public schools have consistently ranked among the 
top five public school systems in the country.
  I worry that Mrs. DeVos's enthusiastic support for private school 
choice programs could hamper the progress in State and local education 
in Maryland and could prevent us from providing the highest quality 
level of education for our public school students. School choice 
programs that shift Federal fund dollars from public schools to defray 
tuition at private schools weaken the ability of Maryland's hard-
working public school professionals to deliver college- and career-
ready education for Maryland's diverse students.
  Certainly private schools play an important role in our education 
system. As Senator Carper points out, he supports, I support, charter 
schools within our public school system. I support the role that public 
schools play. But we mustn't forget that more than 91 percent of 
American children attend public schools. They and their families 
deserve a Secretary of Education who will fight to strengthen public as 
well as private education.
  School choice programs are not one-size-fits-all solutions to 
strengthen education in the United States. They leave out students in 
our rural communities, for instance, and have been shown in Maryland 
for the most part to support students who are already enrolled in 
private schools.
  I urge our Secretary of Education nominee--if she is confirmed--to 
work to provide our public school teachers with the training, tools, 
and resources necessary to provide all children with a high-quality 
education. I was particularly concerned by Mrs. DeVos's apparent 
unfamiliarity with critical Federal civil rights safeguards for 
children with disabilities, guaranteed under the 1975 Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act, IDEA.
  IDEA ensures that every child with disabilities is afforded a free 
appropriate public education. Across my State, more than 100,000 
children receive federally funded services under the IDEA to help them 
succeed academically. Mrs. DeVos did not seem to know that States must 
follow this critical civil education rights law if they accept Federal 
  Parents across the country advocate for their children on a daily 
basis, utilizing the protections afforded to their children under the 
IDEA. They deserve a Secretary of Education who understands her 
responsibilities and the Federal Government's responsibilities to 
children with disabilities. Last year's enactment of the bipartisan, 
bicameral Every Student Succeeds Act was a true success.
  This was an incredible accomplishment put together by Senators 
Alexander and Murray. For the first time in 14 years, Congress 
reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, legislation 
that was first enacted 50 years ago as part of the civil rights era to 
ensure that all of our children are able to attain a high-quality 
  That act eliminated the outdated and ineffective accountability 
system of adequately yearly progress and now provides States with the 
flexibility to decide their own accountability system to identify, 
monitor, and assist schools in need of improvement to best educate 
their students.
  We gave local flexibility but maintained accountability. That was a 
major improvement in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The 
modifications allow States to move away from reliance on a collective 
set of test scores to measure students' proficiency. Now, States will 
be able to design accountability systems that take into account student 
growth over the course of a school year.
  As Secretary of Education, Mrs. DeVos would be tasked with leading 
the Federal implementation and review of the State development 
accountability systems. But in a hearing before the committee, she 
struggled to understand the definition of proficiency versus growth and 
had to have committee members help her define those terms.
  Maryland educators oppose the high-stake testing requirements under 
the previous Federal accountability system. They deserve a Secretary of 
Education who understands the basic concepts of Federal involvement in 
our public schools, so they can effectively advocate for more accurate 
accountability systems that better show student growth in the 
  Mrs. DeVos's expressed support for President Trump's misguided pledge 
to eliminate gun-free schools zones is deeply concerning. Maryland's 
families have made it loud and clear to me that this approach is wrong 
and would unnecessarily put our students in harm's way in the very 
classrooms in which they are expected to learn. Since 2000, there have 
been four school shootings across my home State. One shooting in a 
school anywhere in our country is too many. Each of those incidents is 
a tragedy, and I do not wish to see more students and educators put at 
risk of additional tragic incidents of gun violence by allowing 
firearms in our classrooms.
  Rather than support the Federal programs developed under the 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide additional funding 
for school-based mental health resources in our national public schools 
that can provide assistance for those who may commit gun violence at 
schools, Mrs. DeVos would spend those tax dollars on

[[Page S817]]

school choice programs and open up our classrooms to potential 
  In the coming months, future college students and their families will 
sit at their family kitchen tables to apply for financial aid to pay 
for college and await the news of their acceptance to the college of 
their choice. I have talked to so many Marylanders who are struggling 
with allowing their children to go to schools of higher education so 
that they can be best prepared, but they are looking at the realities 
of the cost involved in higher education. This is an exciting time, yet 
an increasingly anxious time for parents and students as the cost of 
attending college continues to rise.
  Mrs. DeVos needs to demonstrate that she is familiar with the 
process, the steps necessary to apply for Federal financial student 
aid, and appreciates the enormous burden families increasingly 
undertake to gain a foothold in the middle class through higher 
  Mrs. DeVos appears willing to roll back protections for student 
borrowing and to allow taxpayer funds to be put at risk of failing for-
profit schools that do not provide students with the educational skills 
necessary to join the workforce. At a minimum, I would expect her to be 
an advocate to make sure that Federal funds are not used for these 
schools that are not being held accountable for what they do.
  I would like to hear Mrs. DeVos voice her support for America's 
College Promise plan to provide academically successful students with 
the ability to earn the first 2 years of their college degree tuition 
free at a community college. So far I don't think she has said 
anything. That is the most efficient way to try to educate our 
  I appreciate Mrs. DeVos's willingness to serve, and I believe she is 
sincere in her beliefs, but I am concerned that those beliefs, if 
enacted, would harm the capability of America's public education system 
to serve the vast majority of students across the Nation and pile on 
needless costs to students, their families, and the American 
taxpayer. Therefore, I will stand with Maryland's students, teachers, 
and parents in opposing Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

  With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I have had the opportunity over the last 
almost 24 hours now to hear from a wide swath of our Democratic 
conference speak out against the nomination because they feel so 
strongly that in this country public education is a core principle. I 
know a number of my colleagues will be participating with me in these 
last few minutes, but I want to thank, again, everyone who has written, 
who has called in, who has expressed their opinion on this critical 
nominee that this President tapped to oversee education policy.
  Mr. SCHATZ. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I yield to the Senator from Hawaii for a question.
  Mr. SCHATZ. I thank the ranking member of the HELP Committee, the 
senior Senator from Washington.
  You can trace the history of public education in America to the 
Original Thirteen Colonies. In 1635, boys in Boston could get a free 
education, and by 1647, the Massachusetts Bay Colony required every 
town to provide boys a basic education.
  Some 340 years later, our public education system has come a long 
way, but some things don't change. Our communities still understand how 
public education lays a foundation for success. It is still the great 
  Senator Murray, during Betsy DeVos's hearing, you asked a very 
important question. You asked: Can you commit to us that you will not 
work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public 
  Mrs. DeVos responded by saying she would work to find common ground 
and give parents options.
  I am wondering whether you were satisfied with her answer and her 
commitment to the basic premise of public schools and public education.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Well, I thank the Senator from Hawaii for his question.
  He is absolutely right. I did ask Betsy DeVos, when she came before 
our committee, if she would commit to not privatizing our schools or 
cutting a single penny from public education, and she would not do 
that. She would not do that.
  To me, that sends a very clear message, and it did obviously to 
parents, students, and administrators across this country, that she was 
not committed to the core principle of public education, that our tax 
dollars in this country always have and should continue to be to make 
sure that every student, no matter where they are, will have the 
opportunity to participate in education. Her answer clearly meant that 
she was going to take money from our public education system, from our 
schools--big, small, rural, urban, and suburban--to go to private 
schools. That would mean a devastation for many communities.
  So I thank the Senator from Hawaii for his question.
  Ms. HASSAN. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I yield to the Senator from New Hampshire.
  Ms. HASSAN. Thank you very much.
  Senator Murray, I have been very concerned, as you know, with Mrs. 
DeVos's lack of understanding of issues facing students with 
disabilities. My son Ben's experience in public education was made 
possible because there were so many families and advocates who came 
before my family to make his inclusion possible.
  Before IDEA, students who experienced disabilities in an 
institutional setting often didn't get an education at all and were 
often mistreated.
  Yesterday when I spoke on the floor, I discussed a woman in New 
Hampshire named Roberta who had been in our State school before IDEA 
was passed and gave accounts of terrible experiences there.
  Do you also have concerns with Mrs. DeVos's lack of understanding of 
the challenges faced by students who experience disabilities and her 
lack of commitment to ensuring that all students have a free and 
appropriate public education?
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I deeply share the concern of the Senator 
from New Hampshire. She came to the floor last night to speak 
eloquently about the challenges that our students with disabilities 
have and the promise that this country has made now for decades that if 
you are a student with a disability, you will be able to go to a public 
school and get the education that you need.
  She spoke eloquently. For everyone who didn't hear her, I ask you to 
go back and look at the Record and listen to it.
  Yes, I am deeply concerned that this nominee whom this President has 
sent to us is not committed to that basic premise that, no matter who 
you are or where you come from or what you look like or if you have a 
disability, you get a public education. But I am not only concerned 
that she doesn't have a commitment. I am deeply concerned that she 
didn't even understand that it was current Federal law.
  How can someone be a Secretary of Education in this country and not 
understand that basic premise and not give that commitment to people 
across the country that, if it is your child or someone you love or 
someone you know, they, too, can go to school and get what they need.
  So I want to thank the Senator from New Hampshire. And, yes, I am 
deeply concerned, as we all should be in this body and across the 
country, that this nominee is not prepared or qualified to make that 
basic assurance for all students in this country.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Minnesota.
  Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Mr. President, my mom was a second grade teacher, and 
she taught second grade until she was 70 years old. That was her life's 
  I went to public school, and I sent my daughter to public school. It 
has really been the core of how I ended up in the Senate.
  After a close review of Mrs. DeVos's confirmation record and the 
hearing, I have concluded that, like all of my colleagues on the 
Democratic side and two of our colleagues on the Republican side, I 
cannot support her. I don't believe she is prepared for this job, and I 
don't believe she is committed to the kind of public education that got 
my family from an iron ore mine in Northern Minnesota to the U.S. 
  My question of Senator Murray is that one of the most troubling 
examples of this lack of preparation came

[[Page S818]]

when Mrs. DeVos was questioned by my colleagues Senator Hassan, who 
just spoke, and Senator Kaine about whether schools should meet the 
standards outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 
She said she would leave this decision to the States.
  As I noted yesterday, I occupied the Senate seat once held by 
Minnesota's own Hubert Humphrey. He was someone who, of course, was 
never at a loss for words.
  He delivered a speech at the Minnesota AFL-CIO 40 years ago, and one 
line of that speech is just as appropriate today as it was back then. 
He said: ``The moral test of government is how the government treats 
those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the 
twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of 
life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.''
  These civil rights protections and the funding that we have seen 
under IDEA have always been an area of bipartisan cooperation. I have 
heard from so many parents in my State.
  A mom from Watertown with a son who was born with Down syndrome says 
that thanks to IDEA, this law has given her the opportunity for her son 
to participate in a normal education.
  For a woman from Lakeville, her son was born with developmental 
disabilities in the late 1980s. She was so worried about what his 
future would be. Then that law was put into place, and today he is a 
successful young adult who happily lives, learns, and works in his 
  So my question of Senator Murray is what her views are of the 
nominee's qualifications when it comes to the Individuals with 
Disabilities Education Act and the concern that she has heard from 
others in her State as well as across the country when it comes to this 
very important issue for our children.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I want to thank the Senator from 
Minnesota, who came the other night to talk passionately about her own 
mother, who was a teacher and her favorite course to teach was about 
the monarch butterfly and how she would come dressed up as a butterfly 
and how she impacted a young student in her classroom who is now a 
young adult and still remembers the learning experience that her 
mother, as a teacher, gave to him. That spark is so important for every 
child in this country--that spark for education--no matter who you are, 
your disability, or what brings you to school that day. That is what is 
so important about the term ``public education.'' Every child in this 
country deserves a public education and to reach their full potential, 
no matter what they look like, how they come to school that day, 
whether they have been fed or have a disability. That spark is what is 
so important.
  That is why so many people have spoken out in this country about this 
nominee, who knows nothing or very little about IDEA--not even that it 
is a Federal law that is under the jurisdiction of the Department that 
she is seeking and that she would oversee and protect those students. 
That, to me, is deeply disappointing. It says to me that this President 
should say: I don't want this nominee to go forward. I will send you 
someone who understands this law.
  I appreciate the question from the Senator from Minnesota.
  Mrs. McCASKILL. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I yield for a question.
  Mrs. McCASKILL. I say to the Senator, it is my understanding that the 
essence of Mrs. DeVos's career has been an effort to impose on States 
programs--and now a Federal Government program--that will take money 
out of public schools to provide for parents and students to then go to 
private schools. Is it a fair characterization of the essence of her 
career that parents should have a choice with public money to decide 
whether they want to attend a public school or a private school?
  Mrs. MURRAY. The Senator is correct. The essence of what she has 
promoted and used her vast wealth for and has worked for throughout her 
experience is to take money away from public education and put it into 
private schools.
  Mrs. McCASKILL. So I am confused.
  We just had an election. In my State, the reddest parts of my State 
are parts of the State where there are no private schools--rural 
Missouri. I am a daughter of rural Missouri. My father went to public 
school in Houston, MO. My mother went to public school in Lebanon, MO. 
I attended public school in Lebanon, MO, and Columbia, MO. In fact, I 
am a product of public education from beginning to end. Both of my 
parents went to the University of Missouri, and so did I.
  In rural areas of this country, there are no private schools for 
parents and kids to choose. They would have to drive miles. By the way, 
in my State, the newly elected Governor just cut transportation funds 
for public schools--just cut them. So they now have less money for 
transportation than they had last year. And, by the way, it isn't like 
public schools are getting fully funded in my State. They are not.
  So I guess what I am confused about--I know what public schools mean 
to rural Missouri. I know they are the essence of the community. If the 
essence of this woman's career is to take money out of public schools 
in rural communities and put them in private schools that will never 
exist in many of these small communities, they are kicking the shins of 
the very voters who put them in power.
  I don't get that. I don't get that, Senator. I don't understand how 
you could give the back of your hand to rural America with this 
decision. I would implore my colleagues who understand that rural 
America is where their base is in large part that they are misreading 
this vote if they think that rural America is going to forget that this 
woman wants to rob the public schools of rural America and put in 
private schools in the cities, which they will never be able to attend.
  I thank the Senator.
  Mrs. MURRAY. I thank the Senator for her question. I just want to say 
that she is absolutely right. The money is not magic. It doesn't just 
get printed to give vouchers to schools. It comes from our public 
schools. As she stated so eloquently, there are many schools--some in 
rural areas, some in urban areas, or mostly in rural, and there is no 
private school to send your kids to. That voucher money, that public 
money, those taxpayer dollars will come away from those schools. They 
will have less money, but it won't go to the advantage of those 
students, and they will be left behind.
  Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, will the distinguished Senator yield for 
a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I yield for a question.
  Ms. STABENOW. Thank you very much. Before asking my question, I want 
to thank the senior Senator from Washington State for her leadership 
and passion on behalf of my children and on behalf of myself. As a 
product of a small rural school in Northern Michigan, my two children 
went to public school, and my two grandchildren are now going to public 
  I want to thank you for your leadership, and I am so grateful to all 
of our colleagues and our two Republican colleagues who are joining us 
  Would you agree that when we look at this--and I certainly have a 
bird's-eye view. We in Michigan have lived what has happened in cutting 
public schools and moving dollars to private, for-profit, nonprofit 
charters without virtually any accountability. Would you agree that 
essentially we have a nominee who is looking through a lens of a 
private sector for-profit model, where in the private sector we have 
winners and losers, so you can have a business open and close. That is 
based on our private marketplace. It works well, but in education it is 
different. We can't afford for any of our children to be losers in 
education, and it just doesn't work to have this competitive 
marketplace; that what we need is a quality public school along with 
public choices. I support public charters with accountability and other 
choices, but what we have is a view of a nominee, someone who has not 
been involved in public schools herself, or her children, and so on, 
who comes at it from this perspective of winners and losers in the 
private market, and we cannot afford any child to be a loser as it 
relates to their education.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Well, I want to thank the Senator from Michigan for that 
question because it is at the heart of what this entire debate is 
about. We

[[Page S819]]

have a nominee who has come forward who is quite successful in private 
business--a billionaire herself--whose idea and vision for our Nation's 
education comes from a private business perspective.
  The Senator from Michigan is absolutely right. Our schools are not 
about profits. They are not profit centers, and we can never run them 
that way because there is a core principle that this country was 
founded on that our forefathers very wisely thought of. They wanted to 
make sure that every young person in this country, no matter who they 
were and how much money they had, would get a public education.
  You can't run that as a for-profit business because there are kids 
who come to our schools who are very hard. Maybe they come without 
having had a parent home the night before, they come hungry, they come 
with disabilities, they come with challenging education experiences. We 
can't throw those kids out because there are other kids who come with 
parents who are very active and are really bright and we want to keep 
them because they are better for profit. We have to run our public 
education schools so every child has that opportunity because who knows 
who that young child is going to be who takes that nugget of public 
education and ends up sitting here in the U.S. Senate. That is the 
foundation of our country.
  I really appreciate the Senator from Michigan for raising that 
because that is the core essence of why so many people have spoken out 
against this nominee, who stood up and have written us letters and made 
phone calls and stood at rallies and spoken out--many people who have 
never spoken out on issues before who have never really paid attention 
before, but this is about the core principles our country was founded 
on, a public education for all--not a profit education for all but a 
public education for all.
  Mr. MERKLEY. Mr. President, will the Senator from Washington yield 
for a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I will yield to the Senator from Oregon.
  Mr. MERKLEY. I appreciate your point and the belief that the son or 
daughter of a millwright, a mill worker as I was, should have the same 
opportunity as the son or daughter of a CEO in a big company. That is 
embedded in the notion of quality public schools.
  What I was really struck by was that DeVos wants to divert all these 
public funds from our schools to for-profit schools, and if it is for-
profit, you squeeze down the services in the school to maximize the 
profit, and that is just exactly the type of attack on our children 
that we can't tolerate, but I was also struck about how she imposes the 
accountability for these alternative schools. The columnist Stephen 
Henderson of the Detroit Free Press said:

       Largely as a result of DeVos's lobby, Michigan tolerates 
     more low-performing charter schools than just about any other 
     State. It lacks any effective mechanism for shutting down or 
     even improving failing charters.

  He goes on to say:

       We are a laughingstock in national education circles and a 
     pariah among reputable charter school operators who have not 
     opened schools in Detroit because of the wild west nature of 
     the educational landscape here.

  Do you share the concern about the complete lack of accountability of 
these for-profit schools that are pulling the funds out of our public 
schools in Michigan?
  Mrs. MURRAY. Let me thank the Senator from Oregon for his question 
because he raises a very important point. No one is debating whether we 
want our kids to have a choice. The debate here is about whether or not 
those schools that take taxpayer dollars through a voucher system are 
accountable to the taxpayers who are paying for those vouchers.
  This nominee came before our committee and very clearly stated that 
she would not equally hold accountable private schools. Now, I was a 
former school board member, and I can tell you, I was there late many 
nights listening to parents who stood before us and talked about the 
fact that they wanted to make sure that their school had good teachers 
or their school had good policies, and we were accountable to that 
because we were an elected board, and we had to make decisions based on 
what our constituents thought was important.
  These are our constituents who are paying their tax dollars to this 
country, and they want to know that their taxes are used accountably. 
Yet we have a nominee before us at the Department of Education who has 
said she wants to take those taxpayer dollars--your money--and send it 
on to private schools with no accountability. What does that mean? That 
could mean that those private schools don't necessarily have to provide 
a strong curriculum in specific topics. It means they can let kids out 
of school and say: We don't want to keep you here anymore. You are too 
tough to teach.
  It can say that they will not keep records of dropout rates so we 
know whether or not they are encouraging these tough kids to go to 
another school. They can actually deny access to students with 
disabilities or who come from tough backgrounds who may not meet their 
standards, and they will not be held accountable under the policies 
that Ms. DeVos proposes. So the Senator raises an absolutely critical 
question. At the end of the day, each elected official in this country 
is held accountable to their taxpayers to assure that the money they 
give out in their taxes is used in a way that our country agrees on, 
and this Secretary of Education says: Nope. We want to change that. We 
want your tax dollars to go to schools that are not accountable to you.
  Mr. MERKLEY. I thank the Senator from Washington for her answer. So 
often I have heard speeches about accountability from across the aisle. 
This is a case where accountability matters a tremendous amount because 
it determines whether our children have a fair shot at driving America. 
So I thank the Senator from Washington for elucidating us in regard to 
that issue.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, we have a number of Senators who have 
been on the floor who are here now and who would like to speak, and I 
ask unanimous consent that I continue this dialogue with Senators until 
a quarter to 12, and the last 15 minutes be equally divided between the 
chairman of the committee and myself.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Reserving the right to object.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. That would mean the chairman of the committee would 
speak last.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, let me revise my request. I ask unanimous 
consent that we continue to have this conversation until a quarter to 
12 p.m.; that at a quarter to 12, I will give my final remarks and 
divide equally the last 15 minutes so the chairman of the committee has 
the last 7\1/2\ minutes.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. I have no objection.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  Ms. DUCKWORTH. Will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I will yield to the Senator from Illinois.
  Ms. DUCKWORTH. I do not believe that the President nominated the best 
candidate to serve as Secretary of Education. I don't believe he even 
nominated a qualified candidate. Mrs. DeVos has never taught, never 
worked in a school system, and has no educational degree in education 
  I was hoping that she would ease my concerns over her qualifications 
at the confirmation hearing and prove that she was indeed up for the 
job, but, instead, Mrs. DeVos failed to study, showed up unprepared, 
and appeared unfamiliar with the foundational civil rights law that 
guarantees every student, including those with disabilities, the right 
to a quality equitable education.
  I would not be here today were it not for strong public schools and 
civil rights protections. Confirming her to lead the agency tasked with 
educating our children and helping them develop into successful adults 
would be a mistake for our children because they would have to pay for 
and live with this mistake for decades to come. There is simply no way 
that I can support her nomination.
  I ask the Senator, how is it possible that we could have a Secretary 
of Education who does not understand or even know about those Federal 

[[Page S820]]

for students with disabilities to have access to equitable and fair 
  Mrs. MURRAY. I want to thank the Senator from Illinois, who is an 
amazing new and great Member of our Senate. She comes from Illinois. 
She comes from an incredible background and is asking a critical 
question about whether our students with disabilities should have 
access to education.
  It is a passion many of us have feelings about, it is a principle 
that our country has supported, and it is a principle that this nominee 
is uniquely unknowledgeable about and, to me, that is reason enough for 
any of us to vote against that nominee.
  Mr. FRANKEN. Will Senator Murray yield for a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I will yield to the Senator from Minnesota for a 
  Mr. FRANKEN. Thank you. As Senators on opposite sides of the aisle, 
we have philosophical differences, but one thing I think we all agree 
on is that our Cabinet Secretaries must be qualified and up to the 
challenge of running an agency.
  Betsy DeVos has demonstrated that she is not qualified to run the 
Education Department. I would say to my colleagues on the other side of 
the aisle, if you watched her confirmation hearing, you would know 
that. It was the most embarrassing confirmation hearing I have ever 
seen. She could not answer the most basic questions about education. So 
I ask my Republican colleagues, if Mrs. DeVos's performance in this 
hearing didn't convince you that she lacks qualifications for this job, 
what would have had to have happened in that hearing in order to 
convince you?
  If we cannot set aside party loyalty long enough to perform the 
essential duty of vetting the President's nominees, what are we even 
doing here?
  Let's do our job for the sake of the children and for the sake of our 
Nation's future. Thank you.
  Mrs. MURRAY. I say thank you to the Senator from Minnesota, and I 
want to thank him for being a committed part of our committee, really 
helping us all recognize that this nominee is not qualified.
  I see the Senator from Hawaii who has, I believe, the last question.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Hawaii.
  Ms. HIRONO. Will the Senator from Washington yield for a question?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I will yield to the Senator from Hawaii.
  Ms. HIRONO. As we have spent many hours debating whether Mrs. DeVos 
is the best person to head our Department of Education, my question is, 
Do you think Betsy DeVos is the best prepared, the best experienced, 
and the best committed person to lead as the Secretary of the 
Department of Education?
  With your indulgence, I would like to put this into a little bit of a 
context because we talk about how foundational public schools are and 
how education is a great equalizer. I speak from experience as an 
immigrant coming to this country not speaking any English, and I 
learned from the public schools and the committed teachers in public 
schools how to read and write English, to develop my love of reading, 
to count on an education system to prepare me for success, not only in 
school but in life.
  That is why I want to also ask my colleague from Washington State, 
for the nearly 200,000 young people in Hawaii who attend our public 
schools and obviously the millions of young people in our public 
schools throughout the country, Do you think Betsy DeVos is the best we 
can do for these people who are attending our public schools?
  Mrs. MURRAY. I thank the Senator from Hawaii, and I think that is the 
question all of us should be posing to ourselves as we get down to the 
final few minutes. Is this the best of the best?
  Is this a knowledgeable candidate who understands the Federal law?
  Is this a candidate who comes to us without conflicts of interest?
  Is this a candidate who is willing to stand up and be the defender of 
all young children in schools?
  To me and to many of my colleagues who have been out here speaking, 
she is not.
  I want to thank all of my great colleagues who have been out here 
speaking from their heart about a passion that they have in this 
country for a candidate to lead the Department of Education who is 
qualified, who is prepared, who is ready to stand up and fight for 
every child no matter where they live or where they come from.
  With that, Mr. President, I believe we are down to the last 15 
minutes before the vote, with the time equally divided.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. That is correct.
  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, as I noted, Democrats have been here on 
the Senate floor for the past 24 hours straight, talking about the 
importance of public education, sharing stories from parents and 
students and teachers in our home States, highlighting all of the 
reasons for Senators to stand with us and stand with their 
constituents, stand with other Republicans who are doing the right 
thing, and urging them to say no to Betsy DeVos and her plans to 
privatize public school and destroy public education in America.
  But I come to the floor today to make one final push before this 
vote, to make the case one last time, because we are so, so close and 
because this is so important and also because we have a real shot right 
now to show people across the country that the Senate can actually 
listen to them, that their voices matter, and that their Senators put 
them and their kids and their families and their futures above loyalty 
to a party or a President.
  I have talked about my frustration with the fact that Republican 
leaders did everything they could to jam this nominee through the 
Senate. They cut corners and rushed into a hearing before her ethics 
paperwork was in. They blocked Democrats from asking more than 5 
minutes of questions, forcing a vote before all of our questions were 
answered about her tangled finances and her potential conflicts of 
interest, and rushed straight from the committee vote to the shortest 
possible floor debate they could manage.
  So I won't spend more time on that today because the truth is that 
despite Republicans' best efforts, people across the country have 
learned a whole lot about Betsy DeVos over the past few weeks, and the 
more they have learned about her, the less they have liked and the more 
outraged they have become.
  Over the past few weeks, people have learned about Betsy DeVos's 
tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest and how she and 
her family have given hundreds of millions of dollars to Republicans 
and extreme conservative groups. They have learned about her failed 
record, how she spent her career and her inherited fortune pushing 
anti-public school policies that have hurt so many students in her home 
State of Michigan and across the country. They have learned about the 
extreme rightwing ideology that drives her, how she wants to bring her 
anti-government, free-market-above-all philosophy to an education 
system that she has called nothing more than ``an industry, and a dead 
  When people saw her in her hearing, they learned even more. When they 
watched Betsy DeVos in that hearing room, when they saw it live on the 
evening news, on ``The Daily Show,'' on ``The View,'' and on many other 
shows covering it, and one of the many clips that went viral on social 
media or shared by a friend or a family member, a whole lot of people 
were introduced to Betsy DeVos for that first time in that hearing, and 
they were not impressed. People across the country saw a nominee who 
was clearly ill-informed and confused, who gave a number of very 
concerning responses to serious and reasonable questions.
  In that hearing, Betsy DeVos refused to rule out slashing investments 
in or privatizing public schools. She was confused that Federal law 
provides protections for students with disabilities. She didn't 
understand a basic issue in education policy--the debate surrounding 
whether students should be measured based on their proficiency or their 
growth. She argued that guns needed to be allowed in schools across the 
county to ``protect from Grizzlies.'' And even though she was willing 
to say that President Trump's behavior toward women should be 
considered sexual assault, she would not commit to actually enforcing 
Federal law protecting women and girls in our schools. Those were just 
a few of the moments in that hearing that made it clear why Betsy DeVos 
is not qualified to do this job. There were many more.

[[Page S821]]

  What people saw in that hearing wasn't just a nominee who didn't 
understand the issues; they saw a nominee for Secretary of Education 
who clearly didn't think about public education and public schools the 
way they do. For most people, public education hits really close to 
home. It is part of who we are, our families, and our communities. So 
many of us owe everything we have to public education. We have watched 
our kids and our grandkids and our neighbors get on the bus to go to 
their local public school. Many of us have taught in public schools or 
have family or friends who walk into classrooms every single day to 
help our students learn. And so many of us believe in a commitment to 
strong public schools that offer an education and opportunity to every 
student. It is a core part of the American promise.
  So when we saw someone nominated to this position who knows so little 
about public education, who so clearly cares so little about public 
education, whose strongest connection to public schools is through her 
dedication to tearing them down, that struck a real chord with a whole 
lot of people, and they decided to make their voices heard.
  Over the past two weeks, we have seen an unprecedented level of 
engagement from people on this nomination--tens of thousands of calls, 
thousands of letters, hundreds of people calling in, social media, and 
many of them have never been involved or made their voices heard 
before. It made a difference. Right now, every single Democrat is 
opposing this nomination, and two Republicans who listened to their 
constituents are joining us. So we are dead even--the first time in 
history that the Vice President will be called on shortly to cast a 
tie-breaking vote on a Cabinet nominee. We just need one more 
Republican to join us to prevent that from happening, one more to help 
us show the people across this country that their voice matters in this 
debate, one more to stand with people across the country and say no.
  So I am here to finish this debate where we started--standing with 
students and parents and teachers, with the people of my home State of 
Washington and across the country who strongly support public schools 
and true education opportunity for all, and with Democrats and 
Republicans across the country who have poured their heart and soul 
into opposing this nominee. I stand with you.
  I urge one more Republican to join us.
  Thank you, Mr. President.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, will you please let me know when 4 
minutes has expired and then when 5 minutes has expired, and then I 
will allocate to the Senator from South Carolina the last 2\1/2\ 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Chair will so advise.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I am voting for Betsy DeVos because she 
will implement our law fixing No Child Left Behind the way we wrote 
it--to reverse the trend to a national school board and restore control 
to classroom teachers, to local school boards, to Governors, and 
legislators--because she has been at the forefront of the most 
important public school reform in the last 30 years--public charter 
schools--and because she has worked tirelessly to give low-income 
children more of the same kind of choices that wealthy families have.
  Twenty-two Governors in this country support Betsy DeVos.
  I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record their names, 
including former Governor Jeb Bush, former Governor Mitt Romney, former 
Governor John Engler, and 462 organizations and elected officials who 
support Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                   Highlights Among DeVos Supporters

  These individuals have written letters, op-eds, or announced public 

       22 State Governors, including:
       Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama; Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona; 
     Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas; Gov. Rick Scott, Florida; Gov. 
     Bruce Rauner, Illinois; Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana; Gov. Sam 
     Brownback, Kansas; Gov. Matthew Bevin, Kentucky; Gov. Paul 
     LePage, Maine; Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan; Gov. Phil Bryant, 
     Mississippi; Gov. Eric Greitens, Missouri; Gov. Doug Burgum, 
     North Dakota; Gov. Pete Ricketts, Nebraska; Gov. Brian 
     Sandoval, Nevada; Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey; Gov. 
     Susana Martinez, New Mexico; Gov. John Kasich, Ohio; Gov. 
     Mary Fallin, Oklahoma; Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee; Gov. Greg 
     Abbott, Texas; Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin.
       Former Governors:
       Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, John Engler.
       4 Former Education Secretaries:
       William Bennett, Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings, Lamar 
       Former Senators:
       Joe Lieberman and Bill Frist.
       Democrats including:
       Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter 
     Schools; Anthony Williams, former Mayor of Washington, DC.

                  462 Organizations, elected officials

National Support for the Nomination of Betsy DeVos to be U.S. Secretary 
                              of Education

       50 CAN--50 State Campaign for Achievement Now; ACE 
     Scholarships; Agudath Israel of America; Air Force 
     Association; Alabama Federation for Children; Alabama 
     Secretary of State John H. Merrill; Alabama State Sen. Del 
     Marsh, President Pro Tem; Alaska Rep. Charisse Millett, House 
     Republican Leader; American Federation for Children; American 
     Association of Christian Schools; Americans for Prosperity; 
     Americans for Prosperity--Arizona; Americans for Tax Reform; 
     Arizona Chamber of Commerce; Arizona Charter Schools 
     Association; Arizona Federation for Children; Arizona State 
     Sen. Steven Yarbrough, President; Arizona State Sen. Kimberly 
     Yee, Majority Leader; Arizona State Sen. Gail Griffin, 
     Majority Whip; Arizona State Sen. Debbie Lesko, President Pro 
     Tem; Arizona State Sen. Sylvia Allen, Education Committee 
     Chair; Arizona State Rep. J.D. Mesnard, Speaker of the House; 
     Arizona State Rep. John Allen, Majority Leader; Arizona State 
     Rep. Kelly Townsend, Majority Whip; Arizona State Rep. T.J. 
     Shope, Speaker Pro Tem; Arizona State Rep. Don Shooter, 
     Appropriations Chair; Arizona State Rep. Paul Boyer, 
     Education Committee Chair; Arizona State Rep. Tony Rivero; 
     Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin; Associated Builders 
     and Contractors (ABC); Association of Big Ten Students, 
     Former Director Adi Sathi; Association of Christian Schools 
     International; Association of the United States Army; 
     Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia; Attorney 
     General Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas.
       Attorney General Bill Schuettee, Michigan; Attorney General 
     Alan Wilson, South Carolina; Ave Maria University Associate 
     Professor Michael New; Barry Beverage, Teacher, Fayetteville 
     Christian School; First Lady Barbara Bush; Barbara Bush 
     Foundation for Family Literacy; The BASIC Fund; Secretary of 
     Education William Bennet; Black Alliance for Educational 
     Options; Bowdoin College Professor Jean Yarbrough; Business 
     Council of Alabama; California State Sen. Jean Fuller, Senate 
     Republican Leader; Calvin College President Emeritus Gaylen 
     Byker; Mark Campbell, United States Naval Academy; 
     CarolinaCAN; Catholic Partnership Schools, Camden, NJ; Career 
     Education Colleges and Universities (CECU); Center for 
     Arizona Policy; Center for Education Reform; Charter Schools 
     USA; Kevin P. Chavous; Former Member, Council of the District 
     of Columbia; Vice President Dick Cheney; Lynne Cheney; 
     Children's Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM); Children's 
     Scholarship Fund, Chair Mike McCurry; Children's Scholarship 
     Fund--Baltimore; Children's Scholarship Fund--Buffalo 
     (BISON); Children's Scholarship Fund--Charlotte; Children's 
     Scholarship Fund--Philadelphia; Children's Scholarship Fund--
     Portland OR; Civitas--North Carolina; Collaborative for 
     Student Success; Colorado State Board of Education Member 
     Steve Durham; Colorado State Board of Education Member Pam 
     Mazanec; Colorado State Rep. Paul Lundeen.
       Colorado State Rep. Clarice Navarro; Colorado State Rep. 
     Libby Szabo (Former), Jefferson County Commissioner; Colorado 
     State Sen. Kevin Grantham, Senate President; Colorado State 
     Sen. Owen Hill; Colorado State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, Senate 
     President Pro Tem; Connecticut State Sen. Michael McLachlan, 
     Deputy Senate Republican; Connecticut State Rep. Vincent 
     Candelora; Cornell Law School Professor William Jacobson; 
     Cornerstone University, President Joseph Stowell; Delaware 
     State Sen. Gary Simpson, Senate Republican Leader; Delaware 
     State Sen. Greg Lavelle, Senate Republican Whip; Delaware 
     State Sen. Anthony Delcollo; Delaware State Sen. Ernie Lopez; 
     Delaware State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn; Ed Choice; Educate 
     Nebraska; Education for a Brighter Future; Empower 
     Mississippi; Ferris State University, President David Eisler; 
     Florida Charter School Alliance; Florida Coalition of School 
     Board Members; Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam 
     Putnam; Florida State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater; 
     Florida State Rep. Michael Bileca; Florida State Rep. Manny 
     Diaz, Jr.; Florida State Rep. Richard Corcoran, Speaker of 
     the House; Florida State Rep. Jose Oliva, Speaker-Elect; 
     Florida State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz; Focus on Family.
       Foundation for Excellence in Education; Foundation for 
     Florida's Future; Friends of Betsy DeVos, Ed Patru; Former 
     Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist; Tim Forti; Principal, St. 
     Mary's-ST. Alphonsus Catholic

[[Page S822]]

     School; George Washington University, Professor Henry Nau; 
     Georgia Charter Schools Association; Georgia Secretary of 
     State Brian Kemp; Georgia State Rep. Buzz Brockway; Georgia 
     State Rep. Wes Cantrell; Georgia State Rep. David Clark; 
     Georgia State Sen. David Shafer, President Pro Tem; Georgia 
     State Rep. B.J. Pak (Former); Georgia State Rep. Ed Setzler; 
     Georgia State Rep. Valencia Stovall; Kathy Lee Gifford; Gov. 
     Robert Bentley, Alabama; Gov. Douglas Ducey, Arizona; Gov. 
     Assa Hutchison, Arkansas; Gov. Rick Scott, Florida; Gov. Jeb 
     Bush, Former Governor of Florida; Gov. Edward Baza Calvo, 
     Guam; Gov. Bruce Rauner, Illinois; Gov. Eric Holcomb, 
     Indiana; Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas; Gov. Matthew Bevin, 
     Kentucky; Gov. Paul LePage, Maine; Gov. Rick Snyder, 
     Michigan; Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi; Gov. Eric Greitens, 
     Missouri; Gov. Doug Burgman, North Dakota; Gov. Pete 
     Ricketts, Nebraska. Gov. Brian Sandoval, Nevada; Gov. Chris 
     Christie, New Jersey; Gov. Susana Martinez, New Mexico; 
     Gov. Ralph Torres, N. Mariana Islands.
       Gov. John Kasich, Ohio; Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma; Gov. 
     Bill Haslam, Tennessee; Gov. Greg Abbot, Texas; Gov. Scott 
     Walker, Wisconsin; Great Lakes Education Project; Grand 
     Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce; Grand Rapids City 
     Commissioner Dave Schaffer; Grand Rapids Public Schools 
     Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal; Great Schools for All 
     Children; Jim Griffin, Charter school advocate; Debbie 
     Groves, Teacher, Stonewall Jackson High School; Hawaii State 
     Rep. Gene Ward; Frederick Hess, Director of Education Policy 
     Studies, American Enterprise Institute; Hillsdale College, 
     President Larry Arnn; Hispanic CREA; Hispanics for School 
     Choice; Mark Hoduski, Teacher, Maranatha Academy; Home School 
     Legal Defense Association; Hope College, President Dr. John 
     Knapp; Hope College, Trustee Lisa Granger; Idaho Charter 
     School Network; Idaho State Rep. Scott Bedke, Speaker of the 
     House; Illinois State Rep. John Cabello; Independence 
     Institute; Independent Women's Voice; Indiana State Rep. 
     Robert Behning; Indiana State Rep. Brian Bosma, Speaker of 
     the House; Indiana State Sen. Brandt Hershman, Senate 
     Majority Leader; Indiana State Sen. David Long, President Pro 
     Tem; Institute for Better Education; Institute for Quality 
     Education; Invest in Education Coalition, President Thomas 
     Carroll; Invest in Education Foundation, Vice President Peter 
     Murphy; Investigative Project on Terrorism; Iowa State Rep. 
     Linda Upmeyer, Speaker of the House.
       Jeffersonian Project; John Locke Foundation, Director of 
     Research and Education Studies Terry Stoops, Ph.D.; Kansas 
     Secretary of State Kris Kobach; Kansas State Sen. Susan 
     Wagle, Senate President; Kent County Commissioner Mandy 
     Bolter, Grand Rapids, MI; Kentucky State Sen. Robert Stivers, 
     Senate President; Kentucky State Sen. Ralph Alvarado; 
     Kentucky State Rep. Johnathan Shell, House Majority Leader; 
     Roger Kiney, Teacher, Burlington-Edison High School; Ken 
     Kreykes, Teacher, Chicago Christian School; The Libre 
     Initiative; Log Cabin Republicans; Louisiana Association of 
     Business and Industry; Louisiana Association of Charter 
     Schools; Louisiana Federation for Children; Louisiana State 
     Rep. Greg Cromer; Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama; Lt. Gov. Tim 
     Griffin, Arkansas; Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa; Lt. Gov. 
     Evelyn Sanguinetti, Illinois; Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, 
     Indiana; Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kansas; Lt. Gov. Billy 
     Nungesser, Louisiana; Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Michigan; Lt. 
     Gov. Tate Reeves, Mississippi; Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, North 
     Carolina; Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, Nebraska; Lt. Gov, John 
     Sanchez, New Mexico; Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson, Nevada; Lt. 
     Gov. Todd Lamb, Oklahoma; Lt. Gov. Rebecca Klefisch, 
     Wisconsin; MacIver Institute; Mackinac Center for Public 
     Policy; Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet, Macomb, MI; 
     Maggie's List.
       Maine State Sen. Michael Thibodeau, Senate President; Maine 
     State Sen. Andre Cushing, Senate Assistant Majority Leader; 
     Maryland State Sen. Stephen Hershey, Jr.; Maryland State Sen. 
     Michael Hough; Maryland House Rep. Nic Kipke, House 
     Republican Leader; Maryland House Rep. Kathy Szeliga; 
     Massachusetts House Rep. Keiko M. Orrall; Metropolitan 
     Milwaukee Association of Commerce; Metropolitan State 
     University--Denver, Professor Kishore Kulkarni; Michigan 
     Association of Non-Public Schools; Michigan Association of 
     Public School Academies; Michigan Chamber of Commerce; 
     Michigan Catholic Conference; Michigan Council of Charter 
     School Authorizers; Michigan Republican National Committee 
     (RNC) Member, Kathy Berden; Michigan Republican State 
     Committee Member, Beverly Bodem; Michigan Republican Party, 
     Former Chair Suzy Avery; Michigan Secretary of State Ruth 
     Johnson; Michigan State Board of Education Co-President Dr. 
     Richard Zeile; Michigan State Board of Education Member, 
     Eileen Lappin Weiser; Michigan State Rep. Laura Cox; Michigan 
     State Rep. Daniela Garcia, Assistant Majority Floor Leader; 
     Michigan State Rep. Brandt Iden; Michigan State Rep. Klint 
     Kesto; Michigan State Rep. Tom Leonard, Speaker of the House; 
     Michigan State Rep. Aric Nesbitt (Former); Michigan State 
     Rep. Amanda Price, Education Committee Chair; Michigan State 
     Rep. Mary Whiteford; Michigan State Rep. Ken Yonkers; 
     Michigan State Sen. Mike Green; Michigan State Sen. Peter 
     MacGregor; Michigan State Sen. Michelle McManus (Former); 
     Michigan State Sen. Arlan Meekhof, Senate Majority Leader; 
     Michigan State Sen. Mike Shirkey; Michigan State Sen. Jim 
     Stamas; Michigan State Sen. Phil Pavlov.
       Michigan State University Board of Trustees, Chairperson 
     Brian Breslin; Michigan State University Board of Trustees, 
     Trustee Melanie Foster; Military Child Education Coalition; 
     Military Families for High Standards; Military Officers 
     Association of America (MOAA); Minnesota State Sen. Paul 
     Gazelka, Senate Majority Leader; Minnesota State Rep. Kurt 
     Daudt, Speaker of the House; Mission: Readiness; The Missouri 
     Bar; Missouri Education Reform Council (MERC); Missouri State 
     Rep. Shamed Dogan; Missouri State Rep. Rebecca Roeber; 
     Montana State Rep. Ron Ehli, House Majority Leader; Montana 
     State Rep. Austin Knudsen, Speaker of the House; Montana 
     State Sen. Fred Thomas, Senate Majority Leader; Eva 
     Moskowitz, Founder of Success Academy Charter Schools; 
     National Alliance for Public Charter Schools; National Center 
     for Family Learning; National Heritage Academies, Grand 
     Rapids, MI; National Math + Science Initiative (NMSI); 
     National Military Family Association; Navy League of the 
     United States; Nevada State Assemblyman Paul Anderson, 
     Floor Leader; Nevada State Assemblyman Chris Edwards; 
     Nevada State Assemblyman John Ellison, Republican Whip; 
     Nevada State Assemblyman John Hambrick; Nevada State 
     Assemblyman Ira Hansen; Nevada State Assemblyman Al 
     Kramer; Nevada State Assemblyman Lisa Krasner; Nevada 
     State Assemblyman Jim Marchant; Nevada State Assemblyman 
     Richard McArthur; Nevada State Assemblyman James Oscarson, 
     Floor Leader; Nevada State Assemblyman Keith Pickard; 
     Nevada State Assemblyman Robin Titus; Nevada State 
     Assemblyman Jill Tolles; Nevada State Assemblyman Jim 
     Wheeler, Floor Leader.
       Nevada State Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury, Republican 
     Whip; Nevada State Sen. Don Gustason; Nevada State Sen. Scott 
     Hammond; Nevada State Sen. Joe Hardy; Nevada State Sen. 
     Michael Roberson, Senate Republican Leader; New Hampshire 
     State Rep. Victoria Sullivan, Member of Committee on 
     Education; New Hampshire State Sen. Andy Sanborn; New Jersey 
     State Rep. Sen Tom Kean, Senate Republican Leader; New Jersey 
     Tri-County Scholarship Fund; New Mexico State Rep. Alonzo 
     Baldonado, House Republican Whip; New Mexico State Rep. Nate 
     Gentry, House Republican Leader; New Mexico State Rep. Monica 
     Youngblood; New York State Catholic Conference; New York 
     State Sen. John Flanaga, Senate Majority Leader; North 
     Carolina Association of Public Charter Schools; North 
     Carolina State Rep. Pat McElraft, Deputy Majority Whip; North 
     Carolina State Sen. John Alexander; North Carolina State Sen. 
     Deanna Ballard; North Carolina State Sen. Chad Barefoot, Co-
     Chair for Committee on Education; North Carolina State Sen. 
     Phil Berger, President Pro Tem; North Carolina State Sen. 
     Harry Brown, Majority Leader; North Carolina State Sen. Bill 
     Cook; North Carolina State Sen. David Curtis, Co-Chair for 
     Committee on Education; North Carolina State Sen. Cathy Dunn; 
     North Carolina State Sen. Kathy Harrington; North Carolina 
     State Sen. Brent Jackson; North Carolina State Sen. Joyce 
     Krawiec, Member, Committee on Education; North Carolina State 
     Sen. Michael Lee, Co-Chair, for Committee on Education; North 
     Carolina State Sen. Wesley Meredith, Majority Whip; North 
     Carolina State Sen. Paul Newton; North Carolina State Sen. 
     Ronald Rabin; North Carolina State Sen. Bill Rabon; North 
     Carolina State Sen. Norman Sanderson; North Carolina State 
     Sen. Tommy Tucker.
       North Dakota State Rep. AL Carlson, House Majority Leader; 
     Northeast Charter Schools Network; Northwest Ohio Scholarship 
     Fund; Ohio State Rep. Niraj Antani; Ohio State Rep. Keith 
     Faber; Ohio State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, Speaker of the 
     House; Oklahoma State Rep. Ryan Martinez; Oklahoma State Rep. 
     T.W. Shannon, Former Speaker of the House; O'More College of 
     Design, President David Matthew Rosen; Oregon State Rep. 
     Michael McLane, Republican Leader; Oregon State Sen. Ted 
     Ferrioli, Republican Leader; Oregon State Sen. Jackie 
     Winters; Secretary of Education Rod Paige; Parents for 
     Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC); Lawrence C. 
     Patrick, Former President of Detroit Board of Education; 
     Pennsylvania Coalition for Public Charter Schools; 
     Pennsylvania State Rep. David Reed, Majority Leader; 
     Pennsylvania State Rep. Mike Turzai, Speaker of the House; 
     Prep Net; Public School Options; Rachel and Drew Katz 
     Foundation; Ready Colorado; Reason Foundation; Rhode Island 
     State Rep. Patricia Morgan, House Republican Leader; 
     Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Rio Grande Foundation; 
     Assistant Secretary of Labor Doug Ross; S4 Group; Kathleen 
     Shober, Teacher, McKaskey High School; School Choice 
     Wisconsin; SchoolForward; Secretary of Education Margaret 
     Spellings; Step Up; Student Leadership University; South 
     Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce; South Carolina 
     Secretary of State Mark Hammond.
       South Carolina State Rep. Phyllis Henderson, House Majority 
     Whip; South Dakota State Rep. Brian Gosch (Former); South 
     Dakota State Rep. Kristin Langer, House Majority Whip; 
     Tarrent County College Professor Robert Sherwood; Tennessee 
     Federation for Children; Tennessee Secretary of State Tre 
     Hargett; Tennessee State Rep. Kevin Brooks; Tennessee State 
     Rep. Glen Casada; Tennessee State Rep. Michael Curcio; 
     Tennessee State Rep. Martin Daniel; Tennessee State Rep. John 
     DeBerry, Jr.;

[[Page S823]]

     Tennessee State Rep. Tilman Goins; Tennessee State Rep. Andy 
     Holt; Tennessee State Rep. Dan Howell; Tennessee State Rep. 
     Sabi Kumar; Tennessee State Rep. Mark Lovell; Tennessee State 
     Rep. Pat Marsh; Tennessee State Rep. Jimmy Matlock; Tennessee 
     State Rep. Debra Moody; Tennessee State Rep. Dennis Powers; 
     Tennessee State Rep. Jay Reedy; Tennessee State Rep. Courtney 
     Rogers; Tennessee State Rep. Jerry Sexton; Tennessee State 
     Rep. Paul Sherrell; Tennessee State Rep. Eddie Smith; 
     Tennessee State Rep. Mike Sparks; Tennessee State Rep. Tim 
     Wirgau; Tennessee State Rep. Dawn White; Tennessee State Rep. 
     Mark White; Tennessee State Rep. Jason Zachary; Tennessee 
     State Sen. Mike Bell; Tennessee State Sen. Dolores Gresham; 
     Tennessee State Sen. Todd Gardenhire; Tennessee State Sen. 
     Ferrell Haile; Tennessee State Sen. Ed Jackson; Tennessee 
     State Sen. Brian Kelsey; Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron; 
     Tennessee State Sen. John Stevens; Tennessee State Sen. Jim 
       Texas Charter Schools Association; Texas for Education 
     Opportunity; Texas State Rep. Larry Gonzales; Thomas B. 
     Fordham Institute; Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation; 
     Tomorrow's Hope Foundation; Union of Orthodox Jewish 
     Congregations of America; University of Louisville Associate 
     Professor Alexei Izyumov;
       University of Michigan, President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman; 
     University of Michigan, Regent Andrew Fischer Newman; 
     University of Texas at Austin Professor Daniel Bonevac, 
     University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee Professor Shale 
     Horowitz; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; U.S. House Rep. Rick W. 
     Allen, Member of Education and Workforce Committee; U.S. 
     House Rep. Justin Amash; U.S. House Rep. Jack Bergman; U.S. 
     House Rep. Lou Barletta, Member of Education and Workforce 
     Committee; U.S. House Rep. Mike Bishop, Member of Education 
     and Workforce Committee; U.S. House Rep. Marsha Blackburn; 
     U.S. House Rep. Dave Brat, Member of Education and Workforce 
     Committee; U.S. House Rep. Bradley Byrne, Member of Education 
     and Workforce Committee; U.S. House Rep. Virginia Foxx, Chair 
     of Education and Workforce Committee; U.S. House Rep. Trent 
     Franks; U.S. House Rep. Louie Gohmert; U.S. House Rep. Glenn 
     Grothman, Member of Education and Workforce Committee; U.S. 
     House Rep. Andy Harris; U.S. House Rep. Bill Huizenga; U.S. 
     House Rep. Duncan Hunter, Member of Education and Workforce 
     Committee; U.S. House Rep. Steve King; U.S. House Rep. Jason 
     Lewis, Member of Education and Workforce Committee.
       U.S. House Rep. Blaine Luetkerneyer; U.S. House Rep. Luke 
     Messer, Member of Education and Workforce Committee; U.S. 
     House Rep. Paul Mitchell, Member of Education and Workforce 
     Committee; U.S. House Rep. John Moolenaar; U.S. House Rep. 
     Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen; U.S. House Rep. James B. 
     Renacci; U.S. House Rep. Todd Rokita, Member of. Education 
     and Workforce Committee; U.S. House Rep. Francis Rooney, 
     Member of Education and Workforce Committee; U.S. House Rep. 
     Dave Trott; U.S. House Rep. Fred Upton; U.S. House Rep. Tim 
     Walberg, Member of Education and Workforce Committee; U.S. 
     House Rep. Joe Wilson, Member of Education and Workforce 
     Committee; U.S. House Rep. Ted S. Yoho, DVM; Former U.S. 
     House Rep. Dave Camp (MI); Former U.S. House Rep. Pete 
     Hoekstra (MI); Former U.S. House Rep. Mike Rogers (MI); Utah 
     State Rep. Kim Coleman; Utah State Rep. Greg Hughes, Speaker 
     of the House; Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler; Valencia College, 
     President Dr. Sanford Shugart; Vermont State Rep. Don Turner, 
     House Republican Leader; Virginia State Del. Bill Howell, 
     Speaker of the House.
       Virginia State Sen. Ryan McDouble, Chair of Senate 
     Republican Caucus; Virginia Tech Professor Ken Stiles; 
     Washington and Lee University Professor Robert Dean; 
     Washington State Sen. Mark Schoesler, Senate Majority Leader; 
     Tom Watkins, former Michigan State Superintendent of Schools; 
     Wayne State University, Board of Governors Member David 
     Nicholson; Ronald Weiser, Former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia; 
     West Virginia State Rep. Eric Nelson, Chair of House 
     Republican Caucus; West Virginia State Rep. Jill Upson, 
     Member of Committee on Education; Anthony Williams, Former 
     Mayor of Washington, DC; Wisconsin Assemblywoman Jessie 
     Rodriguez; Wisconsin Assemblyman Robin Vos, Speaker of the 
     House; Wisconsin Federation for Children; Wisconsin Institute 
     for Law and Liberty; Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; 
     Wisconsin State Rep. Jessie Rodriguez; Wisconsin State Sen. 
     Scott Fitzgerald, Senate Majority Leader; Wisconsin State 
     Sen. Leah Vukmir, Assistant Majority Leader; Kenneth Witt, 
     Former President, Jefferson County Board of Education; 
     Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington DC; Wyoming 
     State Rep. Steven Harshman, Speaker of the House; Wyoming 
     State Sen. Eli Bebout, Senate President; Young America's 

  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, was there not enough time to question 
her? I wonder. We treated her just like we did President Obama's 
Education Secretaries. She offered to meet with the Democrats in 
December. They refused. She finally met with them in their offices.
  Then she testified for 90 minutes longer than either of President 
Obama's Education Secretaries before our committees.
  Then there were followup questions. We asked President Obama's 
Education Secretaries 53 and 56 questions; they asked her 1,400 
questions. Then they met, and one of their Members announced that they 
all agreed to vote against her before she had a chance to answer the 
questions. What does that say about those questions?
  She has conflicts of interest? We have a procedure for that, an 
independent conflicts of interest office, the Office of Government 
Ethics. The head was appointed by President Obama, confirmed by the 
Senate. He has an agreement with every Cabinet member about conflicts 
of interest. He wrote a letter to us 8 days before we voted on her and 
said she would have no conflict of interest if she followed this 
  So plenty of time for questions, no conflict of interest. What is the 
  One, her support for public charter schools. Some people don't like 
that. But 2.7 million children attend them. They were founded by the 
Democratic Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota. They have now grown to 
6,800 schools. They are the most effective public school reform in 30 
  School choice. What is wrong with giving low-income Americans more 
choice and better schools? We have done it since the GI bill from 
1944--taxpayer money following veteran students to Notre Dame, Yeshiva, 
Harvard, the National Auto Diesel College. Has it hurt the public 
universities, of which I used to be President of one? It has helped 
them. Then, more people went to private schools, and now more people go 
to public colleges.
  Betsy DeVos has committed to no more Washington mandates. No more 
national school board, no Washington mandates for vouchers, no 
Washington mandates for common core, no Washington mandates for 
specific kinds of teacher evaluations with Betsy DeVos in charge of the 
Department of Education.
  One year ago, we had no Education Secretary. I asked President Obama 
to appoint one, even though I knew he would appoint John King, with 
whom I disagreed. I promised that if he did, we would promptly confirm 
him, and we did. We asked him 53 questions, not 1,397. We didn't say he 
had conflicts of interest when the Office of Government Ethics said he 
did not.
  I know my friends are surprised about the election, but wouldn't they 
be really surprised if he appointed someone from within the education 
establishment to be the Secretary of Education? Wouldn't you be 
surprised that a Republican President would be for charter schools? Are 
you really surprised that a Republican President has appointed an 
Education Secretary who wants to give low-income children more choices 
of schools? Are you surprised that a Republican President has nominated 
an Education Secretary who wants to reverse the trend to a national 
school board and restore local control?
  I am supporting her because she wants to do that, because she has led 
the most effective--
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has used 4\1/2\ minutes.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Thank you, Mr. President.
  She has led the most effective public school reform movement over the 
last 30 years and she has a commitment to help low-income children.
  I would say to my Democratic colleagues, we confirmed President 
Obama's first Education Secretary in 7 days--on the day he was 
inaugurated; his second one in 3 weeks, just as we will Betsy DeVos 
today. You may disagree with the new President, but the people elected 
him, and I urge you to give the new Republican President the 
opportunity to choose his own Education Secretary, just like we did 
with the Democratic President 8 years ago and a year ago, even though 
we disagreed just as much with their view on Federal policy on local 
schools as you do with her policy and President Trump's policy on 
school choice.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has used 5 minutes.
  Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I urge a ``yes'' vote.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from South Carolina.
  Mr. SCOTT. Mr. President, as we close this debate on Betsy DeVos, 
this debate should really be about public

[[Page S824]]

education. I support public education. Education is the closest thing 
to magic in America. Let me say again that again. Education is the 
closest thing to magic in America. I experienced that magic.
  As a kid growing up in a single-parent household, mired in poverty, 
disillusioned about life, I nearly flunked out as a freshman. I thank 
God for public education. But far too many kids--too many millions of 
kids today--do not have a quality educational choice in their 
communities. And what does that mean? There is a high correlation 
between incarceration, high unemployment, and lower lifetime incomes 
for those students who do not have quality public education.
  This Nation--the greatest Nation on Earth--has afforded a kid who 
almost dropped out of high school to become a U.S. Senator. Why? 
Because I found a path that included public education, and quality 
public education.
  So what does it look like in some of our cities? Let me give my 
colleagues an example from Detroit. Only 9 percent of African-American 
kids meet standards for English. Thirteen percent of White kids meet 
standards or exceed standards in English, and 12.5 percent of Hispanic 
kids meet or exceed standards in English in Detroit. We need to make 
sure that every child in every ZIP Code has a quality choice.
  The Secretary of Education cannot--cannot--privatize education. That 
would take an act of Congress.
  So, yes, we should have a passionate debate about education, and yes, 
we should make sure--make sure--that the focus of that debate is on the 
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Tillis). The Senator's time has expired.


  Pursuant to rule IV, paragraph 2, the hour of 12 noon having arrived, 
the Senate having been in continuous session since yesterday, the 
Senate will suspend for a prayer from the Senate Chaplain.
  The Chaplain, Dr. Barry C. Black, offered the following prayer:
  Let us pray.
  God of mercy and light, we are in Your hands, and we rejoice because 
of the power of Your presence. Do with us what seems good in Your 
  Lord, in the welter and variety of decisionmaking, with its 
alternating and fluctuating intricacies, give our lawmakers a deeper 
appreciation for a conscience void of offense toward You or humanity. 
Today, show mercy to the Members of this legislative body. Let Your 
sovereign hand be over them and Your Holy Spirit ever be with them, 
directing all their thoughts, words, and works for Your glory. Lord, 
prosper the labors of their hands, enabling them in due season to reap 
a bountiful harvest if they faint not.
  We pray in Your merciful Name. Amen.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. All postcloture time having expired, the 
question is, Will the Senate advise and consent to the DeVos 
  Mr. DURBIN. I ask for the yeas and nays.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there a sufficient second?
  There appears to be a sufficient second.
  The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk called the roll.
  The result was announced--yeas 50, nays 50, as follows:

                       [Rollcall Vote No. 54 Ex.]




     Cortez Masto
     Van Hollen
  The VICE PRESIDENT. On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 50.
  The Senate being equally divided, the Vice President votes in the 
affirmative, and the nomination is confirmed.
  The majority leader.
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I move to reconsider the vote on the 
  The VICE PRESIDENT. The question is on the motion to reconsider.
  Mr. McCONNELL. I move to table the motion to reconsider.
  The VICE PRESIDENT. The question is on agreeing to the motion to 
  The motion was agreed to.