- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Betsy DeVos, the school-choice crusader that President-elect Donald Trump picked for education secretary, will tell a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday that her plans to reform the system doesn’t make her an enemy of public schools, according to her prepared opening statement.

Bracing for tough questions from Senate Democrats, she will try to defuse criticism from the teachers unions that vilify her and liberal groups that warn she’s hostile toward blacks and gays.

“Every child in America deserves to be in a safe environment that is free from discrimination,” says Ms. DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and GOP mega-donor.

“If confirmed, I will be a strong advocate for great public schools,” she says. “But, if a school is troubled, or unsafe, or not a good fit for a child – perhaps they have a special need that is going unmet  we should support a parent’s right to enroll their child in a high quality alternative.”

“It’s really pretty simple,” she says in the opening remarks, which the Trump transition team provided to news organizations.

Mr. Trump selected Ms. DeVos to run the Education Department because of her decades of work as a school reform activist and she is expected to push a school choice agenda if confirmed, which is likely in the Republican-run Senate.

Like many of Mr. Trump’s nominees, Ms. DeVos is a fierce critic of the department she has been asked to lead and the prospect of her taking charge has rattled the old guard in Washington. 

“I share President-elect Trump’s view that it’s time to shift the debate from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve,” says Ms. DeVos.

“Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child, and they know other options exist, whether magnet, virtual, charter, home, religious, or any combination thereof,” she says. “Yet, too many parents are denied access to the full range of options — choices that many of us here in this room have exercised for our own children.”

She will question why in the year 2017 does the government continue to question a parents ability to exercise educational choice for their children, but she’ll also try to reassure the teachers unions that she won’t dismantle the public school system.

“The vast majority of students in this country will continue to attend public schools,” says Mrs. DeVos.

She is expected to face a grilling from some of the chamber’s most liberal lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, who are members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that will hold the hearing.

Mrs. DeVos also will voice support for reducing college debt and skyrocketing college tuition. Those are top issues for Mrs. Warren and Mr. Sanders, but Mrs. DeVos does not go as far as they would to endorse free tuition at state universities.

“There is no magic wand to make the debt go away, but we do need to take action.  It would be a mistake to shift that burden to struggling taxpayers without first addressing why tuition has gotten so high,” she says.

 

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