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tv   Senate Debate on Education Secretary Confirmation  CSPAN  February 3, 2017 1:31pm-2:05pm EST

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the gop mega-donor has been the subject of fierce opposition on teachers unions and other liberal groups opposed to her support for charter schools and tuition vouchers using public funds. that from the hill today. the senate returns of mind and again we will have live coverage of that confirmation vote next week in the senate here on c-span2. following the vote to advance the debate on betsy devos, send it as came to the floor to offer remarks about the nominee. >> madam president, with this note the senate will move earlyo
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next week to confirm the nomination of betsy devos to be united states education secretary shall be an excellent education secretary in my judgment, and an important one for this country.e the number one job of united states education secretary is help create an environment in which r 100,000 public schools succeed because that's one night at a at a tent up our children go. when i was education secretary in the early 1990s for president george h. w. bush, why the privilege of working with a man named david kearns who hadit been the chief executive officer of the xerox corporation. he came in as a deputy education secretary at a time when you start one of the countries leading businessman but is also a leading businessman who tried to help change public education. david kearns belief was that it's very difficult to help children by changing public education if he tried to do it from with in.
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he respected as all of us do the teachers and the parents and the students who work within the public education system here but over the last 30 years as this country has worked to try to improve our public schools, much of that energy has come from outside the public schooltablis establishment. among those with the governors of the country. in the mid-1980s all the governors met together in 1985 and 1986 on one subject for a whole year.urpo the purpose was talk we help improve our public schools? i was chairman of the governors that you can build chamber was the vice president and we did that and a bipartisan way. we did that from outside the schools. since that time many governors, many business leaders have worked hard in support of our public schools trying to help
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them become even better opportunities for our children. and among those has been betsy devos. the governors that are spoken of our governors that are familiar names in this country. i think of governor jeb bush. i think of governor john englerg of michigan. i think of governor mitt romney and the work they did in their respective states to make the public schools better and to greet other opportunities for children.ov all those governors, the threeel mentioned, they support betsy devos. there are 22 governors who have written letters to me as chairman of the senate education committee supporting betsy devos. they see her as someone from outside the system of the public education who, as they worked for 30 years, can help change and improve it and ask consent to include in the record following my remarks the names of the 22 governors who support her. they come from alabama, arizona,
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arkansas, florida, illinois, indiana, kansas, kentucky, maine, michigan, mississippi, missouri, north dakota, nebraska, nevada, new jersey, new mexico, ohio, oklahoma, tennessee, texas, wisconsin. all, the governors of all those state support betsy devos. the last 49 states education, four of the last education secretaries support betsy devos, bill bennett, ron page, margaret spellings, i support her. joe lieberman who served in this body and worked on the d.c. voucher program for many years endorsed her.er. so she has strong support fromrt the governors who for 30 years have been working hard to hard o successfully improve our public schools. some have said well, she is spent her time working on giving children choices of schools other than from public schools. she's done that. it always puzzled me as why anybody would criticize that.
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the idea that a low-income child should have the same opportunity or more of the same opportunities than an wealthyee family has which seemed to me would be a very all-american idea. and not only does it seem to be, it's an idea that underlies the most successful piece of social policy our country has ever enacted, arguably. the g.i. bill for veterans in 1944. b think about that. the veterans came home from world war ii. we gave them a scholarship. it followed them to the college of their choice.ol ms. devos has argued for the same thing for children. why is an idea that helped create the greatest generationon and the greatest colleges of the world so dangerous for schools? but i would argue she is been among the forefront of the leaders like the governors for the most successful reform of the last 30 years to change and
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improve public education and that would be the public charter schools.hools those began with 1 12 schools in minnesota created by the democratic former labour party in the early 1900s. since been charter schools schools have been supported by every president, presidentarly 1 obama, president clinton,n.de presidents bush, president obama is most recent education secretary was a fount of charter schools. this congress four times by a person majority has supported charter schools. the last 69 states education secretaries have supportedar charter schools. charter schools have grown from 12 democratic former labor schools to 6808 and 2.7 million and 2.7 million children go there. teachers have more freedom and parents have more choices. they are public schools and betsy devos is in the forefront of helping to create that opportunity for public education. and finally madam president, shi
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believes where 85 of us voted for, if a law that president obama called a christmas miracle in december 2015.ob that is reverse the trend for the national school board and restore control of our children in our schools to those closest to the children. there will be no mandate for common core, no mandate for teacher evaluation, no mandatete for vouchers, the mandate for u anything else from united state department of education headed by betsy devos trip will be swapping a national school board for what she believes in, which is a local school board, which is what 85 of us voted for. so why please to support her. i include within the following lever could i ask consent an article from, by max published a couple days ago which shows the detroit charter schools by three major studies better, and children perform better than the
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traditional schools in detroit and i look forward to casting my vote for betsy devos for use education secretary early next week. thank you, madam president. >> madam president? >> the senator from washington madam president, i am here today to stand with parents and students and teachers and families and communities across our country to make sure they have a voice to strongly oppose betsy devos and her plans to privatize public schools and destroy public education in america, and to urge my colleagues to stand with theirui constituents and joined democrats and republicans inre rejecting this nomination.
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madam president, i come to the floor today as a former preschool teacher, someone who got my start in politics fighting for strong public schools, a former school board member, as senator committed to standing strong for public education in america, a mother and grandmother who cares deeply about the future of our students and our schools.ross and someone who, like so many people across the country, owes everything i have two a strong public education i received growing up in this country. so madam president, i believe it's my responsibility to do everything i can to make sure the opportunities that were there for me and so many otherse are open to every student in this country, no matter where they live or how they learn or how much money their parents have. and i believe the federal government in general, and the department of education
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specifically, has an important role to play in making that happen. so madam president, i take the position as secretary of education very seriously. leading this agency in this moment is a critical job. i consider it to be my job to do everything i can to make sure the person who fills it is truly committed to putting students and families first. and as i'll discuss in detail today and in the coming days, i do not believe that betsy devos is the right person to do that. madam president, before i get into ms. devos' failed record and a lack of experience, i want to make a point about how i approach the nominees and how that impacts my perspective on this one. many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are going to spend their time in ins this debate trying to impugn the motives of democrats and republicans who are trying to stop this nomination. they will try to say president
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trump has won this election, heh should be able to pick anyone he wants to fill this position and we should all sit down and be quiet. well, madam president, i reject that. i believe the senate has an important role to play in this process. it is our constitutional duty to take these nominations seriously, and i refuse to stand by and just watch. president trump absolutely has the right to nominate people for his cabinet who he thinks will carry out his vision for the country. but that does not mean that the senate should be a rubber stamp, to the contrary. we owe it to the people who we represent to make sure every nominee is not only qualified m for the position and free ofli conflicts of interest, but that he or she will put families and workers first, and not millionaires and billionaires or big corporations. president trump was the first
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presidential candidate in decades to not release his tax returns, and he is openly flouting conventions regarding his personal and family businesses. madam president, i believe in an administration what elijah potential couplets of interest are very likely to be blurred at the top, they need to be even clearer at the individual agencies. so i will not apologize for demanding the senate do its job when it comes to doing our due diligence with these nominees. i will not back down from asking my questions for my constituents, the ones that would want me to ask, and i will not stop fighting as hard as i can to oppose a secretary ofof education who doesn't stand with them. madam president, i am extremely disappointed how this process has gone so far. i have great respect for the
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chairman of our committee, but i've never seen anything like it, especially coming out of her health, education, labor, and pensions committee where, untill now, we have worked together across party lines so well. right from the start it was very clear, republicans intended to jam this nominee through the process as quickly as possible. corners were cut. precedents were ignored. debate was cut off, and reasonable requests andey questions were blocked. again i've never seen anything like it on this committee.th democratic administration or republican, democratic majority or republican. madam president, it has been truly frustrating and deeply disappointing. i believe it is our job in the senate to scrutinize nominees, but republicans were acting like it was their job to protect ms.
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devos, to shield her fromm questioning. first republicans rushed us into a hearing before we had ms. devos' ethics paperwork in. in. now, that might seem like a small thing. in it may seem like a procedural issue but, madam president, it was important. every single nominee during the obama administration had their ethics paperwork in before hearing in our committee. and the republican majority leader made having ethics paperwork in before hearing a court demand of his during the obama administration. now, the reason for this is simple. senators should be able to ask nominees questions about their finances, their potential conflict of interest, how they plan to avoid them and how they plan to uphold the letter and spirit of our ethics laws.the ah
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but without the office of government ethics financial disclosure and without theiror review, senators go into a hearing in the dark on a nominees ethics and finances, and that is exactly what we are pushed into with ms. devos. secondly, madam president, when we got into that hearing, we were told that democrats would only have five minutes each to ask questions. five minutes to ask about betsy devos' finances, long record on privatization of the public education, our vision for the department, and the many, many issues in his departments jurisdiction. five minutes, then cut off. now, madam president, this was completely unprecedented, and absolutely wrong. never before had it been the case in our committee, not a single time that i recall that a senator who had a question for a
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nominee and was cut off and blocked from asking it. democrats were sitting at the hearing waiting, hoping the chairman would change his mindcn to come but we were shut down and we were silenced. and ms. devos was protected from answering additionaltions. questions. third, after we finally got betsy devos ethics paperwork and any number of questionssa nu about it, i requested another hearing where we could ask are those questions. that was a reasonable request. it was rejected. fourth, madam president, i had a number of questions for betsy devos about missing information in her paperwork for the committee, and she has simply not provided the committee with the required financial disclosures now, weov have a strong tradition in our committee of not moving to vote until the ranking member
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questions are answered to satisfaction, and that tradition was ignored as a betsy devos was jammed through. and then finally, madam president, after a boat was pushed to the committee as quickly as possible with questions about rules being bent or ignored to get that done, this nomination is now being rushed to this floor and republicans are attemptinmadampo me why. they cl more people learn about betsy devos, the more they realize how wrong she is for our students and our schools, the board to hear about her background, the more they see her as one more way president trump has broken his promise to quote, drain the swamp, and the more the comes out about her failed record, her tangled finances and conflict of interest, and her lack of
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understanding or experience, the more the pressure increases on republicans to put their allegiance to president trump aside and stand with theirnstitn constituents. so i understand why some republicans want to rush and get this through. i think it's absolutely wrong, and i know people are paying attention. i don't want to make one final point on this. the chairman of our committee, the senior senator from tennessee, has brought the idf quote, fairness, when it comes to how we should approach this nomination. but he believes president trump's nominee should be treated quote, fairly. but my friend the senior senator from tennessee is defining fairness in an interesting way. he is saying if republicans did not scrutinize president obama said nominees and if they didn't take the time to do their duetae diligence then, it would be unfair for democrats to do that for president trump. well, madam president, i don't agree with that.
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i define fairness very differently. i believe the fair thing to do is what is fair for our constituents, that we work for them and should do right byy them, not for a party, a nominee, or an administration. i believe that the quote fair thing to do is to scrutinize of these nominees, ask tough questions and push for real answers. and that we should err on the side of deeper review, more robust questioning rather than on the site appointed by democrats and republicans were treated in the past end quote, fairness to nominees. so madam president, i think it's clear. this nominee is being rushed through and corners are being cut, but i want to take some time now to talk about why i will be opposing her and urging all of our colleagues to do the same. and i have three main reasons,s, and they are, open questions
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about her tangled finances and potential conflict of interest.f strong concerns with a record, her lack of experience and her clear lack of understanding of basic education issues. and the belief that her vision for education in america is deeply at odds with where parents and students and families across the country wan to go. first of all, her tangled finances but due to complex of interest.conf madam president, i mentioned this a bit before but i have never seen a nominee with such tangled and opaque finances and he was refusing to sign anything close to an appropriate level of light on them. ms. devos is a billionaire, and her inherited money is invested along with other members of her family in potentially hundreds of holding companies.
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now, these holding companies often invest in other holding companies, and it is often very hard to untangle the individual companies she and her family actually owns stakes in. which is very relevant, because we know her family has hadsign significant education company holdings in the past, and they would be impacted by the decisions she made, is confirmed. madam president, ms. devos has told us she will comply with all ethics rules, should she be concerned, but we saw questionss and she still has not fulfilled of the committee requirement. we have questions about areas in ms. devos' ethic paperwork where it is simply unclear if assets she continues to hold has potential conflict of interest, and we've not been given the full answers. we also want to know more from
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her about the family trust. she is maintaining positions in, and we have not been the full answers. and finally, as i met you before, i have raised number ofs questions about ms. devos' failure to provide the required financial disclosure to the committee, and i'm not been b given full answers there either. secondly, madam president, i have very strong concerns with betsy devos' record, her lack of experience, and her clear lack of understanding of basic education issues. and i'll take these one at atim. time. but, madam president, nominees for this position are generally been people who are committed to students, had a long careerr dedicated to education and were focused on keeping public education strong for all students in our communities.s betsy devos is very different. first of all she is first and
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foremost a republican and conservative activist and mega-a donor. she was chair of the michigan republican party, and she and her family have reportedly donated hundreds of millions of dollars to republicans and conservative groups over the years. second of all betsy devos has spent her career and her fortune making the system to privatize and defined public education, and her students and communities across our country. she has no experience with public schools, except through her work trying to tear them down. she has committed herself for decades to an extremeideolo ideological goal, to push students out of public schools and weaken public education, no matter what. and she has spent millions of dollars in political donations,, organizations, and super pacs
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to try to influence elections and policies to accomplish that goal. madam president, it's not difficult to pick out where betsy devos has focused. the signs are usually pretty s easy to sing. where she has succeeded in getting her way, too often there are weaker public schools, worse outcomes, and fewer to opportunities for students. in fact, the only people guaranteed to benefit when betsy devos focuses her attention on a community or a state on the tv stations who see hundreds of thousands or millions of dollaro in money poured into attack ads against her political opponents. but all people need to do is watch her hearing in our committee. and they can learn everything they need to know. this is a hearing that people across the country heard about. and for good reason. from local newspapers to local
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news to "the daily show" to the view and posts that went viral on social media, a whole lot ofp people heard betsy devos herself for the first time in that hearing, and they were not impressed, to put it mildly. they watched as democrats were blocked from asking questions in an unprecedented andn unpr disappointing attempt to protect this nominee. and then on the questions we were allowed to ask, they saw a nominee who is clearly ill-informed and confused, and gave a number of very concerning responses to serious and reasonable questions. let's go through what betsy devos said to us. she refused to rule out slashing investments in or privatizing public schools. privatizing public schools. she was confused that federal law provides protections for students with disabilities.
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she did not understand the basie 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 country to, quote, protect from grizzlies. and even though she was willing to say president trump behaviord towards women should be considered sexual assault, she would not commit to actually enforcing federal laws protecting women and girls in our schools. madam president, her hearing was such a disaster, it was so clear how little she understood about education issues that a number of people and groups are usually stay on the fence or even sometimes stand with ms. devos on some issues, could not stand with her anymore.
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and the parents watching across the country, they saw a nominee who doesn't seem to care about or understand the education issues that impact them and their kids. madam president, this takes me to my final point right now on betsy devos.r visi her vision for education in america is one that is deeply at odds with where parents and students and families across the country want us to go.tion and at a time when education and the opportunity it affords is more important than ever, she would take our country in the absolute wrong direction. eli broad, a philanthropist and a strong charter school advocates, put it very well when he said, quote, at the risk of stating the obvious, we must have a secretary of education
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who believes in public education and need to up public schools that keep public schools public and he went on to say, and i quote, with betsy devos at the helm of the u.s. department of education, much of the good work that is been accomplished to improve public education for all of america's children could bean undone. madam president, i completely agree. parents across the country want their government and the representatives fighting tooth and nail to improve public schools for all students in every community. betsy devos is committed to privatizing public schools and diverting public funds into taxpayer funded vouchers that will be far too many of our students behind. .. leave far too many of our students behind. and i will add i have many
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friends here in the senate representing states that will be severely impacted by a secretary of education who implemented a radical agenda like this.hat >> and work for every day. people understand that and they see that betsy devos's vision for this job is a direct attack on thecore national value . madam president, i truly believe this is what has motivated so many people around the country to stand up and speak out. they saw her disastrous hearing on the news and going viral on social media and it's clear that people across the country here care so deeply about education and are so passionate about making sure we have strong public schools.
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but seeing president trump nominate someone like betsy de vos to run this department it's very close to home to a whole lot of people. and it's so deeply offensive to them. for parents and students at our public schools, it is very hard to see a billionaire who never went to public school, who didn't send her children to public school put in a position to work against your interests for teachers who work so hard every day in our public schools , it is hard to see your work denigrated. there's so many others in communities across the country talking about betsy de vos has lit a fire underneath them as well and they have all decided to do something about it. now the president office phone lines have been shut down over the past week with so many callers weighing in against c de vos.
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every office is receiving tens of thousands of letters asking the senate to reject her. almost 40,000 have come into my office alone. millions of people have signed petitions looking to message. there have been rallies and protests across the country and millions more posting on facebook, sharing it with their friends, tweeting, doing everything they can to make their voices heard. i want to share just a sample of what i've heard from my constituents. one teacher from michael peels school district, a 26 year veteran of washington state public schools said she has worked tirelessly at title i elementary schools to help children achieve their greatest potential. betsy de vos is confirmed, this teacher is terrified her schools will lose their funding. another constituents of mine
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tells me she has grandchildren in michigan who are at risk because of mrs. de vos's reckless policies there and she does not want to see this disaster repeated throughout our country. the regional superintendent in a small city in north-central washington told me he and his colleagues didn't even know where to begin laying out their concerns with betsy de vos. and a fourth grade teacher from spokane washington reached out to me to tell me she watched the confirmation hearing. and was shocked at how little betsy de vos seemed to understand about the issues she faces every single day in her classroom. those are just a few examples. there are thousands upon thousands in every community in every state. it is having an impact on every member of this body, already two republicans have made it clear that the voices
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of their constituents have pushed them into the no column and i know there are republicans who think what their constituents have to say seriously and who have serious concerns about putting partisanship ahead of their state and their constituents interests. >> madam president, i don't like to rush into this without the information that we need. but it's a majority is going to jam this through, were going to do everything we can to have a robust debate over the next few days. >> i am here to say i am proud to stand with parents. i am proud to stand with students and i am proud to stand with teachers and i am proud to stand with those in my home state of washington and across the country who support strong public schools and true education opportunities for all and i am proud to stand up and fight back against betsy de vos. thank you. i yelled before.

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