Skip to main content

tv
Trump Administration
Archive
  U.S. Senate Democrats Continue to Hold Floor as De Vos Vote Looms  CSPAN  February 7, 2017 1:59am-4:00am EST

1:59 am
opportunity for the rich to get richer on one of the last social services we provide toern in this country -- to n this exon is not -- to everyone in this exon 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
2:00 am
to the education community. many of which are or were educators. my husband is an english as a second languages teacher and my mother-in-law is currently a third-grade teacher, so this issue is 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 mole leigh has had to - molokai had to do to get an education. she does not represent our plight and she does not now our challenges. i ask you from the pureness of my heart as a mom who wants what
2:01 am
shbest for not only my -- best for not only my child but for every child to -- this is not about which side of the political arena you fall upon. i believe there are many republicans and democrats who will far more qualified and knowledgeable than mrs. devos. our kids deserve better. you know, my words now, she's right, our kids do deserve better, but right now not all are getting the education they to serve. a 2016 study found that 2,0 # 15 had not -- more than a million scored below the baseline level in science. the "u.s. news & world report" noted that if we could pull those kids up to a basic
2:02 am
understanding, our economy could grow by an estimated $27 trillion over the time period these students are in the workforce. so 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're not lifting every child up to learn as much as they possibly can and reach their potential. in too many places we are failing these kids and 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. we don't have to fail these children. 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
2:03 am
funding for disadvantaged students, we can decide to protect our students from bullying, sexual harrassment and gun violence. we can set up our children with early access to early childhood education. there is abundant science that confirms every parent's instinct which is the first five years of an infant's life are the most important years for a child. and now we don't have to just use our instincts because there is a been under ant brain science and data that has come in that shows in terms of the efficacy that there is nothing in that has a greater impact in terms of economic development than investing in early childhood education. we can decide to adhere to
2:04 am
commonsense accountability standards to ensure a high-quality education for all children, regardless of who your parents are or where you live. we can decide to invest in wage-boosting apprenticeships, 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 us doe, to ensure equal access to education. that's the way i look at the secretary nominee. is she committed to ensuring
2:05 am
equal access to he'd -- education and promoting educational excellence. the secretary of education is responsible for this mission, overseeing a $36 million in k through 12 and $150 billion in higher education funding. this person is responsible for enforcing key civil rights protections for our students and this person advises the president on all things education in the united states, whether it's 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 listening and -- who has served in the president's cabinet has had the resume required to take on these responsibilities. shirley hufstetler served under president carter. as the daughter of a school teacher and part-time teacher
2:06 am
herself, she also a trail blazing lawyer considered to be the favorite to be the first woman nominated to the supreme court. terrell bell was the superintendent of a school district in utah before he served under president reagan. william bennet, was a professor at three universities who released research about higher education curriculums before heading the department to serve under president reagan. laurel cavosos was the president of texas tech university. i would be the first secretary of education for president george h.w. bush. the he's seemed senator alexander served as governor of 10 continue and president of the university of tennessee before becoming president bush's second secretary of education. richard reilly championed fun
2:07 am
funding for education as governor of south carolina before leading the department of education under president clinton, rod paige was a professor, a dean and superintendent of the haou housn school district before serving under george w. bush. margaret was the second education of education, arne duncan served as ceo for the chicago school system before joining the obama administration as second of indication, and john king jr. was the deputy of -- secretary of indication before becoming the -- secretary of education for president obama.
2:08 am
every single one was served as elected officials or policy advisers in the executive branch or worked as administrators or educationors, but now this -- educators, but now this administration is asking us to make an exception by confirming someone who really doesn't have any relevant experience. she never served in the government, never taught in a classroom, never managed a school district. one woman from hawaii wrote me to say she is supremely uncall tpaoeud to leave the -- unqualified to lead the department. she says i am aghasted that she is even being considered when one is to be uphold the education laws, it is apparent that this person is a poor choice for this position.
2:09 am
another letter i got from an educator reads: i taught in both public and private schools for 10 years on the main land before moving to hawaii and teaching for more than additional year. 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 we get someone more qualified to help guide our children and our country. help. everything that's 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. mr. cornyn: questions an in some -- with other questions. in one response she wrote,
2:10 am
"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 same words in a press release using -- in other example she answered a question about title 9 investigations in the following way, opening a complaint for investigation in no way implies that the office for civil rights has determined the merits of that complaint. that is the exact language the department of education uses in its own guidance. there's nothing wrong with citing a source, especially when that source is the department that you want to run, but it has to be cited. that's one of the first things you teach a child in seventh and eighth grade when they are trying to learn how to do research and cite your sources. but the central issue isn't the lack after seriousness of purpose during the hearings, and
2:11 am
then the questions for the record. although, i think that is what caused the nation to kind of wake up and rise up about the challenge in front of us when with it comes to public education. i mean, this was not part of some master strategy on the part of democrats. what happened in those hearings is that michael bennet and al franken and chris murphy and elizabeth just did their jobs an asked questions. -- and asked questions. if you told me a clip about the distinction between proficiency and growth, that is the wonkiest thing in the world, but two million people saw that on facebook. what happened was, people saw the hearing and got really worried that we have the wrong persons in charge of public education at the policy level. you have people left, right, and enter. you can ask the senate
2:12 am
republicans whether they are getting phone calls too. they are getting phone calls too. this is it not a democratic strategy. what's happened is we have the wrong person who may be confirmed as the secretary of education. the central issue is that there remain concerns around ms. devos's education policy. during the confirmation hearing, there were moments when she didn't seem to grasp important parts of federal law on education. "the washington post" published an article called "six astonishing things betsy devos said and refused to say at her confirmation hearing." and i quote -- "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
2:13 am
her if guns don't belong in schools, she said, i will refer backer senator enzi and the school he was talking about in wyoming. i think probably there there is probably a one in the school to protect against potential grizzlies. this would be hi layerus if if -- hilarious if this weren't so serious, or if this weren't the person about to become our secretary of education. when asked if she would support president trump if he has promised to move to end gun-free zones around schools, she said i will support whatever the president does. 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 my heart bleeds and is broken for any families who has lost an
2:14 am
individual to gun violence. she refused to agree with senator tim kaine that all schools receive federal funds, and charter schools that receive voucher money should be held to the same standards of accountability. i have a great charter school movement in the state of hawaii, but the deal we have struck -- it is impacter and they are arguing about fixed costs and capital costs and the rest of it, but the basic bargain when charters work is they are literally a public school. they are held to the same standards as a traditional public school. if you have two categories of public schools with different metrics, you are trying to divert money from one to the other. okay. so tim kaine's question was exactly right, should -- if public money is involved, whether voucher to at private school or school choice to a charter school or traditional
2:15 am
public school, shouldn't we measure each school's success in in the same way, just to be fair. kaine said said if you have equal accountably in educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter or private? devos says i support accountability. kaine says 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 didn't prepare for the hearing or is basically walking into this hearing saying i've got the votes. i don't have to answer your questions. i don't have to reassure the parents and teachers and
2:16 am
students who are desperately worried about what's going to happen to public education because i've got the votes. senator kaine says let me ask you this. i think all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be equally accountable. i mean, he's so polite but he is also very lawyerly, so he asks the question 14 different ways, trying to get the answer, 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 agree with me, and then he moved on to another topic. devos appeared to have no idea what franken -- 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. now, i mean there is a debate about student proficiency and student growth, and i won't bore you with the details except to say i don't expect regular folks out there to be into the weeds about the difference between
2:17 am
proficiency and growth. i get how wonky that is. i absolutely expect the secretary of education nominee to know about this. i mean, even if you were brand-new to the topic, if you have just got smart people in the room who briefed you on it, ten hours, maybe, and 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 the humility around what advice and consent means. that the senate has an obligation to take this, not 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 isn't just issues like accountability or guns in schools that concern me. on a whole host of issues, mrs. devos' views are far out of the mainstream of education policy. i want to highlight four policy
2:18 am
areas where mrs. devos' 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'm worried that mrs. devos would revert 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. and i would point any senator on the fence about her nomination to look at this case study because it speaks volumes. in 2000, in the year 2000, michigan's fourth and eighth
2:19 am
grade students had higher than average test scores in math and english. 15 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 of -- that mrs. devos champions. and i'd like to read a few excerpts from it. three months into her son's first pass at third grade, arlissa hurd had a breakdown. her son 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 behind. there was no central system to transfer judah's records when he moved, and according to her, the school where he started the 2014-2015 academic year had a single teacher assigned to 44
2:20 am
third graders. hurd 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. hurd 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 run. 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's schools, both traditional schools and charters, is almost unfathomable. according to the most recent national assessment of education progress, only 4% of detroit's eighth grade students can read and perform math at grade level.
2:21 am
the lowest rate among the nation's big cities. schools aren't located where families need them and campuses -- think about this -- 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% 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
2:22 am
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 of the school's elementary campuses did not boast a single student reading or performing math at grade level. during the summer of 2015, a network of three charter schools called equity education solutions, which unlike most of the city's earth charter operators is a nonprofit, was tasked with turning the school around. a restart required under law because of the consistently poor performance. central michigan university, the authorizing entity that granted the school permission to exist, told the fledgling network it had eight months to fix things. in reality, the operators of detroit charter schools almost never closed them because of poor academic performance. so even a school where no child is achieving at grade level,
2:23 am
where no child is achieving at grade level can continue enrolling new students. that's school choice for you, that's the charter school movement for you. not in every instance, but this is how it manifests itself in the state of michigan where betsy devos played a major role. in the higher education institutions that authorized them often have financial incentives to keep the schools open, charter networks often give the authorizers a percentage of the funding. 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 money. 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 college doing the authorizing are appointed by the governor. not even the governor has the authority to shut down chronically low-performing
2:24 am
charter authorizers in michigan. education trust midwest noted in a report released last week -- quote -- "despite the fact that such authorizers serve nearly 145,000 michigan children and their charter schools take in more than $1 billion annually, critics say this is especially problematic because almost all of detroit charter schools are run by for-profit companies. think about that. this is public education. these are public dollars. and suddenly, they're going to for-profit companies. it would be one thing, this sort of the old saw from members on the other side of the aisle saying, well, you know, 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
2:25 am
run the public education system like that kind of a business. and in this case, it's not running it like a business. it is running a business with federal and state tax dollars. these private businesses aren't required to disclose their earnings, but a 2014 investigation by the "detroit free press" suggests their profits are enormous. during the 2013 school year, the paper found detroit public schools spend an average of $12,000 per student in the classroom. charter schools spent about $2,000 less per pupil. getting the same amount of money. they are spending $2,000 less per kid, yet spent double that rate on per-pupil funding on administrative costs. that's their skim. that's their profit. meanwhile, the oversupply of seats in for-profit schools has arguably kept nonprofit charter networks with better track records off the market. so they really are operating like a business. they are operating like an
2:26 am
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, and this is one of them. and this isn't some ideological test. this is -- it's just not working. we're ripping off our taxpayers and we're giving a bad value to the students who deserve better. the senate bill under consideration of the michigan state house 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
2:27 am
against policies that would have tightened accountability. the most influential of them, betsy devos. a major player in michigan's republican party and in the efforts to widen the for-profit sector. they have argued that the proposal such as that put forward by the senate disregard the needs of detroit students. legislators should not give into this antichoice, anti-- this is a quote from ms. devos. legislators should not give into this antichoice, antiparent and antistudent agenda aimed at protecting and maintaining the status quo for deeply entrenched adult interest groups, betsy devos opined in the detroit news. quote -- after all, since d.p.s. has lost 75% of their enrollment in the last decade, haven't detroit parents already voted resoundingly by fleeing for higher quality and safer schools elsewhere. the critics including steven
2:28 am
henderson, the "detroit free press"'s editorial page editor, says its groups such as the devos foundation 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 alissa hurd, 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 start-up 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 hurd's willingness to make the trek to lansing and often -- as often as parents' voices need to be heard. quote -- who are these people making the decisions, and why aren't they in the schools? why can't we know. why can't you just be accountable to the people that you are serving? now, during the confirmation
2:29 am
hearing, senator bennet, whom i greatly admire, who is a former superintendent of the denver public school district, asked mrs. devos how the policy failures in detroit might inform her leadership of the d.o.e. she replied i think there is a lot that has gone right. senator patty murray, a former school board president, asked of mrs. devos with promise not to privatize public education or cut funding. a pretty straightforward question. pretty mainstream question, right? if you get a sort of a mainstream republican nominee for secretary of education, they know how to answer this question. they may be -- you know, 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 charters and school choice, but everybody knows it's the third rail, you do not talk about privatizing public education, but 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 students.
2:30 am
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 chil children. i don't know what that means. it is not a complicated question. there are, certainly in the u.s. senate, you get a the who of complicated questions. on the senate foreign relations committee. i happen to be the ranking member on the telecommunication subcommittee and commerce committee and half of what i say is not intelligible to those who don't work in telecom. the question is do you intend to privatize public education? the answer was basically, no. she was given an easy opportunity her chance to disavow privatizing.
2:31 am
we should not funnel taxpayer money into unaccountable private schools. we need to champion access to public education and th the the accountability measures give all of our students a chance to succeed. mr. schatz: mrs. devos lob kwhre--lobbied to lift the cap n charter schools. this pushed the unregulated for-profit operators of charter schools from 255 to 805. this doesn't mean charter schools -- there may be disagreements between people who support charters and people who support traditional public schools, but at the end of the day the legitimate mainstream charter school proponents will say, this is not about vouchers or privatization but the flexibility to innovate.
2:32 am
they understand that there are public education dollars and there are a couple of things that are mandatory. 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. and so it is very important to the mainstream charter people -- i was interested to know because i have a good relationship with education reformers an charter movement. i was interested when i heard about mrs. devos, i was interested to hear what they had to say and in a lot of ways they were more alarmed than anyone because they believe that this will be the deathknell for real charters because to the extent that charters are just a cover for privatizing public education, well, now it is going to be a fight. now it is going to be a fight. we have great charter schools in my home state of hawaii. they are doing innovative things for our students and that is something we should all supports.
2:33 am
when mrs. devos talks about charter schools, she's not talking about those schools. she's talking about privatization. the rallying cry behind privatization is often school choice, but school choice doesn't work as a practical matter in many places across the country and 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. there is no little catholic school, to private charter school or public charter school. there's just the school because the town is too small to have multiple options. when you talk about taking -- and i heard a figure -- $20 billion out of the k through 12 -- it is $20 billion out of $36 billion and providing it for charter, but what will alaska, what about the dakotas and parts of hawaii where you -- if you
2:34 am
give a parent and a student a voucher and they say, well, i have this voucher for private education or charter schools, and yet there is only one school left and all you did was eviscerate the budget of the only school in your neighborhood. that is how that will work as a practical matter. i don't know if that is it the intent or not, but that's how it would end up working, to drain money from traditional public education hurts people in small communities, in rural communities, and in places where there is no possibility of multiple schools. school choice can drain resources. if a charter school opens up, the public school has to divert resources from its students and that's something i heard about from people in hawaii. one teacher i heard from who has worked for two decades in hawaii and michigan wrote this, mrs. devos would be a disaster for public education.
2:35 am
she has never been a teach ter to know what -- teacher to know what current educational prabg diss consist of. her advocacy for more account ability -- her advocacy for more unaccountable for charter schools in greater use of vouchers would take needed resources away from local public schools. her mission, in short, is to privatize public education. i witnessed firsthand what happens when schools privatize. devos should be opposed for what she could do but for what she has done in michigan. the devos family set up the great lakes education project which played the leading role in thwarting efforts for -- has failed on their promises of a better education system for students. i want to pause for a moment and all of the people who write my
2:36 am
office every day, but in particular the people who have been writing my office on all of these nominees. it wasn't all that difficult to pull these incredibly insightfsl and passionately written letters. this was across the country. you get the pundits as you leave the senate, if it is in the middle of the day and not in the middle of the morning, the media comes to you and stick the microphone in your face and ask if there there's -- if there's 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 marchs, there were lots of progressives, lots of people who believe in liberal and progressive causes, but i also saw people who have never marched in their lives, i also saw people who care about
2:37 am
public education. they don't know what their politics are, but they saw betsy devos and said, no, this is it not what i voted for. this is not what i want for my son or for my daughter or for my if these or nephew. this is not what i want for country's future, which brings me to the second policy area this 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. here are the facts. almost two million students are enrolled in for-profit programs and they have collectively takenon $200 billion to attend, but they often leave with little to show for it. more than half drop out within a few months, and at some colleges, fewer than 5% of their students ever graduate.
2:38 am
for those who leave without a degree, repaying lopes is an incredible -- loans is an incredible struggle. this is morally outrageous, but it is it 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% of the total aid and they serve 12% of the students -- 20% of the aid, 12% of the students, $32 billion in federal funding. there r-l several for-profit companies that each take in more than a billion dollars a year and graduate fewer than 10% of
2:39 am
their students. think p that. we're -- we, taxpayers are paying most of the bill here and these kids are not graduating. they have taken more than $1 billion and they graduate fewer than 10% of their kids. not only are the education metrics on student performance awful, but many for-profit colleges are under investigation for fraud and deception. essentially, they've 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 million in federal and state funds, and
2:40 am
yet e.m.c. is still accredited and received $2.5 billion from the d.o.e. ultimately the department of justice secured $100 million and a separate coalition of state attorneys general reached a settlement for student loan debt leaf for former students. i.t.t. educational services was investigated and sued by 19 states, the s.e.c., the cfpb and it is under -- they remain accredited until the day they shut their doors. think about that, they were still accredited by the u.s. department of education until they are shut down by the u.s. department of justice. a year before they -- their closure left thousands of students in the lurch with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt.
2:41 am
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. what do these schools have in common? they never lose their accreditation even when their ongoing investigations of fraud and deceptive practices that harm students. accreditation is the key to the castle for accessing federal financial aid. it is supposed to signify that a program provides a quality education for its students, but here's 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 four-year period the g.a.o. fund that accredit --
2:42 am
revoked accreditation for one%. so -- 12%. 99% of them, even if there is something wrong, they keep the federal funds flowing in. g.a.o. found no correlation between accreditors sanctions and educational quality. in other words, schools with bad -- schools with good student outcomes. our accreditation system is totally broken. according to the higher education act, accreditation agencies are supposed to be the reliability authority as to the quality of education or training offered by institutions of higher education. that's reason for making accreditation acore criteria for receive -- a core criteria for receiving are federal funds. how are we following law that when accreditation reviews -- how can we say with a straight face with accreditors are acting
2:43 am
as authority on educational quality? here's the problem, money. incentives are lined up against being critical and setting high standards. the problem can be traced back to the funding and governance of the accreditation agencies themselves. first, the accreditation agenc s are -- agencies are funded by the same they are accredited. they pay for site visits and other services. second, accredited agencies are run by and overseen by the institutions they accredit. the members elect their own academics an administrators to serve on the board of the accreditation agency. so everyone's in on it, right? everyone makes money pretending that this is fine. we have a system that is it dysfunctional, if not corrupt in which it is far too easy to become an remain accredited and -- and remain
2:44 am
accredited, and this is a very similar system to what we had with s&p and moody's and all these ratings agencies to determine that all of these derivatives and crazy financial instruments that were not credit worthy were getting triple-a ratings. why? because the financial incentives over time had enmeshed creditors with the accredited. this is supposed to be an independent relationship because they are supposed to certify to the consumer that everything is all good, right? 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 student who's are getting ripped off. you have schools that are taking more than $1 billion of federal funds in, several schools every year are federal funds in excess
2:45 am
of $1 billion and 5% 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. and when senator warren questioned her about this in her confirmation hearing, her response was concerning. here's the transcript. senator warren, how do you plan to protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud and abuse at colleges that have taken millions of dollars of federal student aid? senator, if confirmed, i will certainly be very vigilant. how? senator warren, how? how are you going to do that? you said you were committed. mrs. devos, the individuals with whom i work in the department will ensure that federal moneys are used properly and appropriately. senator warren, you are going to
2:46 am
subcontract, making sure that what happens with universities and chief students don't happen anymore. you're going to give that to someone else to do? i just want to know what your ideas are. mrs. devos, i want to make sure we don't have problems with that as well. if confirmed, i want to make sure we will work diligently. senator warren, it actually turns out there are a whole group of rules that are written and are there and all you have to do is enforce them. what i want to know is will you enforce those rules? i will commit that institutions which are receiving federal funds are actually serving their students well. will you enforce the gainful employment rule to make sure these career colleges are not cheating students? we will certainly review that rule. again, this goes back to somebody who is kind of walking into a hearing saying look, i've got the votes. i don't have to learn about public education. i don't have to listen to
2:47 am
democrats' concerns. i don't have to listen to teachers' concerns or students' concerns or experts in education concerns. i don't have to learn about higher education, which is by money spent like three quarters of the united states 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 place and so on. senator warren's exchange there is very revealing. i know that republicans care very deeply about the fight against waste, fraud and abuse, i hear 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'm concerned about is college affordability. the rising cost of college is one of the biggest middle-class issues of our time if it's not
2:48 am
the biggest issue of our time. no generation escapes this problem. if you're a student or a parent, you worry about paying for college. and i know plenty of grandparents who are worried about their children who are still paying off their own college loans and now trying to save up for their student. the federal government is giving $140 billion in federal aid to institutions of higher learning in grants and loans, and that's a good thing, not a bad thing. that's federal policy. we have decided we want to make college affordable because higher education is the straightest line to develop the work force 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're actually getting the opposite result. we are spending more both in raw dollars and in inflation-adjusted dollars than ever, in federal financial aid and grants, and yet the cost of college keeps going up and up and up. average prant awards have increased by almost 20% in the
2:49 am
past ten years. in the same period, pell grants covered 25% less than the average public school tuition and fees. 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's clear that our system isn't working. if we're subsidizing higher education with federal dollars, we have a responsibility to incentivize institutions of higher education to become more affordable, provide access to low-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 their mission, but based on
2:50 am
mrs. devos' testimony, it's 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 9. it advised school officials to be responsive to reports of sexual violence and gave guidelines on how schools should process those reports. but during mrs. devos' hearing, she had an exchange with senator casey that indicates that she could roll back this progress. let's take a look at the transcript. would you agree with me that the problem -- and that's an understatement, in my judgment -- that the problem of sexual assault on campus is a significant one that we should take action on? senator, thank you for that question. i agree with you that sexual assault in any form or in anyplace is a problem. i ask you would you uphold the 2011 title 9 guidance as it
2:51 am
relates to sexual assault on campus? senator, i know there is a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance, and if confirmed, i would work with you and so on. so my concern about mrs. devos go to policy, they go to preparation, but most of all, they go to a basic understanding of what public education is about. they go to a basic commitment to the mission of public education. every senator's office is ringing off the hook, with people telling us that mrs. devos is not the right choice. and 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
2:52 am
of the people in your own state and the groups that we look to and trust when it comes to our country's education system. these are the people that 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 decisions. we may not agree on who would make the perfect secretary of education, but we can agree that people from across the country are speaking out against mrs. devos, and it's 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. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
2:53 am
2:54 am
2:55 am
2:56 am
2:57 am
2:58 am
2:59 am
mr. kaine: mr. president, are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. kaine: might i ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kaine: thank you, mr. president. i rise this evening, along with many of my colleagues, to speak in opposition to the nomination of betsy devos to be united states secretary of education. i opposed secretary devos, mrs. devos, i had the chance to see at her confirmation hearing
3:00 am
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% of our kids go to public schools, and they need a champion. section, -- second, i want a sef education that has the view that if any school 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' 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 four-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 ofs betsy dev. last week we passed 25,000
3:01 am
contacts by constituents, letters, e-mails, phone calls and those have continued to ratchet up over the weekend with voicemails and more letters in our system and more e-mails coming into the office. and we've dealt with some contentious issues over the last four years. for example, we shut the government down in october of 2013 because of the inability of the house and the senate to sit down at a conference table and work on a budget, and 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 of my office as the devos nomination. i want to spend some time on those three reasons for which i will oppose her. but before i do, mr. president, i want to talk about why this is personally so very important to me.
3:02 am
it's important to me because of the commonwealth i represent. it's important to me because of the personal histories of my wife and i and our kids in the public schools of kansas, where i group, and the -- where i grew up, and 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. and, finally, it is foreign me because i've recently been -- it's important it me because i've recently been added as a member of the help committee, health, education, labor, and pensions, the committee that shepherded this nomination through a very illuminating confirmation hearing a couple of weeks ago. why does this matter to me? i'll begin with virginia. thomas jefferson, when he was ambassador to paris in the early 1780's, wrote one of the great recallly works of american literature, " "notes on the stae
3:03 am
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 evening looking into the future. and 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 for 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 in the virginia constitution. we're talkin -- talking about we education is so important, he said progress in education and all else depends upon the broadest did he fusion of
3:04 am
knowledge. if he want to have a great goorveghts 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 need add public education system. jefferson wouldn't have imagined an internet or search engines where all knowledge would be digitized. that's what he was talking about. if you diffuse knowledge among the population, that is the best guarantee of the success of society. so he laid out this very ambitious plan in the 1780's. sadly, virginia didn't adopt it. the first early adopters of a compulsory public education system i think was massachusetts. other states did. but 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 to tombstone, autr
3:05 am
of the statute of freedom, founder of the university of virginia -- he didn't even see mitt to put that he was president of the united states on his tombstone. education what is he was passionate b he founded the university of environment virginia. so we have some great educational thinkers in our commonwealth who grued our -- 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 19858 -- 1958, turn 59 in two and a half weeks -- you could not go to school with someone 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 recognize the the power of
3:06 am
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, virginia. 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 transparency were killed in a bus accident. and in april of 1951, she said, i'm tieshed of this. -- i'm tired of this. i am a kid, but i'm not going to accept second-class citizenship. and she encouraged one day with a if i can note the principal of her -- with a fake note the principal of her school to go to the administrative office and then she gathered all the students in the auditorium in
3:07 am
farmville, virginia, and said we're going to walk out. we're going to walk out of our high school because we're tired of being treated as second-class citizens and we're going to call civil rights lawyers and ask hem to -- ask them to represent us. the virginia case became part of brown v. 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 wille led by school kis 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. she stood up and said, i have a right to it just like everybody else does. i'm not going to take second-class status. well, that's one of the most powerful stories in the history of educational history. after the brown v. board of
3:08 am
education was solved, many fought against segregation for years. five years after brown, federal courts ruled you've got 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, okay, if we have public schools, we're required to treat kids equally based on the color of their skin, i have an idea -- we'll close all our public schools. so prince edward county for a period of five years -- five years -- shut all their public schools. and 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 that they could go to private schools. they called them segregation academies, and they set up all over virginia. in prince edward county, white
3:09 am
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 five years. i think you can start to see why supporting public education today is very, very important in virginia. because in any lifetime, we didn't. in my lifetime, we closed public schools down rather to 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 allow the law of the land 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
3:10 am
close down was a state with very, very poor educational performance. the virginia in the 1950's -- forget about test scores, forget about s.a.t. scores, forget about a.p. exams -- we were one of the worst states in the one in the percentage of our kids that attended school. it will not surprise to you 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 will not be very strong. so virginia was a low-education, low-income state when i was born. today it's very, very different. my -- the officials in virginia continue to battle to try to resist the integration of schools. my father-in-law, my wife's dad, was elected -- he was the first elected republican governor in the history of the commonwealth,
3:11 am
elected in 1969. came into office in january of 19700. the previous governors who had been democrats had fought against integration, had used all kinds of tricks and stratagems toavoid integrating schools and my father-in-law took an historic stand. he said, look in this commonwealth, we're putting segregation behind us. we're now going to be an acitiry to cicy -- aristocracy of race. he embraced a court bugs order in the fall of -- 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. his wife escorted my wife into a similar middle school. the picture of my father-in-law, linwood holton walking into school on this day was front page o of "the new york times." it was front page of "the new york times" because in the civil rights era, there were always --
3:12 am
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's only one picture of a southern governor escorting a child -- his child into a school that was primarily african-american saying finally virginia going embrace the vision of thomas jefferson, we shouldn't segregate education based on race. i think immediate lid before we dropped the segregation based on gender in our state's clernlings and surprise, surprise, with those two moves, virginia started to move. virginia started to move from a low-education, poor styte a high-education state that is now top-ten median income. now we are a state known for our educational system. now we are a state where we're always in the top five in percentage of our kids that take
3:13 am
and pass a.p. exams. our s.a.t. scores are strong relative to other states. our higher education system is viewed as very, very powerful. it is because we, as in the words in the letter to corinthians, we put away childish things, we put away segregation, gender division, we put away using public dollars to support private academies so that kids could -- 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're top-ten median income income tax my lifetime, no state this th n. this country has moved father in my lifetime economically -- farther in my lifetime from low, median income from back in the pack than virginia has and it is because of that we've embraced investments in our education system beginning with this barbara johns walk-out and then
3:14 am
with the courageous republican governor and then governors who followed, democrats and republicans, business leaders, teachers, community leaders, we were late to the game but we eventually embraced the jeffersonian vision and now we have an education system that we can be proud of. it is a public education system k-12 that educates about 1.2 million kids, 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 1950's and 1960's. we don't do that but we've got a system that is public and private and home schooled and charter, and it is a system that isn't perfect. it is a system that we need to always battle to improve. but it is a system that we're so proud of. we've 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
3:15 am
we know how far we've come. we know how far we've come. that's who my state is. personally, i went to 13 years of education k-12, seven public education, six catholic education. my wife ann was educated in the public schools of virginia and roanoke and richmond and fairfax county as were her siblings. we have been married for 32 years. our three children have all graduated from the richmond public schools. they have had wonderful careers. i wrote a piece a few years ago when my daughter, my youngest, graduated called "40 years as a public school parent" because my three children spent a combined 40 years in the richmond public schools. and the richmond public schools are like a lot of school systems. 25,000 kids or so in an urban environment, high poverty school district, probably nearly 80% to
3:16 am
90% of the children in the school system are free and reduced lunch. overwhelmingly, a minority school system. three quarters or more of the students are minority. but my kid's got a fantastic public education, and these -- in these public schools of virginia. they have all graduated and gone on. one to graduate george washington, infantry commander in the marine corps. one to dwrawd from carlton college, a visual artist. one about to graduate from new york university. all built on the foundation of a great public education in the public schools of my city. and my wife, i told you about my wife being part of the generation of kids that integrated the public schools of virginia, and 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.
3:17 am
secretary of education in virginia. and 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. inform addition to our personal connections in the history of my state, let me talk about my professional connection to our schools and why i believe this is such an important position. i mentioned that i have been a mayor and i have been a governor. i'm a little bit unusual. there has 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, and that's why there are so few who can do all three. but when you're a mayor, as i was, the biggest line item in my budget was public schools. we had at the time i was mayor about 53 public schools and 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 was being done.
3:18 am
if it's the biggest line item, that means it's 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. and then i got elected to statewide office as lieutenant governor and governor, and 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, i'm going to go to a school in every one of virginia's cities and counties to make sure i understand public education in my commonwealth. i should have thought before i made that pledge because there is 134 cities and counties in virginia. it took me four and a half years to travel to every one of our cities and counties to try to understand public education in my commonwealth. i'm not aware of anybody who has ever 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 understand not just the schools that my own kids went to, but the schools that other kids went
3:19 am
to all around our commonwealth. northern virginia and its high-tech suburbs, wise county where my wife's family is from, the coalfields of appalachia, tobacco growing regions to south side virginia, manufacturing regions south of richmond, oysterman and water men and tourism on the eastern shores 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. biggest line item in the city was for education. i department want to know our schools just from a budget or just from a newspaper article. i wanted to know it 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 that my kids would do in the virginia public schools. i'm saying all this first because i'm just trying to convey why this is so important.
3:20 am
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, it's not oil, it's not water. it's talent. and the cities or states or countries that know how to raise talent, grow talent, attract talent, reward talent, encourage talent, 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'll also attract the institutions that want to be around talent, great companies, great think tanks, great universities. there is an inextribbable causal link between your commitment to a system of public education and the success of your city or your state or your country. there's nothing that we do in this chamber that we do in the federal government that will be more likely to affect our
3:21 am
economic outcome than the care with which we direct attention to our education system. and the last reason it's important to me is because of my new membership on the help committee. so i've had my family background, i care deeply about my state. i have 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 came here, mr. president. i wasn't able to. i couldn't complain because i got great committees. i'm on the armed services, foreign relations and budget committee, 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, and now i'm fortunate enough to be on the committee, and one of my first meetings of 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 about mrs. devos, but we had done our homework. i have a wonderful staffer who
3:22 am
helped prepare me. we had done our homework. we were pretty under some pretty tight time constraints. we each only got five minutes to ask questions. five minutes isn't a lot of time when you're talking about something as important as the educational mission of the federal government to help our society succeed in educating our kids. but i decided in my five minutes that i wanted to ask mrs. devos about three things. i wanted to ask her about can you be a champion for public schools? that's 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. and i wanted to ask her about her thoughts, about the education of kids with disabilities. both because i care deeply about that topic but also because i believe that the education with disabilities education act points a direction for the future american public education. i wanted to see what she thought about it. i had -- i guess since we're talking about education, i had
3:23 am
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? 1.2 million kids in virginia, 90% of the children who were educated in this country are educated in public schools. i'm a huge supporter of private schools. i went to catholic schools for six years. when i was governor, i did a lot of great work with kids and their parents who chose home schooling as an option. i like options, but just as a matter of fact, 90% of the kids in this country go to public schools. and it's going to be at that number or near it for as long as we can see, for as long as we can see. in richmond, we have some great preschools because richmond has a million people, and so private schools can set up and find students. there are corners of my commonwealth where it's very hard to start a private school
3:24 am
because there is just not enough students. that's not just the case for virginia. my colleagues on the help committee from alaska or from maine, they shared this. there are parts of their state where talking about vouchers for private schools, you might as well be talking esperanto. that's just not going to happen in some of these very rural communities. so you have got to have a champion for public schools. in my research about betsy devos, she gave a speech that troubled me in 2015. it was a speech about the state of american public education. and here are two direct quotes, and one of which -- i don't know, this is not the greatest language for the congressional record, but she said that government -- when it comes to education -- quote -- government really sucks, close quote. and she also said public schools are a -- quote -- dead end. this was not something she said 20 years ago or ten years ago. this is something that she said about a year and a half ago.
3:25 am
this is her view of public education in this country. now, betsy devos never attended a public school for a day, never taught at a public school, didn't send her children to public schools. that's not a disqualifier. i think you could have a great secretary of education who hadn't attended public schools, who had come from private schools and had good -- you know, private school examples to learn from. i think that's fine. but if you have never attended public school for a day, if your children have never attended for a day, if you have never taught at a public school, i kind of have the attitude what gives you the right to just stand up and say public schools are a dead end? really? 1.2 million kids in virginia, 90% of kids in this country. public schools are a dead end. government education really sucks. what gives you the right to say that? and so i -- i asked her some questions about these
3:26 am
statements. i asked her hey, is the morale of the work force important? you know, 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 the job in the organization? absolutely. 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's great about public education, who isn't afraid to point out what's bad about it, who isn't afraid
3:27 am
to point out the things that need to be improved, but if you just paint it all with a broad brush and it's all bad, you're going to miss an awful lot of really good things about american public education. i sometimes get down on some of my colleagues on my side about this. you know, there is kind of an antibusiness attitude. businesses are bad. there are some bad businesses, but most businesses are really good. you shouldn't paint with a broad brush, whether you're 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 bus drivers and cafeteria workers and people going to work every day, and 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.
3:28 am
so the first reason why i just -- the first test that 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 the discussion in the committee, some of the colleagues who were kind of coming back at us a little bit were saying well, we get it. you're against charters or you're against vouchers or you're against betsy devos because she wants to expand choice. but most of us are from states that have significant choice. i pointed out virginia doesn't do vouchers, but we have a very robust home schooling network. i'm a huge supporter of it. choice is fine. but you've got to be a champion for public schools, and if you're not, you shouldn't be secretary of education, so that's reason one. second, i wanted to interview
3:29 am
betsy devos about accountability, accountability. should schools be accountable for the success of their students? for outcomes and this is very, very important. and it's really important to get this right because sometimes my wife as secretary of education in the 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 reschiff the balance a little bit to allow cities and counties and states more flexibility in trying to determine how to educate their students while nevertheless holding them accountable for outcomes. and i wanted to ask betsy devos about 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
3:30 am
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 and indiana and other states. that's a lot of money, $20 billion. that's money that's taken out of the allocation for public schools. so if you take $20 billion out of public schools, especially maybe in some rural areas, that's, in my view, having done a the love budgets and worked on this as a mayor in government, you're really going to potentially weaken the public schools. how are we going to do this? you is take the $20 billion out of 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
3:31 am
her this question overed and 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 in kids with disabilities. will you hold any school that gets federal money equally accountable? i asked her this and she said, i believe in accountability. i said, well, that's not my question. i believe in accountability, too. but i'm 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're not all held
3:32 am
equally headable now. ail asking you what you think is the right policy. is the right policy if we're 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. so i phrased it a different way. i said, let kneel you this, mrs. divorce. i believe -- mrs. devos. i believe all schools that get federal money should be held equally accountability. do you agree with me? and she said, no. she doesn't believe that schools that get federal money should be held equally accountable. i have a pi -- i have a big prom with that. i have a big problem with that. it seems like the whole -- you know, the whole goal of the choice movement is to provide choices so that students can learn in environments that are best suited to them. and choice is also supposed to promote some competition that will encourage everybody to up their game. but if you hold the public schools accountable while you're taking some of their money away,
3:33 am
and you give that money to private schools and you don't hold them accountable, you're not promoting fair competition. you're not promoting student outcomes. you're just basically taking money away from private schools and giving the money to -- taking the money away from public schools and giving it to private schools. and in virginia we had a painful experience with that, closing schools down, defunding public schools and giving money to private schools. so that is a second reason that is very, very important to me. i don't think she supports the notion of equal accountable for both public and private schools that receive taxpayer funding. and if we're going to do the proposal that president trump says -- we haven't seen a budget yet but we may see one end of february, early march -- if we're going to suddenly start taking billions and billions of dollars away from public schools and giving them to private schools, i want to know that
3:34 am
they're equally accountable. the third issue that i asked mrs. devos about was education for kids with disabilities. let me tell you why this one is so important to me. it is important because it's right. it's also important because it points a path to the future of education in this country. before the individuals with disabilities in 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. and so generation after generation after generation of kids would go to school, but they wouldn't get an education that was tailored to their need. they would finish their education not having the skills
3:35 am
they needed to be all they could be. so if you think about that kind of collective delta between what these kids could do and what they could have done had they had the best education, it is tragic. it is tragic. and so that was the genesis behind the idea act in 1975. it's like 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 pretty simple thing. it's if a student is identified as having a disability of some kind, the student gets an i.e.p., an individualized education plan. so if you have a diagnosed disability, then you're entitled under federal law to an i.e.p., where you get an education that's tailored to your protect circumstance.
3:36 am
-- your particular circumstance. my kids went through the richmond public schools of. one had an i.e.p. for a couple years. that's pretty common. it is pretty common that you get an i.e.p. and with a tailored education, you need for a couple of years of speech therapy or a couple years of something else. and then within a few years, you're completely mainstreamed and you don't need the i.e.p. anymore. the individualized attention helps you climb up and then be completely competitive with your colleagues and peers. there are other student whose need an i.e.p. for their entire educational career, but -- and that's fine, too. and they're entitled to it under the individuals were disabilities education act. what it has meant from 1975 to today, it is 40-plus years, this massive cohort of kids with special needs are not in the shadows, they're not shunned to the side. they're not pushed into classes
3:37 am
where the expectations for them are low. instead, they're challenged to be all they can be and they're happier earned $and their families are happier and society is better off as a result. so this is a very important thing. i know this to be the case. every family in this country has got somebody in the family with a disability or will at some point in the life of the family. and every earn in this country has a friend with a disability. the issues dealing with the education of students with disabilities are important morally, but they're 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's been the best single idea about k-12 education we've come up with. it's better than testing. it's better than choice. it's better than all the other strategies because the nub of the side, you should have an individualized investigation.
3:38 am
and it raises the question, why do you have to have a diagnosed disablght to get -- disability to get an individualized education? now with computer technology and so many other tools that a teacher can use in a class of 20 or even 30 students, there's 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. and 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 satisfaction, could go to the second one. everybody worked at a different pace until they got it right and they could move to the next one. that's what the idea basically is, education should be individualized to the student
3:39 am
and more and more that's what we're doing in education all around the country. so 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. so 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 disability? pretty simple question.
3:40 am
you get the money from the feds. should you have to follow the law? remember, this is a federal civil righted law. it applies to every zip code in this country. it applies to every school district in this country. and my question of ms. devos is, if a private school gets federal money should they have to follow this important civil rights law? and her answer to me was, i think the states should make that decision. i think that should be up to the states. states' rights. it's a federal -- i said it's a federal civil rights law. it applies everywhere. states should make the decision. we -- we struggled in my state of virginia with states' rights arguments because when the supreme court decided on another really important civil rights principle, you can't segregate
3:41 am
schools -- barbara johns, her walkout of motin high school and the brown v. board education and now it is the law of the land. you can't segregate kids on the 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. and so i was surprised. i did not know what mrs. devos' 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. but when she told me about a federal civil rights law should be a state decision, i was very,
3:42 am
very troubled. i was surprised and i kind of blurted out what do you mean? so if you're a parent and you have kids with disabilities and the state isn't treating them right, you should move around the country until you find a school that is treats your kid well? you're not l.a a -- you're not allowed to have the law treat your kid well where you live? i think it should be a state decision. later on in the hearing, one of my other colleagues, ma maggie hassan followed up on this, and mrs. devos tried to back out of it. i wasn't sure we were talking about a federal or state law. but i was very, very troubled by thflt and i was troubled by it again because of the peculiar history that we've had in virginia and other states where people have used states-' rights arguments to try to trump civil
3:43 am
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're going to vote against the nominee, at that hearing and then in the markup session last week talked about that as sort of one of the thuption that they found -- things that they found troubling. another member of our committee who is supporting mrs. devos, senator isakson of georgia, also found it of concern enough that he had a written exchange with her, wrote her a letter and asked her some questions, do you really understand what the idea is? and she wrote a letter back, which i've had the opportunity to review. but i still don't believe that the letter that she wrote demonstrates a real understanding for this issue of
3:44 am
the rights of kids with disabilities. and 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've described, but there are states that do -- indiana, florida, michigan. some of the stay states that have voucher programs and receive public money for kids, they make children sign away their rights you right -- unders a conditioning of being admitted to the school. you want to come to our private schooled and you want to use voucher money to do it? well, we'll let you in, but you have to sign saying you'll 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's fair. i don't think that's right. and especially if we're now going to give $20 billion of federal money to private schools, i think they should have to follow the law.
3:45 am
many private school principals in richmond -- i've talked to them about this issue long before the hearing on mrs. devos -- and they're pretty candid. they're pretty candid, often with parents with kids with disabilities -- my longtime secretary in my office, who has worked with me for nearly 30 years, has a daughter with a disability. and she was going to parochial schools for a while in the early grades, but as she was, you know, progressing up into kind of late elementary school, there just weren't the programs at the parochial school that were tailored to her particular situation, partly because the school is just too small. a really small school. it's tough to do education of kids with disabilities. you've got to have some particular training to be able to do it, and the difference of a small parochial school and a larger county school is pretty significant. and the principal was really
3:46 am
candid and honest in a way that my secretary appreciated and i did, too. i thought it was candid, saying look, 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. and my secretary agreed and made the change to the public school and it was actually a better environment because the resources, which are not cheap, the resources to help do disability-specific education were there. but imagine now what would happen if we start to invest money in private schools and we don't make them follow the disabilities law, so follow this through. we take $20 billion away from public schools, so that -- that's weakening public school's 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. and so families like many that
3:47 am
we know, they will say well, i might like to go to private school but there is not enough appropriate education there, so i'm not going to. i'm 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's a spiral that is a bad spiral. we will defund you, but all the kids with the significant needs that are kind of costing, they're going to stay. and then that will -- that will dilute and hurt the quality of the education that they'll get. while the private school is getting the money and not having to follow the requirements of the idea. you know, they get the money. they're not -- they don't have to be equally accountable for it, they don't have to follow the requirements of the idea. this is very, very troubling stuff. so those were the three questions that i got to ask her in five minutes. can you be a champion of public
3:48 am
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? and 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 taxpayer dollars. and she is not committed to schools that are receiving federal moneys following the individuals with disabilities education act. i think that's why that this explains to me why the volume of calls into my office over this have been so high, higher than the government shutdown, higher
3:49 am
than any other nominee, higher than any other issue. we have been at war with isis for two and a half years, and 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's not ringing off the look like it has been ringing off the hook with respect to the devos nomination. and while i credit mrs. devos for being fill an thereof i can and i credit her for caring about kids, that's 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% of our kids. and using arguments like states' rights arguments, that brings up a real painful history in my state, and i don't want to see that return and especially be kind of the pinnacle of educational policy. i mentioned the volume of calls that we're receiving, and we have all asked ourselves in the office what has explained this
3:50 am
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. they -- it matters so much to them, and as we said, every family has somebody with a disability or will have a disability, and people know folks with disabilities. but the disability community, which is democrat, republicans, independents and every zip code in this country, they are not used to their issue being the front and center issue on something. they are a little more used to kind of being ignored or kind of being marginalized. and so at this hearing when the disability issue became kind of front and center, i think that's one of the reasons that the uptick of concern has been so significant, because people who otherwise are not that into politics or otherwise not that into who's the cabinet secretary going to be, there is one thing they do know, which is they want americans with disabilities to receive equal treatment.
3:51 am
they want them to be all they can be. it's 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, madam president, somebody that i know that you know very, 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, very close to his heart. we -- we really missed that because he was such a champion. i'm 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 got especially a lot of attention because it touches every family. so i'll start to recap a little bit now as i await my colleague who is going to be following me, but i will just go back to where i started.
3:52 am
this is not a minor matter. it's a little bit unusual to be on the floor at 3:50 a.m. in the morning. it's a little bit unusual to be speaking 30 hours in a row. i have had some folks ask, you know, why would you do 30 hours of speeches on this? i said well, don't you think 30 hours -- 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 u.s. really beginning in the early 1900's and then after the g.i. bill, it really accelerated, we became the educational leader in the world. it wasn't before that, but we really became the great
3:53 am
educational leader. we made education available to all. the g.i. bill helped democratize higher education and make it available to many, many more. our education 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 that our education system is so strong. i haven't really talked about higher education at all. that's also within the province of the secretary of education. but the basic point that i'm making is of anything we do that's about whether we will be successful as a country tomorrow, education is key. so that's why we're taking 30 hours, to dig into issues of concern. i have put three on the table. the three i have 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's the right way to deal with debt, how do we make college less expensive, these
3:54 am
are critical issues, too. i'm very passionate about career and technical education because 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. but there are some -- while you cannot -- it's 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 -- that would not be a fair hurdle to set for somebody. you're going to have to come in and bring an expertise in and then hire good people to work with you. but i do think there are some kind of 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, ms. devos did not succeed. i voted for a number of the
3:55 am
cabinet nominees of president trump. i'm not standing here taking the position that i'm voting against all of them. in fact, i have voted for quite a few. because even if they would not be people that i would nominate, president trump's the president and he's 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 those threshold criteria for being able to do the job and do it well, that's how you exercise advice and consent and express opposition to a nominee, and that's what i'm going to do in this case. and with that, madam president, i yield the floor. mr. kaine: madam president, i have the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk
3:56 am
will call the roll. quorum call:
3:57 am
3:58 am
3:59 am