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tv   U.S. Senate Democrats Continue to Hold Floor as De Vos Vote Looms  CSPAN  February 6, 2017 11:59am-2:00pm EST

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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> u.s. senate is about to gavel into session after remarks from the majority and minority leaders, senators will resume consideration of the nomination of betsy devos to be the next education secretary. the senate voted on friday to move forward with her nomination. two republicans susan collins and lisa murkowski have
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announced they will vote no on the nomination. to follow other republicans vote yes and all democrats about no, that would make the vote on her confirmation 50-50 and that would require vice president mike pence to cast a tie-breaking vote. the confirmation vote is scheduled for tomorrow. now to live coverage of the u.s. senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black , will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. gracious god of infinite goodness, confirm your past mercies to us by empowering us to be faithful to your commands. help our lawmakers, this day, to
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use their understanding, affection, health, time, and talents to do what you desire. may they desire to please you with faithful service, as you rule their hearts without a rival, guiding their thoughts, word, and works. enable them to fulfill their duty to love you with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. lord, take possession of their hearts and order their steps by the power of your loving providence. pour down your blessings upon our senators that they may ever
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promote liberty and justice for all. the president pro tempore: we pray in your sacred name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business with leaders permitted to speak therein for up to 15 minutes.
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the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previouunder the preve senate will resume to executive session for consideration of the nomination of elizabeth prince devos to be secretary of education which the clerk will report. the clerk: nomination, department of education, elizabeth prince devos of michigan to be secretary.
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mr. schumer: madam president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i rise this morning to speak directly to my friends on the other side of the aisle. now is the time to put country before party. i understand the pull of party loyalty. i understand deference to a new president, but from what we have seen in the first two weeks of this administration, party loyalty is demanding too much of my republican colleagues on several issues. on the matter of the cabinet, on the matter of the president's executive order on immigration, and on the matter of dealing with russia. we need republicans to set aside partisan considerations in favor of doing what's best for the country. otherwise, our institutions of government, our constitution, and core american ideals may be
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eroded. my friends on the other side of the aisle are going along with the president and treating many of these things as if they were normal, but america knows they are not. we need republicans to start recognizing it, saying it, and start stepping up to the plate to do something about it. i understand my republican colleagues will go along with the president 90% of the time, but there are certain issues that are too important, that demand putting country above party. now is the time to put country above party. first, on the cabinet, our norms of good government and, above all, ethics, are being tested by a cabinet unlike any other i have seen in my time in public office. there are so many billionaires with so many conflicts of interest and so little expertise in the issues they'd oversee.
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take the nomination we are now considering, betsy devos for education secretary. in my mind, she is the least qualified nominee in a historically unqualified cabinet. on conflicts of interest, she ranks among the worst. in her ethics agreement which was delivered to the committee after the first hearing, it was revealed she'd keep interests in three family-owned trusts that have holdings in companies that could be affected by matters related to the department of education. independent ethics watchdogs have criticized her ethics agreement for failing to deal with these conflicts of interest. on philosophy of education, her views are extreme. she seems to constantly demean the main purpose of her job: public education. nine in ten american kids attend
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public schools. her views on public education are a major concern, particularly for senators from rural areas. there's not a lot of choice of schools outside major metropolitan areas. if you don't have a public school, a good public school in your neighborhood, in your community, you have nothing. any senator from a rural state should be worried about a commitment to public education. we in new york have the third-largest rural population in america. i am worried for those schools where if the school is no good, you don't have much choice. you don't have any choice. above all, and on basic competence, ms. devos has failed to make the grade. she didn't seem to know about the federal education law that guarantees education to students with disabilities. she couldn't unequivocally say that guns shouldn't be in the schools. and she didn't seem to know about a long simmering debate in
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education policy about measuring growth versus proficiency. frankly, ms. devos' answers at the hearings were embarrassing. not only for her, but for my republican colleagues on the committee who rushed her nomination through with five minutes of questions, only one round and at 5:00 p.m. madam president, cabinet secretaries can't be expected to know everything, but this is different. the nominee for secretary of education doesn't know some of the most basic facts about education policy. she has failed to show proficiency, and there is no longer any time for growth. mr. president -- madam president, the american people are speaking in one loud voice against this nominee. i've had many people come up to
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me in new york and said i voted for donald trump, but i'm making calls about this nominee. americans across the country in red states and blue states have been flooding our offices with phone calls and e-mails asking the senate to vote no on betsy devos. local newspaper editorial boards, many of them that endorse trump, are saying the same thing. my friends, the senators from maine and alaska, were profiles in courage last week when they announced their opposition to her nomination. but unfortunately, so far they are the exception. we need just one more vote, and we can get a lot better secretary of education than the one who was nominated. i ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to follow the courageous example of the senators from maine and alaska. we have an obligation as senators, not as republicans, not as democrats, but as
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senators to evaluate these nominees and their fitness for office because these nominees are going to wield immense power over the lives of americans for the next four years. i ask my republican colleagues to look into their conscience and cast their votes tomorrow not based on party loyalty, but based on whether or not ms. devos is qualified to be our nation's leader on education policy. if one doesn't measure up, the senate has a responsibility to reject the nomination. i realize it rarely occurs, but this should be an exception because she is so uniquely unqualified, whether it comes to competence, whether it comes to philosophy against the public schools or whether it comes to conflicts of interest which still exist in far too many instances with ms. devos' holdings.
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second, madam president, the president's executive order on immigration and refugees is so poorly constructed, so haphazardly i am implemented, so legally and constitutionally dubious and so wrong in terms of what america is all about, so contrary to our basic values as americans that my republican friends should feel a duty to country to help us rescind it. several members on the other side -- i think it's over a dozen -- have expressed concerns about it. several spoke out strongly and unequivocally about imposing any type of ban during the campaign. but now that we have such a ban, they are unfortunately silent. it's time for that silence to end and for republicans to step up to the plate and start backing up their words with actions. on friday the order was temporarily blocked by a federal judge. on saturday the president
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questioned his court credibility via tweet and then asked the country to blame any potential attacks on the country on the judge and the courts. he is not a so-called judge, as the president tweeted, but rather a senate-confirmed bush appointee. now, madam president, that's not how we do things here in america. there's a separation of powers for a reason,. an independent judiciary is absolutely necessary to ensure presidents and congresses do not break the law or impinge on the constitution. but this president has shown a certain callous news who rule against his whim. judge curio during the campaign, judge robart now. instead of attacking the judge the president should be working
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with congress to tighten up security where it's actually needed. the president has said if there are attacks, the judge will be to blame. i reap mind him not one attack -- i remind him not one attack on u.s. soil has been perpetrated by a refugee from one of the seven countries in the executive order. this order doesn't make us any safer. if anything, the executive order increases the risk of lone wolf attacks, our greatest threat. that's what happened in san bernardino. that's what happened in orlando. and no authority less than senator john mccain has said exactly that, that it will increase the likelihood of attacks by these lone wolves, these disaffected people who are egged on by the evil isis. so, i make this offer to my friends on the other side of the aisle. join democrats in rescinding the
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executive order and we will work with you in a bipartisan way in good faith to actually make our country safer. close up that visa waiver program where people from countries, just because they're generally friendly to us, those countries are not checked. we know that places like france and belgium have homegrown terrorists lured by isis. they can get on a plane and come here far more easily than a refugee from those seven countries. let's tighten that up. but instead the president picked this executive order -- lord knows how he came to it -- and every expert on terrorism will say there are a lot more important things and better things that we need to do. so let me repeat, the stakes are too high for party loyalty to stand in the way of doing what's right to protect this country. we ought to scrap the order and
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start over. the order not only does not protect us from terrorism but make it worse, but it stands in the face of what america is all about, a country that has welcomed immigrants, as the beautiful lady with the torch in the harbor, in the city in which i live, has beckoned us for generations. finally, mr. president, i ask my republican colleagues to put country over party when it comes to russia. this administration has shown a disquieting reluctance to criticize russia when it flouts international norms and laws. the administration seems hesitant to enforce new sanctions and has even hinted at relaxing existing sanctions on what has always been probably our most formidable enemy along with isis: russia and putin. unbelievably just yesterday the
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president insinuated that the american and russian governments were somehow morally equivalent. when asked about putin's authoritarian regime by bill o'riley, president trump responded, there are a lot of killers who think our country is so innocent. can you imagine if a democrat had said that? every one of these seats would be filled with people decrying that kind of moral equivalence. russia, a dictatorship, where putin kills his enemies, imprisons the press and causes trouble anywhere he can in the world. morally equivalent to this great land? come on, where are you? you know if a democrat said it, you'd be just howling at the moon. rightfully so. and here, i don't hear much.
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mr. president, vladimir putin has little or no respect for the diversity of his people, for the freedom of religion and expression, for a free press, for free and fair elections in russia and in america, it seems, and he has documented on one more -- and he has demonstrated on more than one occasion he'll go to any length to silence political dissidence, including murdering them. does that sound like america, i would ask president trump? maybe in president trump's mind it does, but it sure doesn't to most america, just about every american. it's not the america that this body represents. my republican colleagues, as i said, ought to be aghast. i don't think anyone from the other side would associate himself or herself with those comments. i'm encouraged that the republican leader and other senate republicans criticized
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president for these dangerous remarks, but what worries me most is the policy. russia is a persistent and strategic threat to this nation. will this administration cozy up to putin and his oligarchs and relax sanctions? will they look the other way when russia supports separatists in the ukraine, commits human rights violations along with syria, hezbollah? putin is the kind of bully where if you give him an inch, he takes ten miles. we all have come across people like that. president trump's rhetoric is ceding more of the battle space to our be enemy each day, so what we must do in this body is to ensure that current sanctions stay in place and are robustly enforced. we also need to increase sanctions on russia for its
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interference in our election. we ask our colleagues, step up to the plate. do what you know is right and join us in making sure that the president cannot unilaterally reduce sanctions and that we strengthen sanctions for what he has tried to do in our election. madam president, the stakes are too high to let loyalty to this president, any president, stop this body from doing the right thing for the american people. on the cabinet, and particularly ms. devos on the executive order and the lack of respect for an independent judiciary and on russia. i ask my republican colleagues once again to consider principle over party and their duty to country before deference to the president. madam president, i yield the floor.
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mrs. murray: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, madam president. madam president, over the last few weeks, people across the country have continued to make their voices heard in opposition to the nomination of betsy devos. moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, students, young and old, in cities, in towns, in urban, suburban, and rural communities, people are standing up and they will not be silenced. thousands of upon thousands have joined protests in their
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communities. hundreds of thousands have e-mailed or called their senators jamming our phone lines swamping the voice mail system and shattering records. millions have engaged on social media sharing information with their friends and signing petitions and pressuring their elected officials. and, madam president, it has made a difference. every single democrat will be standing with their constituents and opposing betsy devos. and just last week two republicans announced their opposition as well, and i can tell you i know for a fact there are other republicans who are feeling the heat and could come around. so, madam president, this nomination is dead even right now, on the razor's edge. 50 senators, democrats and republicans, will vote to reject betsy devos, and we need just one more republican to join us,
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to stand on the side of students and parents and public education in america and say no to betsy devos. so, madam president, i come to the floor today to kick off the final day of debate on this nomination. now, i speak at length on friday making my case for why the senate should oppose betsy devos and democrats will hold the floor for the next 24 hours until the final vote to do everything we can to persuade just one more republican to join us. and i strongly encourage people across the country to join us, double down on your advocacy, keep making your voices heard for these last 24 hours. madam president, over the past few weeks i've heard a number of republicans wonder why democrats and so many parents and teachers across the country were so focused on this nomination in this moment.
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now, president trump has done so much in the first few weeks and so many of the people he has nominated to run critical agencies have not been people i can support, but what is it about betsy devos that has inspired so much grassroots energy and opposition across this country? well, madam president, i think i understand. it's pretty clear to me. i think it's that for the vast majority of people across the country, public education isn't just another issue. it's different. for those of us who owe everything we have to the strong public education we received, for those who saw our children and grandchildren move through our public schools, for those of us who walked into a public classroom your selves to teach or have friends or family who dedicated their lives to teaching, for those of us who see the role strong public schools play in our communities,
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especially our rural communities, often offering an educational and community resource where it simply wouldn't otherwise be offered, we believe that a commitment to strong public schools is part of america's core. the idea that every student in every community should have the opportunities that strong public schools offer. this is a notion that is embedded in our values. it's who we are. it's in our blood. so, madam president, for those people across the country who feel that way, who believe those things, the nomination of betsy devos truly hits close to home. it was a slap in the face because she doesn't approach this the way most of us do. she doesn't cherish public education. she doesn't value it. she is someone who has dedicated her career and her inherited fortune to privatizing public schools, to tearing down public
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education, to defunding it in order to push more taxpayer dollars into private schools and for-profit charters. she has called public education -- quote -- a dead end. from where she sits from a distance, she has called it -- quote -- an embarrassment. she has disparaged those who work in our public schools saying that our best and our brightest -- quote -- steer clear. she has said education is -- quote -- an industry. an industry? well, for someone like her, a billionaire right-wing activist who spent her career and inherited fortune buying and selling companies, she just doesn't understand a -- quote -- industry that isn't focused on profits and that doesn't exist in the free market. so, madam president, when people across the country hear someone like betsy devos say these things about public education,
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when they hear a right-wing conservative billionaire more focused on her antigovernment ideology than helping our students, when they see that someone who has spent her career trying to destroy public schools, has been nominated to lead the federal agency dedicated to public education, they start to pay some attention. and, madam president, when they see that person in a senate hearing so clearly lack any understanding of the issues, when they see her unable to explain basic concepts in education policy, unwilling to make basic commitments to not privatizing or defunding our public schools, confused about the need for federal protections, for students with disabilities, and so committed to a right-wing agenda that she pointed to the need for guns in our schools to protect against,
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and i quote, potential grizzly bears in response, by the way, to a question from a senator representing the newtown families. well, people across the country pay even more attention and they start to make their voices heard. so, madam president, i am not surprised that opposition to betsy devos has caught fire across the country, and i am not surprised that people are talking about it to their friends and writing letters to the senators and showing up to protest when they've never done anything like that before because this is about their kids, their schools, their communities. it's about the core idea that we are a nation that invests in strong public education and one that strives to guarantee the promise and opportunity it affords to every student in our country, not that public education is perfect.
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of course not. we have a lot of work to do. but that work should be directed towards strengthening public schools, not tearing them down. and the belief that public education is something that should be valued as an important piece of the fabric of this nation and the expansion of our middle class, not scorned and ridiculed by billionaires who never had any use for it themselves. madam president, i spent a lot of time friday here laying out my case in detail opposing betsy devos. i talked about the open questions that remain regarding her tangled finances and potential conflicts of interest. i ran through the strong concerns with her record, her lack of experience, and her lack of clear understanding of basic education issues. i discussed my strong belief that her vision for education in america is deeply at odds with where parents and students and
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families across our country want to go. and went through the process how republicans jammed this nominee through our committee cutting corners and doing everything possible to protect her from scrutiny. so, madam president, i won't go through all that again now, but i do want to make one more point, one that i hope will be compelling to my republican friends who are still resisting pressure from their constituents and sticking with betsy devos and that is this. no matter what you think about betsy devos' policy ideas, no matter what you think of her qualifications to run this agency, no matter what you think about her personal understanding of the issues or her financial entanglements, one thing is very clear. if she is confirmed, she would enter this job as the most controversial and embattled secretaries in the history of this department. she would start this job with no
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credibility inside the agency she is supposed to lead with no influence in congress. as the punch line in late night comedy shows and without the confidence of the american people, madam president a vote for betsy devos is a vote for a secretary of education who is likely to succeed only in further dividing us on education issues and who may try to take steps to implement her antistudent agenda but would do so with people across the country and so many of us in the senate on guard and ready to fight back. so i urge my republican friends and we just need one more, let's cut this off right now. let's ask president trump to send us someone who is qualified, who understands the issues and who truly cares about public education, and together let's stand with our
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constituents and say no to betsy devos. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. van hollen: thank you, madam president. let me start by thanking senator murray and the members of the help committee for the work they've done to cast light on the record and the lack of record of ms. betsy devos, president trump's nominee to be secretary of education. as the senator from washington has told us, the more the american people learn about the record of betsy devos, the more concerned they become. the american people are making their voices heard in every senate office. the switchboard has been essentially shut down, and i can tell you that i've received over 14,000 calls from maryland on
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this nominee alone. people are calling because the more they look at the record, the more they realize this nominee's lack of commitment to the essential mission of the department of education. and that mission is to provide every child in america with access to a quality public education. this concern about the nominee is shared across political parties as senator susan collins of maine said on this floor, ms. devos' contraition on vouchers -- quote -- raises the question about whether she fully appreciates that the secretary of education's primary focus must be on helping states, communities and parents, teachers and school board members and administrators to strengthen our public schools. our mission must be to provide every child regardless of zip code with access to a high
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quality neighborhood public school. it is absolutely true, madam president that in too many places around this country, we are failing to meet the goal. but the response to a troubled school should not be to walk away from it in favor of sketchy voucher schemes. instead, we must work together to provide the necessary resources and interventions to help those schools and those students achieve success. over the last two years, i spent a lot of time traveling over the great state of maryland. i visited schools, talked to college student, heard from parents. and no matter where i went in every part of our state, everybody wanted the same thing, a good school, affordable college, either community college or four--year colleges, and a fair shot at reaching their dreams. the united states department of education is supposed to help them get that opportunity.
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let me take a moment to talk about what the department of education means to some neighborhoods in my state of maryland. not long ago i visited a pair of community schools in baltimore city. the historic samuel taylor elementary school in upton jew witness heights in west baltimore and the bending ming franklin high school in brooklyn in south baltimore. uptown jewitt heights is a historic african-american community in baltimore. supreme court justice thurgood marshal, jazz great cab callaway and civil rights lily may carol jackson all walked its streets. but today it's a community in distress. most of its children live in poverty. 95% of the students at samuel college saylor elementary -- taylor elementary are on free or reduced lunch. despite its challenges, it has a strong faith-based institution
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and community groups. ms. devos' approach to schools like samuel taylor is to give up on them, abandon them and divert resources to voucher programs. fortunately the department of education did not abandon this school. in 2012 it designated upton jewitt heights as a prominent neighborhoods. the department provided resources for comprehensive services for families. this includes be more for healthy babies which dramatically reduced infant mortality rates in the city. parent university to help educate parents of young children. and financing literacy education to help fill out income tax reforms and help families manage their budgets. in 2012, samuel cowers taylor
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became a community school. it has a community school coordinator, a position that can be filled using title 1 of the elementary and secondary education act which provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers of children from low-income families. the community school coordinator works with parents and students and educators and community residents to learn the needs of the neighborhood and form partnerships to meet them. the university of maryland school of social work which is located just down the road joined them to provide trauma training so that teachers could recognize and respond to trauma among the children and go on home visits to work with families. they received a grant to build a first-ever playground on campus, something that most schools take for granted. local churches provided safe spaces for kids. the wineburg foundation donated a beautiful library. there is a job center where parents can look for employment
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and a food bank to send kids home with something to eat over the weekend. the school was transformed into a place where kids want to be, receiving the mayor's award for the greatest drop in students at risk for chronic absenteeism. it's been a success story. in a little different part of town, ben franklin high school exists and it's isolated geographically in the brooklyn neighborhood. it's on a peninsula in the southern part of the city. it's a historic waterfront neighborhood with strong ties to manufacturing. the brooklyn community built ships for the united states in world war ii. many families in brook land had been there for generations. as manufacturing left and bethlehem steel closed, bethlehem steel which provided about 12,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs, as it closed times got tougher for
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those working families. in the year 2011, benjamin franklin was one of the bottom 5% schools in the state of maryland. again, one of those schools that this nominee would have walked away from in favor of vouchers. again, the good news is the department of education did not walk away. it provided extra funding to help turn things around. using the community schools' model they assessed and responded to the needs of the students. interns for the university of maryland school social work provide mental health services. united way offers a workforce development program and on site early childhood development center. a family stability program helps families avoid homelessness.
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c.s.x. is working with the school to build a football field. and students work together with their neighbors to take ownership of their community and protest the placement of incinerator near them because they figure that this low-income neighborhood was a good target to put an insin are rarity but the community -- an incinerator but the community fought back and won. they put thousands of hours into community service including chesapeake bay cleanup. the school's office of student office learning helps connects students to internships and job training programs. in brookland, the crime rate and the teen pregnancy rates have dropped. and attendance at ben franklin is up. when i asked the students what they liked about the school, they said, "we feel like someone cares now. and everyone is positive." at both these schools -- samuel
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taylor and ben franklin c -- the principal told me the community schools' model allowed them to form partnerships that meet the needs of the students' lives so they could focus on delivering a high-quality education. and because the students' needs are being met more comprehensively the students can focus on learning. and because you have a team outside of the teachers who's helping provide some services to these kids, the teachers can focus on teaching. its importance for us to understand that every child who walks through the school has a unique family circumstance and their own individual needs. the community school approach emphasizes the fact that no school is an island into itself. every school is part of a neighborhood, and we need to understand the special circumstances of the children and families in those neighborhoods. and ith -- it's not just for
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urban schools like samuel coalridge it-taylor and ben franklin. community schools have shown success in places like pennsylvania, mt. and iowa -- pennsylvania, montana and iowa and across the country. this idea that every child should receive a good public education is as old as our republic itself. our nation's founders knew the contribution of education to the success of our democracy. they knew that an educated population would be a strong safeguard against tyranny. in a letter in 1786, thomas jefferson wrote -- and i quote -- "i think by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. no other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness." as early as 1779, jefferson was
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putting forward legislation to create a public school system that would give children a fair start. jefferson later wrote to john adams -- and i quote -- "it was a bill for the more general diffusion of learning. this proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six-mile square, like your townships, to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic. to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools who might receive at the public is expense a degree of higher education at the district school." and he went on to say "worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every condition of life and completely prepared by education for defeating the competition and birth for public trusts." even though america did not start the public education system at that moment in time,
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those ideas and that philosophy of education as the great equalizer, the foundation of the public school system that we have today. madam president, president trump gave practicerably -- remarkably little attention to education during his campaign. he pretty much ignored the public school education system in favor of his $20 billion voucher scheme that would drain huge amounts of resources from neighborhood schools like the two in baltimore that i just discussed. with the president offering only vague promises and pricey schemes, it's even more important that we have an education secretary with a steady hand and a deep understanding of the critical mission of the department. it's clear that ms. betsy devos
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is not the right person for the job. ms. devos advocates a concept of industrialized, privatized and for-profit schools. this thinking is too small and too cramped for our kids. our goal should not be vouchers for children to try to shop for school with no accountability for quality. our goal should be a neighborhood school for every child that meets their needs. we cannot abandon the families who cannot afford to make up the difference between the value of the voucher and the tuition at the private school. what do we say to them? we cannot abandon students who cannot get accepted into the private schools because many of these private schools say yes to some and no to others. what do we say to those who have
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the doors closed on them? we cannot abandon the schools that a voucher program would drain the resources from. $20 billion is a huge amount of resources that we currently provide for schools like the two i mentioned in baltimore city and schools in neighborhoods throughout the country. so instead of a risky voucher program, we need to make our schools better by giving them the flexibility to meet student needs and the support to make sure that our children are all ready to learn. in her hearing and the responses to the questions for the record, ms. devos displayed an astonishing ignorance about the agency that she intends to run. and indeed about the role of public schools in our country. all of us who have been part of this debate know that one of the most fundamental discussions in
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k-12 policy has been over accountability and how best to measure student knowledge and school performance. there's been an intense discussion about whether to measure school performance by efficiency or student growth. ms. devos seemed totally confused about this discussion that's gone to the heart of many of the debates here in congress. perhaps we should not be so surprised that she has such a little understanding of the public education system as she spent much of her career attempting to dismantle it in favor of private, charter or for-profit schools. she's been referred to as the four-star general of the voucher movement. she has forcefully worked to expand vouchers, including spending millions on a failed ballot initiative to bring vouchers to the state of michigan. when that didn't work, she
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created the great lakes education project to fund nonprofits and donate to state legislatures who would advance vouchers and charters. with respect to the millions of dollars she and her family have spent trying to influence lawmakers, she stated -- quote -- "we expect a return on our investment." well, she received a return in michigan where she played a role in a 1993 law that created incentives for charters to come to michigan. the for-profit industry, in particular, responded, and they operate nearly 80% of charters in the state of michigan. in 2012, she pushed successfully for a law that allowed even low-performing charters to expand and repeal the requirement that the state publish annual reports on charter performance. i think we all believe that
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transparency is important, and it is shocking that there would be an effort to put the facts under the rug. after years of criticism, modest accountability measures were introduced in 2015, although ms. devos proposed and stripped a provision from the bill that would allow a commission to explore ways to improve public schools. madam president, 70% of detroit charter schools rank in the bottom corridor of michigan schools. the nonprofit ed trusts cause their prrches -- prrches a civil rights issue. last june it was called a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the united states. it would be a big mistake to impose that fiasco on the rest
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of the country. ms. devos has also advocated for online charter schools, and she was formerly an investor in the largest online company k-12 k-12,inc. statistics were disproven in an article in education week which compared them to the publicly reported figures used for state accountability. for example, ms. devos wrote that utah virtual academy has a 92% graduation rate. in fact, the most recently publicly reported figure is 42%. the last thing we need is a secretary of education coming up with alternative facts. while i believe that nonprofit public charter schools are
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important incubators for education, they have to play by the same rules as the rest of our schools. but ms. devos has rejected that equal playing field. in an exchange with senator kaine from virginia, where he repeatedly asked her whether or not the charter schools would have the same standards apply to them as public schools that receive federal funding, she refused to agree. it's pretty extraordinary when you have a nominee saying she supports a taxpayer funded blank check for some schools. our secretary of education must be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars and ensure that funds are delivering quality and results for students. another area where ms. devos raises serious concerns is that of enforcement of equal right, especially the rights of children with disabilities. all of us know the department of
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education has a very important job in enforcing civil rights laws, and making sure that we have equal access to education throughout the nation. congress has prohibited discrimination in education on the basis of race, color, national origin in title 6 of the civil rights act of 1964, title 9 of the education act amendments of 1972 prohibited sex discrimination. section 504 of the rehabilitation act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. but all of us know that as late as the mid-1970's, public schools still accommodated only about one of five children with disabilities. and many states had laws that explicitly excluded children with disabilities. state laws excluding children with disabilities. so when congress addressed this
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with the passage of the i.d.a. legislation, it was a big breakthrough for our country and for our children. the idea was very straightforward and very simple, that every child deserve as free, appropriate education in the least restrictive environment, and the law requires schools to design an individualized education program for each child with a disability. i.d.e.a. has been a life save forechildren with disabilities and their family. it has empowered them to get the education they could not earlier receive and the law gives them the tools with which they can fight to ensure that schools address their needs. which was why it was so alarming at the hearing to hear ms. devos say that the application of
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i.d.a. and the rights behind it was a state function, the same states that historically discriminated against these very children. that is not what the i.d.a. legislation is all about. it is a national starred to make sure that we do not have discrimination based on disability and yet, ms. devos in exchange concluded with -- quote -- i think that is an issue best left to the states. so, madam president, whether it's position with respect to vouchers and poaching resources that otherwise would go to improve our public schools or lack of support for the very idea behind i.d.a., with very a
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nominee who the overwhelming majority of the american people recognize as the wrong choice to be the custodian of the department that is responsible at the federal level for providing support and educational opportunities to our children. i do want to say in closely with respect to the issue of guns in schools and senator murray, the ranking member, addressed this as well. it was -- it was pretty shocking to hear ms. devos trivialize the issue of gun violence in schools when she was asked about this by the senator from connecticut, mr. murphy, quipping that guns might be necessary to oat oat kill grizzly -- to -- quote -- kill grizzly bears. we've had lots of debates there this chamber and obviously there are strong feelings, but i think we can all agree it's not
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something that should be trivialized, the safety of our kids in our schools. so in conclusion, let us heed the words of the editorial board of the detroit free press who have witnessed firsthand the experiments that ms. devos has made with education and wrote in an editorial -- quote -- make no mistake, a vote to confirm betsy devos as u.s. secretary of education is a vote to end public education in this country as we know it. in a speech in 2015 betsy devos said bluntly, you know, government really sucks, end quote. i suggest that she should not be leading the agency that is entrusted at the federal level with the education of our children which as our founder said is really the root of equal opportunity and the opportunity
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for every child to receive -- to achieve their dreams. and so i join with the distinguished senator from washington state in urging my colleagues to vote no on betsy devos for secretary of education. we can do better. we can do a lot better for our kids. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: madam president, constituents from every state who care about our public schools and our students in public schools have broken records calling us, their senators, in opposition to betsy devos as education secretary. in the past few weeks, i've
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heard from thousands of hawaii residents concerned about voting for an education secretary who clearly does not believe in our nation's public schools. i'd like to share two of their messages today. one constituent wrote to me, dear senator hirono, as a proud hawaii educator for 30-plus years, i'm deeply troubled by the possible appointment of betsy devos to the position of u.s. secretary of education. although i would personally never consider applying for a job i am not qualified to serve in is baffling to me that our new commander in chief thinks someone who has no experience as a teacher or administrator could be remotely prepared to lead our nation in this role. i don't have to explain to you what a selfless calling being a teacher is, nor do i believe our
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hawaii delegation takes educating hawaii's -- lightly so i employ you to work with other leaders in d.c. to make sure we have a suitable nominee for this essential position. maholy sandy from honolulu. sandy and teachers like her devote more time and effort than is mandated to ensure that our public school students have a solid foundation in education for life. teaching is a calling, and i have met with many, many teachers who are totally committed to doing their very best that they can for their students, and they want nothing less from the next secretary of education. they deserve a better qualified, better experienced, better prepared, and more committed secretary of education than betsy devos.
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next i'd like to share a message from laura lyle, a principal. dear senator hirono, as a strong supporter of public education, i ask that you oppose the confirmation of betsy devos as secretary of the u.s. department of education. educators and students deserve a secretary who can commit to supporting every student in all public schools and a leader that will work tirelessly to promote a public education system that provides each child with the optimum conditions for teaching and learning. betsy devos' past work in education and her performance at the recent confirmation hearing demonstrated neither a depth of experience nor a knowledge-base in education policy and on critical issues facing the community. she ends her letter by saying, as a principal, i have spoken
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with teachers, parents, students, and community members across the political spectrum, and there is widespread agreement that betsy devos is not the right person for the job. as she said, it shouldn't be asking too much to have an education secretary who will stand up for public schools and the millions of our children who attend our public schools. that person is certainly not betsy devos. in his opening remarks at betsy devos' confirmation hearing, the chairman of the help committee said that ms. devos was, and i quote, the mainstream for supporting vouchers to send students to private schools instead of investing in our public schools. this is not mainstream thinking. being told otherwise is, again, dealing in alternative facts.
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the chairman went on to repeat a so-called argument that betsy devos and other school choice advocates make, that vouchers are simply pell grants for primary and secondary education. now, this is a real head scratcher and i say what? here we go down the rabbit hole again where up is down and down is up. pell grants and vouchers are fundamentally different. pell grants help offset the ever rising costs of a voluntary college education. all colleges charge students tuition, and pell grants provide opportunity to low-income students to be able to go to college. in contrast every american child has a right to a free primary and secondary public education. vouchers actually take resources away from public schools and make it that much harder to provide a good education for all of our students.
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vouchers take money away from public schools. pell grants don't. when a student uses a pell grant at a private college or university, it has no impact on the funding a state college or university receives. but when a student uses a voucher to attend a private school, it takes away money from local public schools. how is taking money away from local public schools mainstream thinking? the secretary of education should be focused on improving our public schools, not taking money away from them. furthermore, saying that pell grants are similar to vouchers reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of a pell grant program. among her many duties as secretary, betsy devos would be in charge of managing $30 billion of pell grants per year
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which help more than eight million students afford a college education in this country. during the 2014-2015 school year, more than 21,000 students in hawaii were able to finance their college education with nearly $81 million in pell grants. last congress i led legislation to protect and strengthen the pell grant program, but under republican majorities, pell grants are under the constant threat of irresponsible cuts and mismanagement and dismantlement. even though college today is more expensive than ever. can we really trust betsy devos to fight to protect pell grants? someone who equates pell grants with vouchers is not someone who understands her responsibilities under the pell grant program.
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so can we really trust betsy devos to support the pell grant program? i don't think so. i have spoken out against betsy devos' nomination a number of times, but some questions need repeating. what are we telling our students if we have an education secretary who has not committed to improving the public education system so that our students can succeed in school and in life? nine out of every ten students in the united states attends public school. what are we saying to them? that the best we can do is to give them an education secretary who does not believe in the public schools they attend? who doesn't believe that their education is worth fighting for? if this is a message you want to send to our students and their families, then vote for betsy
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devos. on behalf of the nearly 200,000 public school students in hawaii and their teachers and other educators in hawaii, my answer is a strong, strong no. i urge my colleagues to question betsy devos' commitment to our public schools, to the millions of students who go to public schools, and vote against her nomination. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll, please. quorum call:
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mr. casey: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. casey: mr. president, i'd ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. casey: thank you, mr. president. i rise to speak this afternoon about the nomination of betsy devos to be secretary of education, and i know we'll have some time later today and even tonight, but i wanted to review some of the concerns that i have about her nomination in the allotted time that i will have, i guess about 15 minutes. mr. president, the first concern i have is a broad concern that i think is shared by a number of senators on the health, education and labor and pensions
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committee, or the ranking member, senator murray, is here with us on the floor. i'm grateful for her leadership on this nomination debate as well as many others. but i guess the broad concern i have is betsy devos' commitment to public education. i come from a state where we have had a tradition of public education since about the 1830's. i am fairly certain, but i will stand corrected, but pennsylvania might have been the first state to have public education as far back as the 1830's, so it's part of the bedrock or the foundation of our state. and still today, 92% of pennsylvania students attend a traditional public school. we have charter schools, we have roughly 175 or so, but all of those charter schools in
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pennsylvania have to be by statute -- by statute have to be public nonprofit entities. and so public charter schools are what we have in pennsylvania. we don't have for-profit private sector charter schools. it's just not allowed by law. there are some limited circumstances when one entity could affiliate with a for-profit entity, but -- but we have nothing like mrs. devos has supported in michigan and across the country. so for a senator from pennsylvania to be questioning a nominee for secretary of education about for-profit -- for-profit schools, for-profit charter schools is -- is unusual because we don't have that entity in pennsylvania. so my concern is substantial,
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and i will develop this later, about her commitment to public education. in fact, in my meeting with mrsy concerns, i said something very simple, but i said it for a reason, to remind her about her obligation if she were to be confirmed. i said you will not be the secretary of private education. you're going to be the secretary of education, and for most of the country, that means traditional public schools, and i hope that you understand that. so that's a broad concern that i have, and i will -- i will talk more about it. but my line of questioning on the day of our hearing -- i should say the evening of our hearing focused on campus sexual assault, and that of course is an area of urgent concern for a lot of people here, a lot of members of the united states senate, but it's also, of course, of greater concern now because of her nomination.
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what do i mean by that? well, let me just walk through how i got to my questions with her. we know that the department of justice tells us that college women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than to be robbed in the time that they were in college, and this is a number that comes from the centers for disease control. we also know that one in five college students experience attempted or completed sexual assault while that they -- while they are in college. so this is a direct threat to young women all across the country, and i think we've only begun as a country -- as a nation, i should say, to begin to take steps to combat sexual assault, to insist that colleges and universities do more, to insist that everyone in the education field, every person on a college campus assumes some
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level of responsibility. one of the reasons we can start down that path and begin to be certain that we're at least beginning to wrestle with this problem and give young women on our campuses more protection is because of recent legislation, and we're not done. we've got a lot more to do, but i'll just highlight one bill that i led the fight on, the campus sexual violence elimination act, known by its shorter acronym campus save. that game laws back in 2013 when we were reauthorizing -- a fans washington word for doing it again or improving law, when we were reauthorizing the violence against women act. i'm glad we were able to take a substantial step to tackle this horrific problem of sexual assault on campus. that decision was followed by
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regulations, and if i could summarize them, that law and the regulations that followed made sure that colleges and universities have clear guidelines, that victims know what their rights are, victims know where to turn in the event of an assault, that we do a lot more on prevention, that bystanders can no longer be inactive, they have to be -- they have to be trained and prepared to help, and that the entire college campus is focused on preventing sexual assault and then making sure in the aftermath of an assault to deal with it appropriately. this legislation has helped campus communities respond to not only sexual assault but domestic assault, dating violence as well as stalking, and it does give students and employees the opportunity to do more than has been done on college campuses. when i was questioning
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mrs. devos, i asked her if she would commit to upholding title ix, the nondiscrimination statute that includes important protections against sexual assault. i asked her very specifically about the department of education's office for civil rights, which had issued guidance back in 2011 that advises institutions of higher education to use the so-called preponderance of the evidence standard for campus conduct proceedings. some may be familiar with that standard. it's a standard that we have used in our jurisprudence for civil cases across the country. so you don't have to prove nor should a victim of sexual assault on campus have to prove by the higher standard. say, clear and convincing as a higher standard or beyond a reasonable doubt as a criminal
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standard. what the department of education said to the campuses across the country, the universities across the country is the standard you should use is preponderance of the evidence. and they based that determination after consulting with experts and advocates across the country. so that was the state of the law and is the state of the law, i should say, currently. the guidance from the department of education about that evidentiary standard, my legislation campus save and that's where we are now. so i simply ask mrs. devos whether or not she would commit to eninformationing current law and abiding by the 2011 department of education guidan guidance. her response was that it would be premature -- i'm using her word, premature to make that kind of commitment. i was stunned by that answer.
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why would it be premature to say you're going to enforce current law? would would it be premature to say that you can't make a commitment to insisting upon an evidentiary standard that is in place right now. that made no sense to me, and i don't think it made any sense to people across the country who have been working on this problem and trying to get the attention of the senate and the house and any administration for years, if not for decades. we finally have arrived at a place where we're finally -- finally arrived at a place where at long lost we're dealing with sexual assault in a very aggressive and appropriate and fair manner. and now we have a nominee who says that she's not sure whether she can commit to that. so that gave me great pause and is one of the reasons that i don't support her nomination, but i have several reasons. and i know i'm running low on time but i'll wrap up this
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portion in a moment. another area of concern is her -- the answers to questions she gave with regard to specific questions about students with disabilities. this was a set of questions asked by a number of senators, but i'll try to summarize it this way. she seemed to have both a lack of knowledge and apparent and i think obvious lack of knowledge about basic federal law, laws -- a law that was passed decades ago, the individuals with disabilities education act. she didn't seem to know that that was a federal statute. she seemed to assert that somehow states could decide whether or not to enforce the policy that undergirded that federal law. that of course is not the case. it's federal law, and we have to make sure that individuals, in this case students with disabilities, get the rights that they are accorded by virtue of that law.
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so her lack of knowledge in this area was of concern. but maybe even greater was a lack of -- or a seeming lack in my judgment of determine nation to -- determination to once again enforce this law, to make sure that on her watch that law that would protect students with disabilities would be enforced to the full extent of the law and nothing less. she didn't seem to be willing to commit to that or didn't seem to have the kind of commitment that i would expect from a secretary of education. what we would all expect, democrat and republican i would hope, is a secretary of education who's a champion for public schools, is a champion for those children in public schools, will fight battles and urge states to make the investments in public education, would urge the congress to make investments in public education and early learning and all of the concerns that we have about
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lack of funding in public education. i would hope that both parties would want a secretary of education who is a champion for students with disabilities, who would be a champion for those who are victims of sexual assault on our college campuses, but unfortunately because of a series of questions both posed at the hearing and questions that were submitted for the record, written questions to which mrs. devos gave written answers, i see that basic commitment lacking. and for that and many reasons which we'll develop a little later tonight, i'll be voting no on her confirmation vote. so, mr. president, i appreciate this opportunity to share some of my thoughts and hope to be back later this evening. i would yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the secretary will call the roll.
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quorum call: mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: mr. president, i rise today to speak in opposition -- a senator: i rise to speak on the nomination of betsy devos. my mom taught second grade till she was 70 years old. she loved teaching. her favorite unit was the
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monarch butterfly monarch where he she would dress up as a monarch butterfly and teach the kids about a met more sis and then the costume that she wore, she would also wear actually to the supermarket afterwards. ms. klobuchar: she was dressed as this big monarch butterfly with little antennas on her head and a sign that said to mexico or bust because that's where the monarch would fly on its way from canada through minnesota and down. and actually it was at my mom's -- the night before her funeral at the visitation where i met a family that came up to me and the mom was sobbing and i didn't know what was going on. i'd never met them and they had an older son with them who had a pretty severe disability. and she said, you know, your mom had my kid here in school, when he was in second grade. now he was grown up. and she said he always loved that monarch butterfly unit. and after he graduated, your mom
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would continue to go to the grocery store and that was why she would go to the store every year where he had gotten a job bagging groceries. and she would stand in the line in her monarch butterfly outfit for years and give him a big hug when she got to the end of the line. and that was my mom, and she loved her kids and she was a devoted teacher. i went to public school through elementary to high school. my daughter went to public school. and i just learned that basic right that we have in this country that every child should have the right to education. and so that led me after reviewing the record of the hearing, talking to my colleagues on the committee that we do not share, this nominee and i, the same value when it comes to public education. i note that two of my republican
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colleagues, senator collins and senator murkowski have come to the same conclusion. one of the most troubling examples of ms. devos' views came when she was questioned by two of my colleagues, and i note senator murray is here. we thank her for her leadership on the health, education and labor committee but two of my colleagues, senator maggie hassan and tim kaine asked the nominee about whether schools should meet the standards outlined in the individuals with disabilities education act or as it's known, idea. ms. devos said she would leave the decision of whether to offer equal educational opportunities to the states. this is simply unacceptable. it's not the kind of leadership we need. it's not why we have idea, and i think most education professionals and people who are experts in this area would know
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that that is not the answer. i occupy the senate seat that was once held by minnesota's own hubert humphrey. he was someone who of course was never at a loss for words. he delivered a speech to the minnesota afl-cio 40 years ago, 40 years ago. and one line of that speech is just as appropriate and meaningful today as it was back then. he said, i quote, the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children, those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly and those who are in the shadows of life, the needy, the sick, and the disabled. i submit that ms. devos' opposition toward providing equal education opportunities to students with disabilities does not meet that moral test. her views are at odds with
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decades of bipartisan support for idea. in 1975 when congress passed the original version of idea, half of all children with disabilities were not receiving appropriate educational services, and one million children with disabilities were excluded entirely from the public school system. in an impassioned floor speech, then senator and later vice president walter mondale of minnesota talked about the need for idea. before the 1975 law, disabled children were placed in segregated schools and classes with little emphasis on an adequate education, training, or development. many parents also gave up on the poor services also offered by the public schools and as a result disabled students
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remained at home. to tackle this problem, republicans and democrats came together to pass legislation ensuring that students with disabilities would have equal access to public education, just like all other kids. the law guaranteed and continues to guarantee today the federal law that a free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities, that they get that. it is not a state-by-state requirement. it is a federal requirement. in 1975, both minnesota senators played a significant leadership role in enacting this groundbreaking civil rights legislation. senator humphrey called idea one of the most significant pieces of legislation and a major commitment in this nation -- and this nation's commitment to its children. then senator mondale argued that this landmark legislation holds
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the promise of new opportunity for seven million children in this country. and when congress first enacted this law in 1975, this was not a partisan issue. the law passed both houses with overwhelming majorities. the senate voted in favor of the landmark legislation by a margin of 87-7. the house by a vote of 404-7. bipartisan support for idea grew stronger over time. in 1991 president george h. w. bush signed into law a bill that reauthorized the disabilities act. that bill was introduced by former democratic senator tom harkin and former minnesota republican senator dave durenberger. the reauthorization was so uncontroversial that it passed by a voice vote in both the
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house and the senate. members from both parties supported idea when it was reauthorized again in 2003. every single member of the minnesota delegation, all ten, democrat and republican alike, supported idea's reauthorization that year. for four decades idea has begannerred support from -- garnered support from both sides of the aisle because we understand the need to support the most vulnerable among us. every member of congress knows a family member or a person who has been affected by disability. for a lot of lawmakers this is personal. when my daughter was born, she couldn't swallow for nearly two years. she had a feeding tube and the doctors didn't know what was wrong with her. it ended up being a temporary problem and not a permanent disability, but those two years i still look back at as a gift.
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they were a gift. it brought our family closer together but they were a gift because they made me understand what parents of kids with disabilities face every single day. this wasn't just a temporary thing for the parents that i met. this was something they faced every single day. since the passage of idea, our nation has moved to fulfill the promise of providing a high quality education to kids with disabilities. today more than 4.7 million children with disabilities rely on idea to protect their access to high quality education. over the last 40 years, the democratic and republican members that have come before me have all fought to preserve those critical rights and opportunities. these are american values but they are especially near and dear to our state where we have this long and proud tradition of
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working to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the same basic resources and opportunities as everyone else. this is not just the original work by senators humphrey and mondale, kerry donn of course and senator durenberger but it happened in our state as well. to cite a few examples it was the minnesota ramp project that introduced a new american model for building statewide, standardized wheelchair ramps. minnesota was the state that sent paul wellstone to the united states senate where he fought long and hard for mental health parity. my state is also home to some of the most innovative centers for the disabled in the country, including pacer, the courage center and arc. when it comes to educating children with disabilities, minnesota has also been one of the nation's leaders. in 1957, our state became one of
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the first states in the nation to pass a law requiring that special education services be provided to children and youth with disabilities, and our state from birth to adulthood, kids with disabilities have access to the quality of life that they deserve. through idea, our state is able to receive federal funding for early intervention services which help diagnose disabilities or developmental delays among infants and toddlers. minnesota also provides each child with a disability in their family a personalized k-12 education plan and the support needed to transition from high school to postsecondary education. these civil rights protections and funding under idea have always been an area of bipartisan cooperation among members of the minnesota delegation. we would like to see even more funding. we don't want to see us move backward. at least one minnesota
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republican has cosponsored every version of idea and its reauthorizations over the last 40 years. we have never had a secretary of education who has put these commonsense bipartisan benefits at risk. today, over 124,000 minnesota children rely on the protections in idea. i have heard from families in my state and so many of them tell me how that federal law have made a real difference in their lives. a mom from watertown, minnesota, told me all about her son who was born with downs syndrome. she is so thankful for the federal law because this protection ensures that he can have everyday experiences like other kids. it allows her son to be fully integrated with the rest of the students in his high school, and as a result, he has developed many friendships and a strong social network. when she asks her son whether he likes school, he always says a
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resounding yes. a mother of two autistic kids who are deaf-blind reached out to me from farmington, minnesota. she tells me that she depends on idea because the law gives her an opportunity to participate in designing individualized education programs for her children. these programs allow her to tailor the best possible educational plans. a woman from lankville, minnesota, told me when her son was born with intellectual and democratical disabilities in the late 1980's, she was so worried about what his future would look like that because of idea, he received specialized services at school while still being included in activities with the rest of his peers. today she tells me he is a successful young adult who happily lives, learns and works in his community. during my time in the senate, i have worked to share those
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minnesota values that you hear resonating in those letters across the country. that's why i helped lead the push in congress to successfully pass bipartisan legislation with senators burr and casey called the achieving a better life experience or able act, a law that will help people with disabilities and their families better plan for their futures. it's a law that senator obama signed. we have made -- president obama signed. we have made progress in removing barriers and empowering people with disabilities. of course, we know that the able act alone isn't enough. we still need to ensure that the federal government lives up to its promise to support education for those with disabilities by enforcing and protecting the idea and fully funding special education. providing equal educational opportunities for children with disabilities is an issue that cuts across partisan lines. it is an issue of decency and an
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issue of dignity, and i believe it is an issue that we must all stand behind as americans. i cannot support a nominee that would jeopardize the education of millions of disabled children across our country or someone that is not fully informed at her own hearing about such an important law. we have continuously maintained and strengthened educational laws for children with disabilities because every child deserves a chance to succeed. i think about my mom and all those years of teaching, of teaching 30 second graders at age 70, and i think about that boy who's now a man who at second grade had her as a teacher, and he had severe disabilities, but she did everything to make his learning experience as good as all the other kids that were that class, and i think of how he loved that
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butterfly unit and felt the passion that my mom brought to teaching it, and that in her own free time she would go visit him at his job at that checkout line in the grocery store in her butterfly outfit. that's what's integrating kids with disabilities into our school system, and that's what special teachers and special education experts who see all children as special they're all about. thank you very much, and i urge my colleagues to join me in opposing mrs. devos' nomination. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: thank you, mr. president. and i thank the distinguished senior senator from minnesota for her comments. she speaks from experience and
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knowledge, as has the senior senator from washington state on this issue. you know, i have -- i have seen thousands of confirmation votes, literally, at all levels, up to and including cabinet members and supreme court justices in my years here. i've voted for a large majority of a president's nominations, both republican and democratic presidents. some where they may not have been the person i would have chosen, but i thought at least the president should be given a prerogative. if the person is qualified. ideology is one thing. qualifications is another.
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now, this, of those thousands of confirmation votes, i have a hard time remembering any that was like this one. we had a whirlwind confirmation hearing and committee vote. zip, zip, zip, it's almost as though they were afraid to have the nominee actually have to appear and answer questions, and now the senate's going to vote on the nomination of betsy devos to lead the department of education. i'll be very blunt. in the very little time she was allowed to be shown to the public, she showed that she does not have the qualifications to uphold the department of education's primary goal, that is to ensure that all students, all students -- not just the wealthy, but all students have
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access to a quality public education that allows them to succeed. now, i am both a father and a grandfather and proud of it, but i watched my children go to school. i now see my grandchildren going to school. i understand well the impact of education on our children. when students have access to strong public education from the very beginning, they are more apt to succeed in the long run. our nation's public schools -- i know this is the case in my state of vermont -- they hold the promise of student success to strong state accountability measures and legal protections regardless of one's race or income or learning ability.
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they offer nutritious meals for underserved students. many of them receive their only meal of the day at school. mr. president, any teacher will tell you if you have a hungry child, you have a child that can't learn. if a child is fed, you have a child that can learn. public education means strong teachers and school leaders, technology in the classroom and assessments to test not just how well a student can memorize material for an exam on a particular day of the year but on how much they have grown over the course of many months. it means the schools have counselors and nurses. they operate under a modern infrastructure that supports those with disabilities and many in foster care.
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but public education also means both the states and the federal government are held accountable for everyone having access to the same excellent resources. in fact, just over one year ago, this body agreed with these protections. they passed the every student succeeds act. here in the united states u.s. . 85-12. an amazing, overwhelming bipartisan vote. it was a firm agreement among a majority of the senate, republicans and democrats alike, that all students deserve access to critical public school resources, they are going to succeed. we made a promise we will do better by our students. that public schools would be the premiere standard for outstanding education for all.
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unfortunately, the nominee before us, in the very little time that she was allowed to testify and be questioned in the confirmation hearing, shows she doesn't share these same goals. she has referred to public schools as a dead end. if you're a drl, you get a chance of wherever you want to go to school. maybe these people in public school aren't good enough for you. then go buy a school if you want. most people don't have that option. most people are hardworking. my wife and i were when our kids were in school. our children are today. what does she advocate for? she advocates for the privatization of education. she has fund millions of dollars into organizations and initiatives that promote private
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school vouchers and school choice. she didn't put any of this money into improving public schools. she wanted to help private schools. these private schools can discriminate all they want. at her confirmation hearing, again in the very little time she was allowed to testify publicly, it was almost like don't let her speak. don't let her speak because people will know what she thinks. but in the very little time that she did speak, she didn't seem to understand the individuals with the disabilities act. it's a landmark law. it's a federal law that public schools in all 50 states must follow. and lastly, mrs. devos and her family contributed to anti-lgbt causes, anti-women's health
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efforts, which are in direct conflict with one who will lead the department of education. how can a nominee who disagrees with the department of education's mission be fit to oversee that agency and promote the civil rights of schools and college campuses? she also appears to oppose efforts to expand college access. in an era when college is so important. again, in the little bit of time she was allowed to testify before the senate help committee in january, mrs. devos when asked would not agree to work with states to offer free community colleges for eligible students, instead saying nothing in life is truly free. again, the easy thing to say if you're a billionaire. she also knew little about the pell grant program or federal student loans, as of


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