Billionaire philanthropist and “education reformer” Eli Broad has come out forcefully in opposition to billionaire “education reformer” Betsy DeVos to become the U.S. Secretary of Education. This is a battle that pits Broad, a staunch supporter of charter schools against DeVos, a staunch supporter of religious schools.
Broad is largely seen as an enemy to public education since the charter schools he promotes often succeed at the expense of traditional public schools. This is because, sadly, the world of education dollars is a zero-sum game. And far too often, these charter schools siphon education tax dollars into the coffers of private, for-profit education corporations.
DeVos, a highly-religious Dominionist, is also an enemy to public education. She has a long history of working to promote religious schools, believing that education reform can serve to “advance God’s Kingdom”. She vigorously supports and finances efforts to use education “vouchers” to siphon education tax dollars into the coffers of religious organizations.
In other words, it’s a clash of the anti-public education billionaire titans. However, because Broad is a Democrat, it is highly unlikely that he has donated the tens – maybe hundreds – of millions of dollars to the Republicans whose votes are needed to confirm DeVos that the DeVos family has.
Here is the text of the letter Broad sent to Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer:
February 1, 2017
Dear Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer:
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee vote yesterday to refer President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to the full Senate for confirmation was surprising and disappointing. I am writing you to urge you to vote against Mrs. DeVos’s confirmation.
Like many Americans, including public school educators and parents, I watched the committee’s confirmation hearing with dismay. While I have never met Mrs. DeVos, she undoubtedly is kind and well-intended and cares deeply about children, as evidenced by her philanthropic work. However, these personal characteristics do not qualify someone for the massive responsibility of overseeing the education of our nation’s students.
I am a big believer in high-quality public schools and strong accountability for all public schools — traditional and charter. Before Mrs. DeVos’s hearing, I had serious concerns about her support for unregulated charter schools and vouchers as well as the potential conflicts of interest she might bring to the job. Her testimony not only reinforced my concerns but also added to them. I now also question her ability to enforce key provisions of the range of federal statutes entrusted to this role. Indeed, with Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, much of the good work that has been accomplished to improve public education for all of America’s children could be undone.
At the risk of stating the obvious, we must have a Secretary of Education who believes in public education and the need to keep public schools public. We must have a Secretary of Education who will vigorously defend the rights of all students to have safe, fair and equitable learning opportunities and who recognizes the critical role of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. And after far too many school shootings in this country, we must have a Secretary of Education who believes guns have no place in our schools.
In short, I believe she is unprepared and unqualified for the position. As someone who is deeply committed to the belief that all children deserve access to a strong public education, I hope you will join me in opposing Mrs. DeVos’s nomination.
cc: All U.S. Senators
Broad injecting himself into DeVos’s confirmation process comes at a critical time. Two Republican Senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have both stated publicly that they will vote against DeVos’s confirmation. That means Democrats need to peel off only one more Republican to scuttle her confirmation. It was hoped that Nevada Senator Dean Heller could be convinced to vote against her but, unfortunately, he released a statement yesterday in support of DeVos.
Here is a list of potentially sway-able Senators. If you are in one of these districts or know someone who is, please make the call and urge your friends and family to call, as well. (Note, this list has not been updated to reflect Heller’s stated position.)
— Rachel Levy (@RachelAnneLevy) February 1, 2017
It is believed that the Senate will vote for cloture on her confirmation vote tomorrow which means that the final vote will happen Monday or Tuesday of next week. However, very few Senators change their vote once they have voted for or against cloture so making these calls TODAY is critical. They are pushing HARD to get this vote through before the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General because his pro-DeVos vote is needed with this razor-thin margin.