Senate Republicans are working to secure the nomination for education department secretary for Betsy DeVos after two Republican senators said they could not support her.
DeVos’ nomination moved to the full Senate after the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 along party lines to confirm her. Two liberal Republican senators, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), however, said they could not support her and would vote only to advance her nomination to the floor of the Senate.
“I will not, I cannot vote to confirm her as our nation’s next secretary of education,” Collins said.
“I was trying to get to yes,” said Murkowski. “I couldn’t.”
As Roll Call reports, since the GOP has a 52-48 advantage in the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence would likely break a tie if only Collins and Murkowski vote against DeVos. However, if Sessions is confirmed by the Senate next, the GOP would be left with one less senator, leaving DeVos with a failing vote of 49-50.
According to the report, Senate leadership has scheduled the DeVos nomination to precede that of Sessions since she might need his vote in order to pave the way for Pence to break a tie.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer, however, said he is still encouraged, says the New York Times.
“I am 100 percent confident she will be the next secretary of education,” he said.
DeVos has been one of the most controversial picks of President Donald Trump.
Democrats – largely ignoring national test scores showing the continued downturn of performance by the nation’s public school students – have portrayed DeVos as unqualified to run a department that oversees the nation’s public schools, since she has largely been an advocate for charter schools and school vouchers. Democrat senators also spent considerable time during committee debate discussing concerns that DeVos would not continue President Barack Obama’s expansion of the department’s Office for Civil Rights.
Teachers’ unions have strongly opposed DeVos’ nomination.
“If confirmed, DeVos would become the first secretary of education with zero experience with public schools,” National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskelsen Garcia said. “She’s never worked in a public school. She’s never been a teacher, a school administrator, nor served on any public board of education.”
Republicans, however, portray DeVos as a generous devotee of school choice and of giving parents the opportunity to remove their children from failing public schools through voucher systems. Senators such as Tim Scott (R-SC) say DeVos’ skills in developing school choice programs would offer low-income, disadvantaged students an opportunity to get out of failing public schools that leave them without the opportunity to advance into higher education and meaningful careers.
Anti-Common Core grassroots groups, however – largely the base of the GOP – have been critical of DeVos’ nomination because she has financed and served on the boards of many organizations that promote Common Core.
Additionally, one of DeVos’ main supporters is Jeb Bush, a prominent promoter of Common Core. Among the U.S. Department of Education staffers who have already been sworn in are supporters of Common Core and individuals with connections to both Bush and Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder who served as the primary source of private funding for Common Core.
Dr. Karen Effrem, a Florida-based education activist and president of Education Liberty Watch, tells Breitbart News the staffers already on board in the Trump administration’s education department are a concern.
“This list of Bush, Clinton, and Obama cronies is just another kick in the gut to parents who voted for Donald Trump in droves in the great hope that he would do as he promised,” she says.
“Instead of a smaller Department of Education, fewer Common Core and testing mandates, and protection of student privacy,” she states, “we will have more regulated private and home schools with their autonomy sacrificed to Common Core on the altar of ‘choice,’ data collected on our children without consent, expanded preschool, and the continued wasteful ineffectiveness and harm of the U.S. Education Department.”