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Peters’ Remarks in Opposition of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary

Sen Peters: “Mrs. DeVos lacks the experience, qualifications and the right vision to oversee our nation’s education system.”

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters spoke on the floor on the U.S. Senate in opposition of the nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of the Department of Education.

Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video:

Click here to watch the video

“Madame President, I rise today to speak on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

“Public education is deeply personal for me.

“I am proud to have attended Michigan public schools and have three children who did as well.  I know firsthand the importance of a strong public education system.

“My father, Herb, was a proud teacher and taught English for 32 years in Rochester, Michigan, where I grew up.

“My father was part of the “greatest generation,” who fought for our country in World War II and returned home to help build America’s middle class.

“Our nation owes these men and women a debt of gratitude for building a country where anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules can find opportunity.

“But too many families today feel that the American Dream remains just out of reach. It seems they can barely get by, much less get ahead.

“In a time of growing income inequality, public schools can - and do - provide a ladder of opportunity in communities across the nation, urban, rural, and suburban alike.

“Strong public schools are vital to our economy, our democracy, and to our nation’s global competitiveness.

“I think we can all agree that a child’s chance to succeed should not be dictated by his or her zip code.

“While many critical education decisions are made at the state and local level, the federal government also has a role to play in providing the necessary educational tools and proper protections for all our children to flourish.

“We need a Secretary of Education who is dedicated to improving access to quality public education based on sound evidence and ensuring the proper implementation of federal laws designed to protect and help all our children.

“That is why I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos of Michigan to serve as Secretary of Education.

“Mrs. DeVos, like so many recent graduates, is effectively applying for a job. And like any employer, the American people should look at her resume, her interview, and her past performance.

“Mrs. DeVos’ resume contains no experience in public education at any level, not as a teacher, not as an administrator, not as a student or parent, not as a school board member and not even as a borrower of public loans for college.

“Her only experience in education is her work lobbying for the transfer of taxpayer money to private schools and the rapid expansion of charter schools without sufficient accountability to parents and students.

“Now let’s look at her interview. Her appearance before the Senate HELP Committee last week raised more questions than provided answers.

“During her confirmation hearing, Mrs. DeVos showed herself to be unfamiliar with some basic educational concepts, like the debate over whether we should measure student success by growth or proficiency.

“Madame President, if Mrs. DeVos doesn’t even know how to measure success, how can she be expected to achieve it?

“Mrs. DeVos also appeared to have never heard of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act - one of the most important pieces of education and civil rights legislation in our history.

“This law has provided access to education for children with unique needs and support their parents depend on. It is a law Mrs. DeVos will be in charge of enforcing if confirmed, and it appeared she first heard of it just last week.

“Finally, let’s look at her past performance.

“I am particularly troubled by Mrs. DeVos’ long-time advocacy to funnel Michigan taxpayer dollars to private and charter school systems that are not held accountable for their performance.

“Let me be clear, our education system is far from perfect, and I support effective, innovative educational reforms that lift up our children, but these reforms need to be driven by facts, not ideology.

“Unfortunately, in my home state of Michigan, the charter school experiment has not lived up to the promises made.

“In fact, 65% of charter schools in Michigan fail - yes fail - to significantly outperform traditional public schools in reading outcomes.

“In Detroit, 70% of charter schools are in the bottom quartile of Michigan’s schools.

“These are certainly not the results we would want to replicate at the national level.

“Despite these outcomes, Mrs. DeVos stated during her confirmation hearing that she did not think that public charter schools should be held to the same standards as traditional public schools.

“That simply does not make sense. It also doesn’t make sense that many charter schools accepting taxpayer money not only perform worse than traditional public schools in terms of academic success, but also get to skirt laws protecting against discrimination and supporting disabled youth.

“We should hold ALL schools receiving federal dollars to the same level of accountability.

“Madame President, I have reviewed her resume, her interview, and her track record and I have no confidence that Mrs. DeVos will fully support our traditional public schools, our teachers, our parents and most importantly our children, who only get one shot to get an excellent K-12 education.

“Her approach to education has failed the children of Michigan and her confirmation process gives me no reason to think she will bring a more successful approach to our nation.

American children deserve the opportunity for a quality education no matter who they are and no matter where they live. 

“I stand with the many educators and parents in Michigan and across this nation when I say: Mrs. DeVos lacks the experience, qualifications and the right vision to oversee our nation’s education system.

“Simply put, our children deserve better.

“I cannot, and will not, support Betsy DeVos’ nomination to serve as Secretary of Education and I hope my colleagues join me in unity against her nomination.”