Home / Fashion & Style / 5 Moments From Betsy DeVos's Confirmation Hearing That Will Make Your Blood Run Cold

5 Moments From Betsy DeVos's Confirmation Hearing That Will Make Your Blood Run Cold

Betsy DeVos, a billionaire heiress who’s given millions of dollars to the Republican Party and conservative causes, had her Senate hearing for secretary of education on Tuesday evening. If confirmed, she’ll be responsible for running an elaborate school system in which she has no experience and seems to have little confidence.

While many Republicans have hailed her nomination, Democrats are less enthusiastic. They worry that a woman who doesn’t seem to support the very concept of public education may not be the best person to head the department that controls it. DeVos has never taught in a public school or been on staff at one. Her children have not gone to public school. She is not only a fierce advocate of the charter-school movement, but a proponent of school-choice voucher programs, which redirect precious federal dollars from public schools to private and charter schools.

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Democrats knew they were headed for battle, trying to press DeVos to commit during her hearing to key principles of public education and federal protections for certain at-risk student populations. They can’t have been terribly satisfied with the outcome. For their dozens of questions, they received few definitive responses from DeVos. DeVos did have at least one answer for Sen. Bernie Sanders, however.

The senator from Vermont wanted to know whether DeVos believed that were she not “a multibillionaire,” had her family “not made hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions” to the Republican Party, she would still “be sitting here today.”

“As a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility,” she replied.

Well, if she says so!

Here, five more of the most blood-chilling moments from her exchange with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

On privatizing public schools

Sen. Patty Murray wanted DeVos to promise she wouldn’t cut federal funds for public education by “a single penny” or attempt to privatize public schools. Smiling, DeVos refused. “We acknowledge today that not at all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them,” she said. She added that she hoped she and the committee would be able to find ways to “empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them.”

“I take that as not be willing to commit to not privatizing public schools or cutting money from education,” Murray replied.

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On protecting students with disabilities

Sen. Tim Kaine piped up, asking DeVos if she thinks all schools that receive taxpayer money should be required to protect students with disabilities, according to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. DeVos responded that she believes “that is a matter that’s best left to the states.”

“So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good, and then what? People can just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?”

“I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states,” DeVos repeated, smiling.

Later, Sen. Maggine Hassan pressed her on her stance. “I want to go back to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act—that’s a federal civil rights law. So do you stand by your statement a few minutes ago that it should be up to the states whether to follow it?”

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