Ga. Senators Vote ‘Yes’ for DeVos, Defying Teachers’ Groups

Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Credit AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Betsy DeVos as the country’s next Education Secretary Tuesday. Senators split the vote, with 50 voting in favor of DeVos, and 50 voting against her. Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, making the final vote 51-50. That’s the closest cabinet confirmation vote in U.S. history.

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Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson both voted in favor of DeVos, ignoring requests from the state’s two largest teachers’ groups. The Georgia Association of Educators and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators each wrote letters to Perdue and Isakson urging them to vote “no” on DeVos.

Craig Harper, communications director for PAGE, says DeVos isn’t qualified to lead the education department.

“We’ve been quite vocal with our concerns about Mrs. DeVos’ appointment as Secretary of Education, due to her lack of experience in public education in any capacity, as well as her apparent lack of knowledge of what it takes to run public education in our country,” he says.

DeVos doesn’t have a teaching background, but she has poured money into educational causes, like charter schools and voucher programs.

After the Senate vote, both Perdue and Isakson issued statements praising DeVos’ commitment to those causes.

DeVos’ performance during a Senate committee hearing raised concerns for some. She stumbled over some educational terms, and didn’t seem to realize that the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law.  

Harper says that’s caused some educators to be concerned.

“She did not seem to have a very good grasp of what’s required to meet the needs of students and the support that’s required of the department she’s going to lead to ensure that all students receive free and appropriate education in our public schools,” he says.

At this point, it’s unclear what DeVos’s policy positions could mean for Georgia. She plans to address her staff for the first time Wednesday afternoon. 

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