A photographic caricature of Betsy Devos. (DonkeyHotey / CC BY-SA 2.0)
While Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders asked about Betsy DeVos’ stance on tuition-free colleges and her family’s donations to the Republican Party, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren pointed out that the billionaire has absolutely no experience with public education and student loans. Both senators did an excellent job in grilling DeVos, but the most illuminating question came from Sanders, who asked point-blank, “Do you think if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family had not made contributions of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Republican Party, that you’d be sitting here today?” DeVos replied, “I do think that there would be that possibility.”
Here’s a bit more about where DeVos stands on certain issues, from FiveThirtyEight:
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On guns (and bears) in schools: DeVos deflected a question from Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy about whether guns should be allowed in or around public schools. “I think that’s best left to states and locales to decide,” she answered. Murphy, whose state saw the worst school shooting in U.S. history at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown in 2012, expressed incredulity. But DeVos noted that Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi told her about a school in Wyoming that is protected by a grizzly bear fence. “I will refer back to Sen. Enzi and the school that he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming,” she said. “I think probably there, I would imagine, that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”
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On how student progress should be measured: What should matter more, that a third-grader who arrived at school at a first-grade reading level is now at second-grade level, or that the student failed the third-grade test? That question has been at the core of the debate over how schools are evaluated in recent years. But when Minnesota Sen. Al Franken put the question to her, DeVos didn’t have a quick answer, stumbling a bit over the definitions of growth and proficiency. (Franken didn’t give her a chance to follow up.)
On her wealth and conflicts: Like many of Trump’s other wealthy Cabinet nominees (and Trump himself), DeVos has faced questions over conflicts of interest she could face in office. DeVos said she intends to take a salary of $1 and to forgo a tax loophole that can help wealthy nominees save money. “I will not be conflicted, period. I commit that to you all,” she said. But some pieces of information are still missing, because DeVos and the Office of Government Ethics have not yet completed an ethics agreement.
DeVos did offer one new tidbit: that she was listed as a board member of her mother’s foundation on federal tax forms because of “a clerical error.” The foundation gave to Focus on the Family, which has supported gay conversion therapy. DeVos said she doesn’t support that work.
— Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata
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