Just in case you thought that no one on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee understood that Betsy DeVos is a threat to the future of public education, read Senator Tim Kaine’s letter.



January 26, 2017


Thank you for contacting me about the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education.  I appreciate hearing from you.

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution requires the advice and consent of the Senate on certain appointments made by the President, including cabinet secretaries.  The committee of jurisdiction for each nomination conducts hearings with respect to each candidate before they are considered by the full Senate.  Members of the Senate have a responsibility to ensure that nominees possess the qualifications, integrity, and independence that is necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the job on behalf of the American people.  I take my responsibility to scrutinize every nominee very seriously.

The Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on the DeVos nomination on January 17th, 2017.  As a member of the HELP Committee, I asked Mrs. DeVos questions regarding her education, experience, and policy positions.  While I appreciate Mrs. DeVos’s willingness to serve, I have decided to oppose her nomination.  Mrs. DeVos failed to show that she was a strong advocate for public schools, accountability, and civil rights. Commitment to these principles is essential to serving as Secretary of Education and carrying out the duties of this position in a manner that will benefit all of our nation’s students.

Over 90 percent of our nation’s children attend public schools.  But Mrs. DeVos has said that public schools are a ‘dead end’ and that ‘government really sucks’ when it comes to education.  This statement betrays the commitment of thousands of public school teachers who work hard every day in our public schools, many in tough working conditions, to ensure our children are educated.  I could support a nominee who is for expanded options and improvement for all schools, public and private, but I cannot support a nominee who has a reflexive and ideological bias against public schools.

I am also concerned that Mrs. DeVos does not recognize that accountability for all schools is essential to closing achievement gaps in our country.  Our efforts to enhance the national educational system must make student performance a priority, and any school receiving government funding should be held to the highest standards for its students.  During her confirmation hearing, I asked Mrs. DeVos whether all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be held equally accountable for outcomes, particularly because President Trump has proposed allocating $20 billion to private schools in a nationwide voucher program.  Mrs. DeVos repeatedly refused to say there should be equal accountability between public, public charter, and private schools receiving tax dollars.

Mrs. DeVos also left me in doubt about whether she understands or would uphold critical civil rights laws, including the rights of thousands of students with special needs.  She demonstrated little understanding of – or support for – the primary fundamental law regarding education of kids with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which if confirmed as Secretary she would be in charge of enforcing.  Our Secretary of Education must be committed to upholding the principle of the federal IDEA to provide ‘a free and appropriate public education’ for all.  When I asked whether schools receiving taxpayer dollars should all be required to follow federal law, guaranteeing these students an education appropriately tailored to their abilities, she declared that was a decision for the states.

An appropriate candidate for Secretary of Education will champion our public schools, support equal accountability for all schools receiving taxpayer funding, and support the national consensus that kids with disabilities should have fair learning opportunities.  I am disappointed that President Trump failed to nominate such a champion, and I will be opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos.

Please be assured that I will continue to make the education of our nation’s students a top priority.  Thank you again for contacting me.



Tim Kaine