Betsy DeVos’ Confirmation Hearing Went Off the Rails

which promises to make childcare tax-deductible (more of a boon for the upper middle class than the working poor) and which offers the working poor a tax rebate up to $1,200, which writer Michelle Goldberg suggests, “is helpful but far too little to meaningfully offset the overall crushing cost of child care.”

DeVos also displayed a lack of understanding of a key federal law which protects students with disabilities when Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) asked her if she believes that all schools that receive federal funding should meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which requires public schools to provide disabled children a “free appropriate public education” and governs how schools provide these services.

“I think they already are,” DeVos said, adding that IDEA is “a matter best left to the states.”

“What about the federal requirement? It’s a federal law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act,” Kaine said, before repeating his question.

DeVos began to talk about a Florida voucher program for disabled students that requires students to sign away their IDEA due process rights.

“Just say yes or no,” Kaine said, and he continued to press her after she continued to praise the voucher program, saying parents were happy with it.

“I think that is certainly worth discussion,” DeVos said.

“So you cannot yet agree with me,” Kaine said, before moving on to another subject.

Near the end of the hearing, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) brought up the issue again, telling DeVos that IDEA is a federal law and that federal laws must be followed. She asked DeVos if she stood by her answer that IDEA is “best left to the states.”

“Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play,” DeVos responded.

“So were you unaware when I just asked you about the IDEA that it was a federal law?” Hassan asked.

“I may have confused it,” DeVos said.

Credit: Source.

DeVos also seemed unfamiliar with the distinction between proficiency and growth when evaluating student performance on standardized tests. No Child Left Behind, for example, was based on proficiency, which required all children to meet specific standardized test scores. Newer federal laws, however, place the onus on growth, meaning that schools are not necessarily penalized for below-average standardized test scores so long as an assessment of the student body shows that individual students are improving over time. “It surprises me you don’t know this issue,” said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), arguing that DeVos’ unsatisfactory answer is reason enough for the Senate to spend more time reviewing her experience and her finances.

When asked if guns have any place in schools, DeVos would only say that this was a matter “left to locales and states” to decide. When pressed, she said she would back Trump’s proposal to ban gun-free zones. She also mentioned a Wyoming school she heard about from Sen. Michael Enzi, where she imagines “there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

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