A friend of mine, a college professor – who is often on the opposite end of the political spectrum than me, I might add, yet we still seem to remain civil and can actually have intelligent conversations concerning the subject – shared an interaction with Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).
As you can read, she has been teaching for some time and actually has reason to be concerned with the nomination of the Secretary of Education – it is her career and passion to teach young (and old, like me) minds. So for her, and millions of teachers out there, the selection of the next Secretary is a personal issue for them.
(I start off with the comment my friend made on Facebook that accompanied the letter back from the Senator)
“FYI and for the record, I have been teaching for 19 years and find DeVos to be completely unsuitable for the position. I had to earn a degree in education to stand up in front of my students. She has no such degree and no such experience with our public schools. She did donate a hefty sum to Scott's campaign so take that as you will.”
(And now, the letter.)
Dear Mrs. XXXXXXXX,
Thank you for contacting me in regards to President Donald Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Education. I appreciate your input on this issue and the opportunity to respond.
As you may know, a new president must nominate hundreds of top political officials to fill out the new administration and this process typically begins before the sitting president leaves office. There are three stages to this entire procedure: the first step is the nomination by the newly elected president, the second step is the consideration and confirmation by the Senate, and the third step is the appointment by the president if the nominee is confirmed by the Senate.
My role in the process of appointing top political officials is explicitly laid out in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the president shall nominate with the "advice and consent" of the Senate.
I believe a great education is one of the most essential things we can give our children, and it is important that the American dream remains in reach for every American. However, despite tripling federal investments in K-12 education since 1965 and increasing involvement from the Department of Education, substantial achievement gaps persist and our rankings among other developed countries in math, reading, and science continue to decline. A larger federal government is not the solution to any of the challenges we face as a nation, and it certainly is not the solution in education.
For decades, Mrs. DeVos has been an advocate for parents who simply want more choice in determining the best education for their children. Her passion for helping children is undeniable and I am optimistic that, if confirmed, her leadership will help generate innovative solutions that will unleash students' potential like we haven't seen before.
I grew up in a low-income community and almost failed out of high school. Since coming to Congress in 2010, I have been a strong supporter of school choice. My mission has always been to help kids growing up in poor neighborhoods, like the one I did, to achieve their dreams. My desire to achieve that goal has not and will not waiver, no matter who leads the Department of Education.
Like me, Mrs. DeVos supports and respects the value of a public school education. But if a school is unsafe or unable to adequately prepare students, she believes that parents should have the ability to pick a better, safer school for their children; whether that school be public, private, or charter. Mrs. DeVos is a supporter of all schools.
Rest assured, I am fully aware of the gravity of this decision and I will not consider it lightly. I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind as the Senate begins the confirmation process.
Again, thank you for sharing your perspective with me; I hope that you will continue to do so in the future. If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me or a member of my staff.
For more information, please visit my website at www.scott.senate.gov and subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter. I also encourage you to follow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SenatorTimScott and Twitter: www.twitter.com/SenatorTimScott for daily updates.
United States Senator
I responded to my friend - and I would say the same thing directly to Sen. Scott, given the chance - “Perhaps you can remind Sen. Scott that being an advocate and passionate about something does not translate to being qualified. I have been an advocate of NASA and passionate about us doing more to get us back out there and doing interplanetary exploration. But that hardly makes me qualified to run NASA. Nor does it even make me qualified to be an astronaut at NASA.”
Just because a President nominates an individual for a cabinet position (or Supreme Court . . . or anything really), doesn't mean Congress HAS to confirm them. I mean, if I were President and I had to fill all these positions, I would look to those I know for both possible candidates for those positions and recommendations to fill them. Doesn't mean I KNOW the right person for the job.
That's where the confirmation process comes in. That's where you look at the person and say yes or no. That's when you LOOK at their qualifications.
Their qualification! Not what they are passionate about! Not what they have been advocates of or for!
And DEFINITELY NOT in response to how much money they have or have given to you. (The latter of which might look suspiciously like a bribe – just saying!)
As for DeVos herself? Here is a little bit about her qualifications . . . or lack thereof.
- She was chair of the Michigan Republican Committee. Not a qualification for Secretary of Education.
- She is married to the Heir of Amway. Not a qualification.
- She was the chair of American Federation for Children. Not a qualification and actually seems like conflict of interest type of thing.
- She is head of many philanthropic groups. Not a qualification. Means she's rich, not qualified.
- She has a Bachelor's degree in business administration and political science. A qualification, but not what one would say is a good one.
There are those that may point out the precedent set by previous Presidents where the Secretary of Education did not have a degree in Education. True.
She was George W Bush's Secretary of Education did not have one in Education. But that really didn't work out too well, if you recall. Margaret Spellings, one day after being confirmed, threatened PBS demanding they nit air an episode where an animated bunny learns about maple syrup from kids with lesbian parents (despite the fact that the episode only has the kids saying they have a mom and a stepmom, which can easily be assumed to mean dad got remarried . . . . but Spellings' mind went to the lesbian route and was offended by it). She advocated “No Child Left Behind”, and insulted Connecticut when it resisted by calling the state (not a person but the whole state) bigots. As for the student loan controversy, this followed her to University of North Carolina, where the decision to bring her in as President led to the resignation of the university's board chair.
“Spellings made over $330,000 working for the Apollo Group, the parent company of University of Phoenix, a for-profit online college that has been widely criticized for taking advantage of its students and delivering poor results. Although federal education funds account for nearly 90 percent of the company’s revenue, graduation rates were as low as 4 percent under Spellings’ tenure.” ~~ News Observer, November 2, 2015
And finally, as recently as 2016, Spellings Presidency at the University was marred by her lack of discretion, insulting the LGBT community. (Seems she really still has a problem with lesbians, like she did back in 2005.
So do we want someone like Spellings? Is it a good precedent to follow, having someone in the position to oversee the nation's education system, policies and all, without a degree in education? And honestly, coming from someone who is highly educated but holds no actual degrees, do you really want someone as Education Secretary to only hold a Bachelor's degree . . . and in political science?
I think not.
As much as I thought, way back 2011, that Tim Scott was an intelligent individual who wants only what is best for his constituents, I must now say things have changed. Scott has become a party tool. Instead of dispensing his duties for the benefit of South Carolinians, he seems to only hold what the party wants him to hold as important. His response is a political one. Not a response one gives to his constituents. (And its a form response, as others have gotten the same . . . exact . . . letter. Just the name is different.)
As for the letter? It begins, very condescendingly, as though speaking to a child, when – in fact – he (or his staff) knew they were speaking to an educator with nearly two decades teaching. Very insulting. Then it goes on to sound like a press release praising DeVos . . . . not a good sign when this person is supposed to still be weighing the facts in a confirmation hearing.
There is the line about DeVos supporting public education. In actuality, her work has been more for the benefit of private institutions then for helping the public education system.
And then there is (especially in reference to the comment above about the DeVos support for the Scott campaign) the political donations. The DeVos family has been donating HUGE sums of money to Republican Party SuperPacs and individual campaigns (such as Tim Scott, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina) for decades. And do they do this out of the goodness of their hearts or because they believe in the party or the candidates (remember, she once called Trump an “interloper” and representative of the Republican Party)? In truth, in a 1997 Op-Ed in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, DeVos wrote "[M]y family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party….I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections."
This is a telling passage in this OpEd by DeVos. But the whole editorial is even more telling. She states that “[i]n politics, money is speech. You don't have free speech without it.” She seems to feel that those with money “know more” than the politicians, therefore, their money is important to a role in free speech of all Americans. She likens campaign finance reform to an assault on free speech, saying without the big money she and groups like labor unions spend during a given election year allows voters to be more informed when they vote. Yet in the same article she states how the labor advertising done by labor unions were “misleading, and in some cases, dishonest.”
DeVos finishes off this article with a dire extrapolation of the McCain-Feingold finance reform bill.
“For those who support attacks on free speech, such as those in the many versions fo the McCain-Feingold bill, perhaps they should be thinking through to its long conclusion. They must be willing to place limits on the number of news stories the media can run, the number of editorials they can print, the number of newspapers they can sell, and the number of news shows they can air. If we are going to restrict free speech, we need to do it for everybody.”
The ideals she expresses throughout this editorial equating money with free speech, the way she places on the same level news stories and paid for political advertisements, is so far afield of free anything, let alone free speech, that one has to wonder how her priorities in life got so skewed.
Is this a person we want shaping the educational system in this country?
For my money, which is nowhere near as much as the DeVos family fortune, I can't see how anyone, even someone who benefited from this huge resource of cash, can think she is right for this or any other political position.
Senators like Tim Scott should be appalled at the level of sanctimony and privilege DeVos displays in this article.
(Unfortunately, if you read Scott's letter, it sounds his mind has been made up, despite the opposition by his constituents. One has to wonder, if not for those he represents, then for whom does he act as cheerleader for DeVos.)
I include as much information and resources as I can in this editorial of my own. I let you, the reader take form it whatever information you can glean and make up your own mind. Because, as always, this is just me, Thinking Out Loud.
Have a great day!
- The October 6, 1997 op-ed DeVos wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call is not available online. The archives editor at the paper has sent me a copy of the piece and I include it here.
- An email to Senator Scott's office, specifically to his Communications Director Sean Smith, about claims whether DeVos contributed to his campaign have not been responded to as of yet. I guess you can take that as either a “no comment” or as “we don't care to respond to an American citizen's request for transparency. (Or maybe its just a “we're too busy to answer some nobody journalist's question” response.)