2017-02-10 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Betsy DeVos Controversy Continues
By George Weeks

Michigan’s charter champion Betsy DeVos, who as of this writing was pending to be the next Secretary of Education, is not only President Donald Trump’s most controversial cabinet choice.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), in a floor speech about the billionaire former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, called her “one of the worse nominations that has ever been brought before this body for a cabinet position.”

That’s a stretch. Having seen some real losers in Washington over the decades, I view Schumer’s contention as extreme, but he says, “On the grounds of competence and ideology and conflict of interest, she scores very, very low.”

Not surprisingly, Michigan’s Democrat senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, oppose her nomination. They say they are receiving an unprecedented amount of calls regarding DeVos.

The two Detroit newspapers differed. The Detroit Free Press opposed her confirmation. The Detroit News supported it.

On a party line vote, DeVos was cleared by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Its chairman, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, praised her support for school choice policies.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week was upbeat about prospects for a DeVos confirmation.

“Betsy DeVos is an unbelievable champion for education, for children, for teachers, for parents,” Mr. Spicer said. “…We are going to make sure we do everything we can, and we are 100% confident that she will be confirmed as the next education secretary…”

An interesting development in this issue came last week when Detroit native billionaire charter school supporter Eli Broad, now in Los Angeles, urged her rejection.

Broad said of fellow charter school supporter DeVos: “Indeed, with Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, much of the good work that has been accomplished to improve public education for all of Michigan’s children could be undone. In short, I believe she is unprepared and unqualified for the position.”

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist of The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington.

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