After a 24-hour filibuster by Democrats, the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. DeVos, a billionaire advocate for a school voucher program, has been incredibly controversial since her hearing in front of the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
DeVos’ lack of commitment to LGBT students, inability to articulate answers regarding well-established federal laws protecting students with disabilities, and her affirmative stance in support of guns on school campuses—as protection against “potential grizzlies”—drew a hailstorm of criticism from education advocates.
Even though in her Senate confirmation hearing she denied supporting conversion therapy, Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) pointed out that her family has donated more than $10 million to Focus on the Family, a staunch anti-LGBT organization that promotes the dangerous and discredited practice of trying to turn gay people straight.
Also during her confirmation hearing, when asked specifically about LGBT students, DeVos made no affirmative statement of support for LGBT students or talk about how she would address the many challenges experienced by LGBT students. Nor did she say how she would interpret Title IX, which currently protects transgender students.
Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) became the first two Republicans to break ranks with the GOP by voting against the confirmation of DeVos. This brought the vote to a 50-50 split that led Vice President Mike Pence to become the first VP in history to cast a tie-breaking vote for a Cabinet appointee.
The confirmation of Betsy DeVos is incredibly worrisome for educational and LGBT advocates because of her serious lack of experience and the absence of commitment to uphold the rights of the LGBT students. Her stance on school choice and vouchers could lead to the defunding of the public school system and the funneling of that money to private schools where LGBT students will have little or no protections, particularly in religious schools.
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February 8, 2017