In an encouraging sign, Democratic pressure on Senate Republicans and the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump appears to have resulted in a delay of Secretary of Education-designate Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing until her ethics review can be completed.
President-elect Donald Trump has a long list of disastrous nominees awaiting confirmation, but pressure from Democrats has succeeded in putting the brakes on at least one of them. Originally scheduled for Wednesday, January 11, the confirmation hearing for Trump Secretary of Education-designate and public education opponent Betsy DeVos has been postponed until January 17.
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions ranking member Sen. Patty Murray's (D-WA) office put a fine point on the reason for the delay:
An aide to Murray said the senator hopes the delay will allow DeVos to fully take part in an ethics review ahead of the confirmation hearing: “Senator Murray is hopeful that this additional time will allow Ms. DeVos to complete the required ethics paperwork in time for the Office of Government Ethics to submit it to the HELP Committee before her hearing, just as every single one of President Obama’s nominees did and as Leader McConnell demanded eight years ago.”
The Republican chair of the committee chalks the move up to simple "scheduling" convenience, but it comes on the heels of Senate Democrats' strong push for Trump nominees to complete ethics and transparency reviews prior to their confirmation hearings.
As with many of Trump's picks, DeVos will still face stiff resistance from Democrats on substantive grounds. For example, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) met with DeVos recently, and shared her concerns in a statement:
"All children deserve access to quality public education regardless of their personal circumstances, and while I appreciated the opportunity to meet directly with Ms. DeVos, I remain very concerned about both her lack of support for and experience with public education. I also have concerns about her support for diverting taxpayer dollars to private schools without accountability requirements, which would weaken investments in public education. Granite Staters and Americans deserve to know more about Ms. DeVos' educational philosophy, record and potential conflicts of interest, and it's troubling that the hearing process is on pace to begin before she has even received ethics clearance."
DeVos has spent years undermining public schools by pushing for privatization, the stakes of which my colleague Melissa McEwan summed up aptly:
Access to free public education is imperative — and reforms to our unequal system are needed, but for reasons having to do with the way public education is typically funded (e.g. via property taxes), creating uneven funding rooted in wealth disparities.
Privatization does not solve this problem; in fact, it more deeply entrenches the issue for many families. And it further exacerbates racial segregation and the exploitation of poor communities of color.
This delay is an encouraging sign, but the fight is far from over — DeVos, and Trump's other picks, will face a majority in the Senate that will be inclined to rubber-stamp those nominees. It will be up to the Democrats to continue fighting for complete transparency and full vetting of each one, and delivering the message that they will not sit idly by while Republicans allow Trump to destroy our government.