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  U.S. Senate Democrats Continue to Hold Floor as De Vos Vote Looms  CSPAN  February 7, 2017 5:59am-8:00am EST

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was all about, the message from my parents that they were encouraging my sister and i to aspire to that pathway and that they were going to help it just sent the message that it is a feasible pathway. i always assume not knowing the details of what college costs or what scholarships might be available, i thought it was possible to go. we need a system of higher education in which people can afford to go to college without massive debt. and what's important to understand is that this effects not only the opportunity after high school, it affects how children feel about schools when -- about schools when they are in school. and we see this, for example, in the dream program where children are sponsored from grade school and they are told: listen, you have been the beneficiary of an
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individual who is going to pay your college expenses and for a program for you to get extra mentoring during your k-12 years of school, and those children thrive at a whole different level in public schools than the children in an adjacent classroom who don't have that sponsor and vision laid out for them that there is an affordable college awaiting them. so that is an issue that we need to have an advocate for as secretary of education as well as an advocate for our k-12 system. and we don't have that in betsy devos. she adopt bring the personal experience -- she doesn't bring the personal experience in life to bear about that. so i am going to wrap up my part of this conversation by noting that this is a potential turning
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point in our history. if we hand over the reins of our education system to a person who wants to see it as one more corporation, one more opportunity for profit, we will destroy a system that is at the foundation of the american dream, the foundation of the vision for every child to thrive, that we are a society that makes sure that that pathway of opportunity is there for each and every child, including children who are english language learners, including children who have disabilities, including children who come from blue-collar communities, as i do. every child. that's the figures we're fighting for that is about to be
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deeply damaged should the reins of public education be handed over to an individual who wants to destroy it. that's why i am encouraging my colleagues to search your hearts, step aside from party politics and pay-to-play politics and fight for the children of the united states of america. thank you, mr. president. i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: mr. president, i would ask that the roll call be
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dispensed with, quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reed: thank you very much. mr. president, the nomination of betsy devos has triggered an outcry of deep public opposition. it's also inspired an outpouring of unpopulous support for. public education is what made america great, even at the heart of the american dream. our schools are much more than just a collection of classrooms. they are expressions of our communities and of our values. this is a lesson i learned from my parents. my father was a school custodian in a public school. he took tremendous pride in ensuring that the school was clean, in good repair, safe. he was part of the public school team and entrusted with our community's children, and he along with the teachers, principals and every staff of the school were deeply committed to public education. he saw that commitment each and every day. he spoke of that commitment when
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he came home in the evening. the teachers that would do much, much more than asked of them to ensure their child got the best opportunity, the best education. everyone in that school were pulling for the children and that's the way it should be and that's the way it must be. and this was free public education. the hallmark of america, perhaps one of the most important contributions that we have made to progress, prosperity and economic growth, not only here in the united states but across the globe. and that is what we're talking about today. the future of public education. it is that kind of commitment to public education going in early, working hard. i can remember, of course, in the wintertime in the storms that would graze through rhode island, it was not uncommon for my father and his colleagues to be out there on a sunday
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afternoon if the storm was bad enough shoveling all night long so that monday morning that school was open for the children and the teachers could get there. and food could be prepared. that's the type of commitment that has been evidenced throughout our history when it comes to public education. that investment of effort but also of trying to understand and trying to improve public education has been at the heart of what we've all done. and indeed i believe it's that kind of commitment to public education that's driven millions of americans to speak up about the nomination of betsy devos. teachers, parents and community members have been calling from across the country writing, e-mailing, urging the senate to reject her nomination. indeed i have received over 12,500 calls and messages from rhode islanders, an unprecedented negative response
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to a presidential nominee. we are the small estate in the union. we have a population just under one million people, and we understand that on even the most challenging and publicized issues, we rarely get this type of response. it is because this nomination touches a nerve. it touches a nerve with people who are the product of public schools. they owe a lot of their success to public schools but it touches a nerve with people who may not have attended public school because they recognize the value, the necessity, the need for good public education because without it we can't move forward as a nation because without it there's no alternative except typically very expensive private arrangements to educate your children. once again free public education has been the hallmark of this country. it might have been one of the
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most dominant factors in ensuring equality. our country is based on equality. equality before the law but without a good education, how can one be equal? how can one understand their rights and use their rights, understand their abilities and use their abilities. our constituents all across this country, they want a champion for public education at the helm of the department of education. they want someone committed to public schools, someone knowledgeable about the federal role in education, and they have determined that betsy devos is not that person. having looked at her record and viewed her performance during her confirmation hearing, they are telling us she is the wrong choice to lead the department of education and we should heed their pleas. the thousands of rhode islanders who have contacted me to express their opposition to ms. devos'
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nomination, i would like to share examples of a few who exemfly the deep concerns i am hearing. one teacher wrote, mrs. devos is not versed on the real concerns of families and their children and does not know the issues and concerns educators face in our schools. as a teacher in a public school, i believe she's completely unqualified to lead the department of education. she does not understand the definition of proficiency and she did not know that children are protected by federal laws, the disability act. as a parent i do not believe mrs. devos understands the concerns middle-income families have regarding their children and their futures. she also does not believe that guns should be kept out of our schools. this proves how out of touch she is with our students, their families, and teachers. i think many americans agree with the sentiment that mrs. devos is out of touch and out of step with the needs of
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working families. neither she nor the president have much of any experience with public schools. student, parents, educators or administrators. another theme rhode islanders wrote about is the double standard of this nomination. as one vice principal wrote, we are administrators and we are required to be highly qualified in order to run our schools through our evaluation process. we also require this of all of our teachers as well. how can we support someone in a position to lead the educational process who's not held to these same standards? this is a fair question that neither ms. devos nor the trump administration has answered. but again it is not purely just about her resume. another theme i heard about from many rhode islanders is their fear of the gap. here is an example from a letter written by a public school principal. my heart is sinking.
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i have worked as an educator in public schools for the past 19 years as a teacher and now as a principal. i was an attorney before i was a teacher. i came to the profession as a second career by choice with a passion for writing the inequities our students face. i worked all of my career with our most needy populations, a group whom i believe also to be our most brilliant, caring, loving, and amazing young people. i feel blessed to get to work with them and the teachers every day. i ache for the things they don't have that other schools have and for my powerlessness to right that wrong. betsy devos wish ses to take on -- wishes to take on a role with the power to right those wrongs yet she seems unaware that such inequities exist and undisturbed by them. she's never worked with young people in schools much less in public schools, much less in
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urban schools. she has never been a teacher or administrator or the parent of a child in a public school. she's never wrestled with the incredible want for resources, the choices we have to make every day all within a city and state with some of the most prestigious and wealthiest schools just a few steps away. the realities for our urban students is so different -- so vastly different from the reality that betsy devos and her contemporaries live in. to hear her unable to even comprehend the need for equal access and equal opportunity to high quality child care and post-secondary education was painful. to hear her say it would be nice for everyone to have access to a college education but nothing in life is free, she is completely unaware of her own privilege, the privilege of her children and the privilege of her family and extended circle. those are the billions of dollars who are born into great
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wealth, who never had to struggle economically, that is unacceptable in someone who wishes to fill one of the most distinguished offices in our land. our students and teachers in schools need a champion who will work tirelessly to reverse the inequities of our educational system, inequities that i am painfully aware of every day here in rhode island. it isn't right that some students have football fields and computers and huge libraries and food choices and ap classes and much more while others have no outdoor spaces, little access to technology and crumbling buildings. we cannot allow that to be who we are. our families work incredibly hard and want the very best for their children. to say everything in life isn't free when it has been for mrs. devos' family is hypocritical and mean. we need a champion of equity. please vote against her
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confirmation. this last letter i want to share her is from the mother of a special needs child. like many rhode islanders, she is distressed by the fact that ms. devos has suggested that a landmark civil rights law should be left up to the states. she writes, i have grave concerns about the nomination of betsy devos as secretary of education. as the parents of a special needs child, it would not be an understatement to say i was horrified at ms. devos' answer to the question about the children with disabilities act during her recent hearing. the one thing we rely on, the department of education to do is to vigorously enforce and uphold the landmark civil rights law that is idea. without it, our children would fall through the cracks. it is extremely difficult to navigate the system, make sure your child gets the support he or she needs.
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my son is 20 now so i've been doing it for a long time. i've served on both state and local special ed advisory committees, school committee, taken special ed training, even mentored other parents, and i still don't completely understand all of the nuances of the idea laws. for someone to be appointed to the highest office in the land in charge of upholding those laws and not be aware of them is unacceptable. it's too big of a learning curve. surely, there are more other qualified candidates. last congress, we came together to rewrite the no child left behind act. we passed the every student succeeds act on a strong bipartisan basis. 85-12. we moved towards giving states and school districts more flexibility in designing their accountability systems, especially regarding how they
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identify and intervene in schools that are struggling to serve their students well. we strengthen the transparency, including greater transparency about resource equity. we agreed to maintain key federal protections, or as senator murray calls them, guardrails to ensure that we do not return to the days when students such as students with disabilities, english language learners, poor and minority students routinely fell through the cracks. for the every student succeeds act to work, states and school districts need a strong partner in the department of education, a partner who understands how public schools work, a partner who is committed to strengthening public schools. mrs. devos is not that partner. her life's work has been to divert taxpayer dollars to fund alternatives to public schools. some on the other side of the aisle have argued that private school vouchers are no different from pell grants or g.i. bill
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benefits. this claim is another one of those alternative facts that the new administration is so fond of. public elementariary and secondary education is enshrined in our states' constitutions. attendance is compulsory. public schools do not charge tuition, and they must accept all students. pell grants and g.i. bill benefits support postsecondary education, which is voluntary. schools do not have to accept all students, nor are students required to attend. individuals must pay to go to college. we do not want a system of elementary and secondary education with students and -- where students and families must pay and schools can choose which students they serve. that is not the universal system of public education that has made our nation great. our constituents understand that, which is why we have seen the public outcry against this nomination, and with this public outcry and with our commitment
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to public education, recognizing that it has been the force and the engine that has pulled this country forward over generations, indeed generation after generation, and understanding that we have just in fact on a bipartisan basis provided more flexibility, more discretion to the department of education, we need a secretary that will take that discretion and flexibility in the spirit of american public education with a fundamental and priority commitment to american public education, with a desire to see american public education succeed, not fail. we need that type of secretary, and unfortunately mrs. devos is not that type of secretary. so i would urge my colleagues to heed the call of all their constituents in an unprecedented outpouring of messages and phone calls and text messages and
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contacts and rallies and join me to vote no against this nomination. with that, mr. president, i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the assistant democratic leader. mr. durbin: i ask the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, we gather on the floor of the senate at an unusually hour. in fact, the senate has been in session all night. the question before us is the nomination of betsy devos to be secretary of education. possibly the most controversial nomination made by our new president trump. this is an office which doesn't usually attract this kind of controversy. former secretaries of education have included arne duncan who ran the chicago public school system and was the first to be appointed in the first term of president obama. senator lamar alexander, tennessee, who is a friend of mine, i've served with, before his service in the senate was also the secretary of education. the choice is usually one that
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is bipartisan and largely supported by not only teachers, but parents and administrators and education officials from across the united states. in this case, though, we have in betsy devos of michigan, a person of some controversy. last saturday i spoke to the illinois education association, a group of about 150 teachers who had gathered in springfield, illinois. they were my friends for many, many years and cydna cliquena, the president of the organization, we have a friendship that goes back to the days when she was a classroom teacher. she has risen through the ranks and heads one of the major teacher organizations in our state. cydna is a true teacher at heart and cares for students.
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she has devoted her life to it. she has brought together 150 of her best teachers from around the state preparing them to become more active politically in our state and nation. naturally they were tuned into this nomination of betsy devos. they have a lot on their minds these days with the selection of the new president. nearly all of them have written me, sent me an e-mail or contacted me personally opposing the nomination of betsy devos. i've not met betsy devos. we tried to set up our schedules so i could, but it didn't work. i take as much blame as necessary for that not happening. but i have studied her background. i've paid close attention to what she has said since she has been nominated and tried to understand where she comes from. it is true that she is a person of wealth. the prince family, which she was born into, is well known in
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the midwest and in michigan for its success in the automotive industry and many other endeavors. and then she married into the amway family, another legendary business where she's been able to accumulate some money. there's nothing wrong with that in america. in fact, many people aspire to it and reach that goal and are add -- admired for reaching it. it doesn't disqualify her for anything in life as far as i'm concerned, but it does not necessarily qualify her for certain things in life. it's not clear to me from her record, when it comes to the field of education, that she is prepared to serve this nation as our next secretary of education. i don't find in her background the qualifications for the job that i found when the presiding officer was chosen as secretary of education or when my friend arne duncan of chicago, whom i
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had breakfast with yesterday, was chosen for the same position. ms. devos' experience in education is limited to using her family's substantial wealth to push for a so-called reform agenda in her home state of michigan. ms. devos has never been a teacher. she has never been an administrator. in fact, she's never held any job in public education. neither she nor her children have attended public school. that is not a disqualification. i attended catholic schools. my children attended both. she's never been a professor or a college president. she's never had anything to do with financial aid, as i understand it. she's never been involved in a loan program, least of all one as large and complex as the department of education's direct loan program. she's never taken out a federal student loan nor have her children. admittedly, that's not a
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requirement to be a nominee to be secretary of education, to have had any of these experiences, but had she had even one or two of these, we could point to real-life experiences which would prepare her for this awesome administrative responsibility. i think these gaps in her life experience are fair to raise when a nominee to be the nation's top authority in education has shown a lack of familiarity with even basic educational policy issues, as ms. devos did in her testimony before the senate help committee. she could not articulate the difference between proficiency in growth in the context of k-12 accountability. i can tell you that saturday at the illinois education association meeting, everyone in the room knew those terms well. and they knew the central role that they had played in the national debate on education since the election of president
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george w. bush and the creation of no child left behind. ms. devos also said in her testimony that states should be able to decide whether to enforce the individuals with disabilities with education act. she apparently didn't know that idea is already a federal law. it has been for more than 40 years. as a nominee, ms. devos did not do her homework. is that the person we want as secretary of education? the experience ms. devos has is limited to using her considerable wealth in favor of an agenda for so-called school choice. ms. devos has spent years supporting school vouchers which funnel taxpayers money from public schools into private schools. i am familiar with that program as it was started here in the district of columbia years ago. it actually started with an
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amendment in the appropriation committee by a friend of mine. mike dewine was the senator from ohio and offered an amendment to create a voucher program in the district of columbia. it was a surprise because a markup in the senate appropriations committee is not usually the place where you tackle something of that moment. but he offered it, and i offered some amendments. the notion behind it was that the district of columbia would provide vouchers for the parents of children so that they could choose the schools for their kids. they wouldn't be forced to attend public schools. they might not attend charter schools. they might choose instead to use their voucher to send their kids to a private school. i offered three amendments that day in the appropriations committee. the fate of those amendments told a pretty graphic story about the voucher program in the
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district of columbia, and it also reflects on the candidacy of betsy devos to be secretary of education. the three amendments were: number one, that the teachers in the voucher schools had to have college degrees. that, to me, did not sound like a radical idea. most of us assume that if you're going to teach in a school you have a college diploma. well, it turns out my amendment was rejected with the d.c. voucher program that day when it was offered, and the argument was made they needed more flexibility in terms of who would teach in these schools. that was worrysome. the second amendment i offered said that the schools themselves, the students had to take the same test, achievement test as students in public schools in d.c. so that we could measure one against the other. that amendment was also rejected. they wanted to have the right in these so-called voucher schools
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to have their own set of tests that they would approve, not necessarily the same test as the kids in public schools. the third amendment i was sure would pass but it failed as well, and the third amendment said the actual school buildings used for d.c. voucher schools had to pass the fire safety code requirements of the district of columbia. and that was defeated too. i voted against the d.c. vouch program for that reason. i couldn't understand how you could vote for a voucher program not guaranteeing that teachers had diplomas from colleges, that they had school in safe buildings and that the students would be tested against the same public school test that d.c. public school students faced. that raised questions in my mind about the true intent and motive of those who were pushing voucher schools. ms. devos in michigan has been a proponent of voucher schools.
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she has pushed the expansion of charter schools and used her extraordinary wealth to insulate them from oversight and accountability in her state. even as these schools failed to deliver on the promises made to children and parents, ms. devos continued to protect them from the same accountability standards as public schools. in 2015, a federal review found -- quote -- "an unreasonably high" percentage of charter schools on the list of michigan's lowest-performing schools. today for-profit companies operate almost 80% of charters in michigan, more than any other state, and are underperforming compared to public school counterparts. let me be clear, i believe some charter schools can be effective. i have visited so many schools in my state: public schools,
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catholic schools, charter schools, every imaginable schools. i've supported high-performing, successful charter programs. i think about the kep program, here in the district of columbia and chicago, consistently producing some of the best results and highest standards for students. there a lesson to be learned from the kip model for all schools? of course there is and you'd have to be blind to ignore it. but on average charter schools don't perform any better than public schools on average. and to say that this is a model which we should embrace regardless is unfair to students. if we're going to exalt performance and results let's do it in an honest fashion. these schools which receive taxpayer funding should be held accountable as all schools. ms. devos doesn't agree.
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senator tim kaine from virginia at the hearing asked ms. devos at her confirmation hearing if she agreed with equal accountability for any k-12 school that receives taxpayer funding, whether that school is public, charter or private. she refused to agree, and at one point even said no. ms. devos also seems unwilling to acknowledge that many private and charter schools are not equipped to support students with disabilities and other special needs in the way that public schools are required to do. these students, along with many low-income and minority students, would certainly be left behind in ms. devos' ideal education world. last year -- and the presiding officer was a major part of this decision -- congress did what seemed unimaginable. we came together and passed the every student succeeds act, or
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essa. essa makes important improvements to our elementary and secondary education program. it requires states to set academic standards, measure student achievement, develop accountability plans for all schools receiving federal money. giving illinois parents, teachers and principals a replacement to no child left behind was a great bipartisan achievement, and i do want to call out in a favorable way my colleague, the presiding officer, senator alexander of tennessee, and my colleague senator murray of the state of washington. they did a great job. while essa provides more authority to states and local school districts, it also included important federal guardrails to ensure key civil rights protections and hold states and school districts accountable. but federal rules carry out that important federal task are now in doubt and in jeopardy. i don't have confidence that
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secretary devos will appropriately carry out the federal government's responsibility under the law to ensure that all students, regardless of income, race, gender or disability are achieving. for me, it all boils down to this. i do not believe ms. betsy devos will keep the promise we made more than 50 years ago when lyndon johnson signed into law the elementary and secondary education act which guaranteed in the united states of america a free and equal quality public education to every child. i'm not going to give up on that promise which really is a bedrock principle of america. there's more work to do, i'm sure, but i believe that we can improve america's public schools. let me also say i couldn't disagree more with what mrs. devos has said about guns in schools. my colleague, senator chris murphy, represents the state of
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connecticut. both he and senator blumenthal have told us many times in heartbreaking and graphic detail what happened that day at sandy hook elementary. what they went through just as observers, what they saw in the eyes of the parents who came to realize that their children had been killed, brutally killed in their classroom at that elementary school. and i've had the responsibility to meet the parents of those kids and try to make some sense out of a tragedy which is just nonsensical. ms. devos was asked by senator murphy about guns in schools. ms. devos refused to commit to opposing efforts to repeal. she said she would not commit to opposing efforts to repeal federal law making schools gun-free zones. she went on with a hard to explain explanation about grizzly bears and why schools
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may need guns to ward off grizzly bears. that kind of statement is reckless and dangerous. we should expect more of someone who wants to be our nation's top education authority. i'm also concerned when it comes to higher education policy. betsy devos has a tendency of siding with corporate and for-profit interests when it comes to education. take for-profit colleges as an example. despite years of fraud and abuse by for-profit colleges, the type and extent of which is unparalleled in other sectors of higher education, ms. dos does not see the connection between the business model of for-profit colleges and the abuses. when she was asked by senator murray if she believes that different types of corporate control structures result in different decisions and behaviors for for-profit institutions compared to nonprofit institution, ms. devos simply answered no.
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even for-profit industry insiders have acknowledged that the business model indeed encourages abuse. in a 2015 interview with december rat news, john murphy, a founder of the university of phoenix admitted that the company experienced a shift in priorities that led to diminished student outcomes when it became a publicly traded company. he says the new focus became increasingly the value of the stock at any cost, including lowering admission standards. other companies soon followed the university of phoenix corporate example. as john murphy said, phoenix was the one that got it rolling and then all the other nonprofits followed them in. what resulted was an entire industry built on defrauding students and fleecing taxpayers. for-profit colleges and universities in america today are the most heavily subsidized
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private for-profit businesses in our country. these are not good corporate models. these are crony capitalist ventures which have found a way to tap into the federal treasury at the expense not only of taxpayers but of unwitting students and their families. nearly every major for-profit college has been investigated or sued by one or more state federal agencies for unfair deceptive and abusive practices. the numbers tell the story and i've told them many times. you would think they would have changed over the years, but they haven't really. 10% of students graduating from high school go to for whennen profit colleges and universities. 20% of all the federal aid education goes to the same schools. 10% of the students and 20% of the federal aid, the schools are extraordinarily expensive.
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40, 40% of all the student loan defaults in america are students from for-profit colleges and universities. corinthian may be one of the worst and well known examples. corinthian, a for-profit college falsified and inflated job placement rates to entice more students to sign up for their worthless programs. one of the tricks they used -- listen to this -- was to pay employers to hire their graduates for a couple months so they could count them as successfully off at work after they graduated. it was a fraud and they were caught red handed. the company's predatory practices once exposed led to its bankruptcy but tens of thousands of students were left with huge amounts of student debt and a worthless education and shame on us in the united states of america for the department of education giving a green light to these schools to do business in america and to
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defraud these student, their families and ultimately the taxpayers. this embarrassing episode at corinthian led the department of education to create an interagency task force to coordinate federal oversight efforts of for-profit colleges and a new enforcement unit within the department to investigate allegations against schools participating in the federal title 4 program. unfortunately, at her hearing, ms. devos would not commit to maintaining this important office signaling she's ready to take the cops off the beat at the department when it comes to for-profit colleges and universities. i'm afraid that's consistent with what she's done in michigan where she leans toward the for-profit model blind to the fact that many of these for-profit schools in her state are worthless. you see, for-profit college, the most heavily subsidized private entities in america already have
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friends in high places in washington. we know what happened to their stock prices over the years as students and families realized how terrible they were and stopped attending them. enrollment went down in many of the schools. guess what happened the day after president trump was elected? the stocks of for-profit colleges and universities started to rise again. they saw new opportunities. they were going to get a department of education which would stop enforcing the law and stop the fraud that they'd been guilty of. ms. devos at her hearing gave us no hope for any different outcome. we know from recent data released by the obama department of education that many for-profit colleges actually receive nearly 100% of their revenue from federal taxpayers in the form of title 4 funds, department of defense tuition assistance and department of veteran affairs g.i. bill. i don't know how a good business oriented republican could
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overlook the fact that these so-called for-profit schools are a thinly veneered operations gleaning every available federal tax dollar to keep their schools open. annually they take in nearly $25 billion in title 4 federal funds. the department has a responsibility to ensure the taxpayers funding isn't wasted by enriching investors and executives at institutions that prey on students and don't deliver. in keeping with that responsibility, the obama administration created new federal regulations to ensure career training programs are meeting the statutory requirement that they prepare students for called gainful employment. the gainful employment rule cuts off title 4 funding for programs where graduates ratio of student debt to earnings is too high. in other words, if they sink these kids deeply in debt and they can't end up with a job
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that is worth at least as much as they need to earn to pay off their debt, then something's wrong with the model. ms. devos would not commit to maintaining this important protection for students and taxpayers. proactive oversight and enforcement is one thing but when fraud and abuse does occur, ms. devos would not even commit to make it right. she refused to say that she would ensure defrauded students receive the federal student loan discharges to which they're entitled under the law. maybe this shouldn't surprise us. for one ms. devos' would-be boss the president of the united states donald trump operated his own for-profit college that defrauded students. and as it turns out, ms. devos, a billionaire, has financial connections to the for-profit college industry. she has disclosed investments with several entities links to for-profit colleges, including
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apollo investment corporation which is the mothership for the university of phoenix. apollo invests in a for-profit college klain that has -- chain that has several programs that are in danger of losing federal funding because of the painful employment rule. these colleges also happen to be accredited by the accrediting council for independent colleges and schools, acics which puts its stamp of approval on corinthian, itt tech and westwood college. last year the obama education department revoked acics federal recognition. the accredit tore is now actively suing the department over this decision and now ms. devos wants to take over the department? and she is supposed to defend against the lawsuit? when she has a financial interest in the schools that are involved? for-profit colleges aren't the only ones who may be given free reign to prey on students under
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secretary devos. the private school loan industry is also lipping -- licking its chops. an article entitled student loan lenders may see opportunities with trump in the white house told the story. it noted that since the election, stocks of major private student loan issuers have also gone up. the article quotes a report by financial analyst bob monopoly which says -- quote -- there could be substantial growth potential in the student lending business as we believe the trump administration is likely to reduce government involvement in the student lending business. what is government involvement in the student lending business? well, it's an effort to have oversight so that children and their parents aren't exploited by student loans. the fear is with secretary devos that oversight would disappear. this government involvement of student lending whic includes te department of education direct loans which helps millions of
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middle and low income class students attend college each year at lower interest rates for loans. these loans have fixed interest rates, strong consumer protection, flexible repayment. in addition to loans, federal pell grants provide much needed financial support to thousands of low income students across the country. financial support they don't have to repay. on the other hand, private student loans often have variable interest rates that can reach nearly 20%, hefty origination fees, few consumer protections, no alternative repayment option. unlike nearly all other private debt, private student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. that is a debt you'll take to the grave. a greater roll for private student lenders without strong new protections in oversight by critical agencies would be a
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sentence to debt for many college students across our country. i have deep concerns about ms. devos' ability to hold this job as secretary of education. this morning or perhaps early this afternoon, we may see history made on the floor of the united states senate. it's quite possible that the only way betsy devos can become secretary of education is if the vice president of the united states will come and preside and cast the deciding tie-breaking vote so that she can become a member of president trump's cabinet. i understand from news reports that will be the first time in history that someone has had to rely on the vice president's tie-breaking vote to become part of a president's cabinet. it didn't say a lot about the controversy surrounding ms. devos that has reached this point that she has to pull out all the stop, literally all the stops to become part of the cabinet. she was asked at one point i
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believe by senator sanders how much money she had actually contributed to the republican party over the years. was it $200 million or more? she said she just didn't know. well, it's not against the law to contribute money under most circumstances. and it shouldn't be held against people because many folks who receive political appointments are contributors to the president that makes the appointments. that's not unusual. it's happened with both political parties. but it is seldom a person with such a thin resume and such a big wallet is given such an important job. this goes too far. for ms. devos to be the ambassador to aruba or wherever she might be, that's a good political reward. to be placed in charge of the public education system of the united states of america, i think is a step too far. i have deep concerns about ms. devos' ability to hold this
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job and her commitment to public education and protecting students from for-profit interests that seek to exploit them. like tens of thousands of illinois parent, teachers and principals who called my office as well as national educational civil rights organizations, i oppose belty devos' nomination as secretary of education. two of my republican colleagues have shown extraordinary courage in announcing their opposition to ms. devos. i want to salute senator lisa murkowski of alaska, senator susan collins of maine. i'm sure it wasn't easy for them to come out publicly against ms. devos. that means right now there are 50 no votes and 50 yes votes by rough calculation. we need at this moment in time one more republican to stand up and do what is right for america's children and america's students. who will it be? who will join these two women from alaska and maine and the democrats and saying to
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president trump we can do better. to my republican colleagues i say parents, student, teachers in your states are counting on you to stop this dangerous nomination. please don't let them down. i'd like to also note excerpts from mail that i received about ms. devos' nomination from my home state of illinois. hannah is a graduate student at the university of illinois and k-12 program. she writes i'm a student who benefited from idea. without this federal protection it is unlikely i would be where i am now. betsy devos does not share the american value of equal and free education. confirming her is dangerous and reckless. the children who need help most will not be helped. barbara, mother of two, chicago public school, high school students writes please do not support betsy devos for education secretary. she knows nothing about public education. we need strong support for
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public education. hanan, certified and licensed speech language pathologist writes as a mother of three children who receive therapy, i beg you to vote no on betsy devos. i'm afraid of what will become of my children as well as my students if therapy services are not provided through the public education system. many of my student families cannot afford private therapy. they rely on getting their therapy through the school they attend. michelle, a teacher from chicago, writes -- quote -- "as an educator myself, i believe betsy devos is unfit to serve as secretary of education. our schools and our children need a leader who supports public education, is qualified and experienced and does not have conflicts of interest." katie, a school counselor from chicago writes, i fear the impact betsy devos will have on the lives of our students. my greatest concern is her sheer lack of understanding of
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education in the united states. for myself and my colleagues, many of the questions she was asked during the hearing were topics we share a variety of opinions and can talk about at length. the fact that she answered very few questions and did not know what idea is and doesn't seem to understand the concerns of having guns in schools does not qualify her to be in this position. alajandra from vell wood, illinois writes, i do not believe ms. devos is a suitable choice for the place as secretary of education of the united states. one of the many reasons for this is because she lacks experience. another reason is because she has no plans and the few plans that she does have may result in harm to the public school system. i believe that ms. devos does not understand how public schools function and i also believe that she should be replaced with someone with more knowledge and understanding on the subject. ms. devos does not understand
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that public schools have the same impact on students as private schools and should be treated fairly. this affects my community, because many cannot afford private school and public schools are their only option. if mrs. dwros were to become secretary of education she would most likely harm the public school system and leave many without an education. from love's park illinois lz disa writes. i'm opposed to vouchers. i do not plain about paying education taxes. it was my and my husband's decision to send our child to a private school but as my immigrant grandmother often said one of the things that makes america great is education for all regardless of social class. i want every person as well educated as they can be in grades k-12. for goodness sakes vote no on betsy devos. travis, a principal from southern illinois, writes --
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quote -- "as a strong supporter of public education i ask that you oppose the confirmation of betsy devos as secretary of the u.s. department of education. we must have a secretary who can commit to supporting every student in all public schools and provide leadership that will help our neighborhood schools succeed. betsy devos' record in education and her performance at the recent confirmation hearing proves she's the wrong candidate for the job. as aspirins pal, i have spoken with teachers, parents, students and community members who agree that america's future depends on a strong investment in our nation's public schools. celia from stream wood, illinois, writes, betsy devos will not do justice to all our students because she has had no experience with public schools. a lot of schools, districts outside of the metropolitan area do not have charter schools, which she's a big proponent of.
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tawia from chicago writes i attended public school in rural illinois. my kids attended public school in chicago. my husband teaches at a charter school, but you and i both know that not all charters are run efficiently. and the record of charter schools in michigan, ms. devos' home state, are proof of that. ms. devos has absolutely no business making decisions about public schools, having never attended nor sent children of her own or having worked in any capacity there. i'm an evangelical white christian who votes in every election and while i might share some of her basic beliefs, i vehemently oppose her nomination for education secretary. please lean on those who support her to withdraw her name and do what is best for our nation's children. peggy from bev dear illinois writes i'm ex-teamly concerned that betsy devos is the nominee
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for secretary of education. i've been in education my entire life and believe we need to look at the millions that benefit from quality public educators and their dedication. there are wonderful classrooms but also some systems in need of great improvement. but this candidate clearly is not qualified for or even interested in giving a second thought to what middle class and poor children may need. please vote no. our children deserve better than this. in this uncertain time, please stand up for our kids and educators. mr. president, when i went back to springfield, illinois, i asked the local office there what kind of telephone calls we'd been receiving this past week. they showed me the results from wednesday. approximately 600 calls voting no on betsy devos, three yes. sarah from hyde park writes to me, ms. devos would single handedly decimate our public education system if she were ever confirmed.
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her plan to privatize education would deprive students from a good public education while helping students from wealthy families get another leg up. it would deprive teachers of a decent salary. it would make it harder for parents to get a good education for their kids. public education has lifted millions out of poverty, has put millions in good-paying jobs and has been the launching pad for people who want to cure disease and to create inventions that have changed our society for the better. i have a daughter who will be starting kindergarten in chicago public schools this fall. please do the right thing for her and millions of other ill children who -- other illinois children who depend on public schools and who will be negatively affected by ms. devos' confirmation. dr. crante, a doctor from the city of chicago writes not only do ethical concerns exist regarding devos conflicts of interest, but i'm also appalled at how unqualified she is to lead this country in such an important arena.
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as a family medicine physician, i've worked and trained in some of the poorest neighborhoods in chicago. i've seen firsthand how behind many of these children are compared to their peers. i strongly believe a voucher program would further this education gap by taking money away from public schools that need it the most. without a solid education, there's little chance for many of these children fo lift themselves out of their socioeconomic situation. i implore you to consider the well-being of these children, give them a better chance to be productive citizens of illinois. please cast your vote against betsy devos for secretary of education. i have a message from daniel from ukrainian village, michelle from bowling brook, christie, a mother of two from roger's park area of chicago, crystal from the city of peekin and chris continue from naperville, illinois, and i ask consent that their written statements be placed in the record. the presiding officer: they will be. mr. durbin: i also ask consent that this several-page document which includes letters of
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opposition to the nomination of betsy devos be placed in the record. there are some 322 letters in opposition to spare the government printing office, i won't ask that all these letters be reprinted, but it's a voluminous list of opposition to betsy devos. the presiding officer: so ordered. mr. durbin: i also consent -- i see my colleague on the floor from connecticut and i wanted to yield to him -- that this "new york times" article which was published on june 28, 2016, entitled "a sea of charter schools in detroit leave students adrift" by kate zernekey be placed in the record after my public statement. the presiding officer: so ordered. mr. durbin: mr. president, let me close by saying this is rare. it's rare that we have a nomination for the position of secretary of education which has drawn such controversy. there were many things that ms. devos could have been given as a reward for her loyal service and all the things she's done in her life, but to be entrusted with the responsibility of running
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america's public education system at this critical moment in our history certainly is not one of them as far as i'm concerned. we should have taken the time and the president should have taken the time to find a person who had the resume and the qualifications for this important responsibility. we owe our children nothing less, and i yield the floor. mr. blumenthal: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: i'm honored to follow my great colleague and a champion of education and consumer rights, senator durbin of illinois, and to address this body and most particularly the presiding officer who has contributed so much himself to the cause of education. we know better than anyone how important the federal commitment to quality education not just a c or d education, but excellent in education. and the american people deserve
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a secretary of education that embodies and exemplifies that commitment to excellence. unfortunately, the nominee before us, betsy devos, fails on every count to meet that standard. and so i am here today to voice my continuing concerns about this nomination which is antithetical to the very mission of the department that she has been selected to lead. she is unquestionably unqualified, unknowledgeable, unprepared for this job. she is unfit to run the department of education. as hard and unkind as that verdict sounds, we have an obligation to speak truth here and speak that truth to power, even when it's the president of
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the united states, even when it is a job as critically important as secretary education, especially when it is as important as this job. she is wealthy. she's a billionaire. she's committed her career to pushing for private school vouchers and unregulated charter schools. having reviewed her full record including her confirmation hearing and her responses and lack of responses to follow-up questions that my colleagues sent to her, i respectfully say to my colleagues, we should not approve this person. she has committed her education to -- her career, i should say, to pushing for private school vouchers and unregulated charter schools, not to the public education that our
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students deserve. the incoming secretary of education will face a myriad of challenging and constantly evolving problems that will demand a high level of leadership and guidance, from soaring student debt to faltering school and student achievement scores across the country, to the pervasive school violence and bullying that threatens so many of our students, to unscrupulous for-profit schools profiteering off students and veterans. clearly these problems and others require a secretary who will not just rubber stamp or approve the policies of special interests or delegate systematic
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problems to private schools. the secretary of is responsible for overseeing a budget of federal spending, over $36 billion. that is k-12 education funding. and $150 billion in higher education funding each year. in addition, there's a portfolio of more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding federal loans. that is the largest consumer debt in this country other than mortgage loans. the leader of this department is responsible for determining policies that affect our neighborhood public school. she is responsible, if she's confirmed, for enforcing key protections under a number of civil rights laws designed to ensure every child access to education. this job requires a singular level of intellect and energy,
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preparation, devotion to the welfare of students, parents, and, yes, educators and teachers. our educators and teachers are the real heroes of our educational system. our public school teachers are second to none in the world for their commitment to openin openg businesses, creating dreams, enabling students to achieve those dreams, and those dreams will be in peril if betsy devos is our secretary of education because she's demonstrated disrespect for the enterprise of public education. from implementing the every student succeeds act and improving education quality to protecting pell grant programs and reducing pervasive student debt and higher education to policing the epidemic of campus
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sexual assault and protecting students' civil rights at schools across the country, clearly our nation's chief education executive needs to be immensely qualified, not just questionably qualified but unchallengeably prepared and well versed in these complicated issues. the fact is mrs. devos has no relevant experience as a teacher or as a leader in public school. she has said that neither she nor her children have ever received a student loan or a pell grant. she has no direct experience with our public education system that would enable her to lead it. in addition to her lack of
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knowledge of higher education in public schools, she's demonstrated a profound animosity, an antipathy to them. she spent her career systematically privatizing and dismantling public schools instead of working to build them and improve them. for decades mrs. devos spent millions of her fortune advocating for the diversion of public money to unacceptable private schools and unaccountable private schools, especially in her home state of michigan. mrs. devos helped to design an ineffective charter school system with little accountability for results in detroit, but the systems that she helped to design and promote actually siphon money from
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michigan's already underfunded public school system and caused achievement rates there to drastically plummet. despite her rhetoric, school privatization schemes are plagued with severe problems. they often strip students with disabilities and their families of their right under the individuals with disabilities education act. this point underscores a fundamental theme for mrs. devos' record indicating how she would pose a threat, in fact an unprecedented danger to students' civil rights across the board. when asked during her confirmation hearing about the idea, mrs. devos admitted that she was -- quote -- confused.
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end quote. and thought that states were best positioned to enforce the federal law. that answer exposed not only her lack of knowledge but her lack of caring. someone who cared about students with disabilities would have known that this landmark education law depends on federal enforcement for its effect and she as education secretary would be the one to do that enforcement. before the passage of the 1975 law that later became the idea when decisions about students with disabilities were left to the states, only one in five students with disabilities received an education. does she believe that we ought to go back to the time when states were able to openly discriminate against students with disabilities, that states should be again delegated that
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responsibility which they failed to enforce effectively? whatever her answer clearly her blatant disregard for the idea threatens students with disabilities and underfunded disability programs. ms. devos also threatens students' rights and campus safety under title 9, including rights that are designed to protect students against campus sexual assault and other violence. this issue has concerned me. i have held round tables around the state of connecticut and submitted a measure bill that would help address this problem at the college level, but mrs. devos has advocated for legislation that would actually increase the difficulty for victims of sexual assault to receive support. during her hearing ms. devos
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told senator casey, our colleague, that she could not commit to continuing the obama administration's title 9 guidance that requires schools to have procedures in place, to investigate and address instances of campus sexual assault or risk losing federal funding. that title 9 commitment is at the core of the federal responsibility to protect students against sexual assault. we can agree or disagree on the details but this blatant disregard for title 9 responsibilities goes to the essence of her commitment to education in this nation and to protecting students against the scourge of sexual assault which we know is all too pervasive
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still on many of our campuses. even worse according to tax records, ms. devos has spent millions of dollars funding ultraconservative organizations that promote antichoice, anti-muslim and anti-lgbt policies like conversion therapy. i never would have thought that i would be on the floor of the united states senate considering a candidate who supported anti-lgbt policies or antichoice or anti-muslim policies. they don't belong in our schools. they certainly should not be supported by our nation's secretary of education. on the issue of for-profit education, again a source of great concern because it has
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given rise to so many abusive tactics directed often against our veterans. during her senate hearing, mrs. devos did little to allay my concerns about her record as a school choice advocate and political donor, adverse to protection against the abuses of for-profits. we know there are for-profit schools and colleges that do great work. they contribute vitally. but unfortunately for profits also have been plagued by abuses that need to be fought and overcome. mrs. devos successfully lobbied to expand even failing schools in michigan and protect those for-profits from scrutiny and
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oversight. this record of enabling for-profits and her own self-dealing in a for-profit school herself bodiedes ill fore hundreds of students who have deseptemberred, schemed in recent years by predatory for-profit institutions like corinthian college and i.t.t. tech. they left in their wake when they collapsed and failed those students a myriad of tragic stories, tragedies not just for loss of honey but loss of future opportunities and that is far from the kind of record that we want replicated under our next
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secretary of education. in fact, during her hearing, senator murray asked devos about 17 specific bad actor for profit higher education institutions, including corinthian and i.t.t. they have been accused of using exotic dancers to recruit students, falsifying job placement rates, stealing federal financial aid. ms. devos would not confirm whether she believes that those practices and misuse of taxpayer funds at any of those 17 schools are in fact unacceptable. she simply would not respond definitively to that question. but the secretary of education is responsible for policies that could either lift or exacerbate
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the crushing burden of student debt at those for-profit schools. she is the one who could alleviate that burden and yet she refused to commit to protecting any current student loan repayment options or benefits or even help severely disabled borrowers receive loan discharges that they qualified for. she refused to commit to protecting the pell grant, the public service loan forgiveness program, or maintain the existing transparency information on the college scorecard or federal student aid data center. ms. devos refused to commit to keep private banks out of the student loan system or ensure that taxpayers do not subsidize career education programs that consistently leave students with unaffordable mountains of debt
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without meaningful prospects in the job market. her record and her responses to senate questioning reveal that putting her in charge of the department of education would be akin to putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. i realize that analogy is overused, particularly in this town where there are so many instances of it, but her lack of appropriate definitive responses are as telling and compelling as her answers about her commitment to protecting rather than endangering the individuals and institutions who will be her mission if this body confirms her. as a member of the senate committee on veterans affairs, i have a special interest in
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protecting our nation's service members and veterans from insidious and pernicious predatory for-profit colleges. it's a paramount concern. it ought to be a paramount concern for our nation because all too often veterans are victims of these predatory for-profit colleges who lure them even while they are still in the military. they lure them with promises and images that create expectations never to be fulfilled. so many emerge from these colleges with mountains of debt but no degree. yet ms. devos refused to say whether she understands that veterans affairs and department of defense student loan and assistance programs are even federally funding or commit to closing the 9010 loophole that
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has enabled colleges to aggressively market and mislead many veterans. we've all spoken on the floor about the need to close that loophole. it is the plain vanilla solution that should be a matter of consensus and yet ms. devos refused to commit on that issue. she has earned a failing grade for lack of study, complete lack of diligence in preparing for her testimony and to lead in higher education programs. her commitment to protect students and veterans from massive debt, low quality education standards and accountability or pernicious for-profit companies and leaders