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  U.S. Senate Democrats Continue to Hold Floor as De Vos Vote Looms  CSPAN  February 7, 2017 7:59am-10:00am EST

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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 deserves a failing grade as
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well. i will not support a nominee who fails to agree that predatory practices, exploitation of taxpayers, and deception of students have no place in our education system while mrs. devos evaded questions about bringing accountability to school, she also refused to commit to keeping guns out of school. when asked by my colleague, chris murphy, whether guns have anyplace in or around schools, mrs. devos gave the following reply -- quote -- "i would imagine that there is probably a gun in schools to protect from potential grizzlies." end quote. that statement has given a lot
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of amusement to a lot of people around the country, but it deals with such a intensely serious subject that it is really no laughing matter. all of us who went through the tragedy and grief experienced by those families and loved ones who lost children and sandy hook in connecticut and saw the strength and courage of the newtown community cannot regard with anything but contempt that answer. when she was further pressured whether she would support a plan from president trump to ban gun-free school zones, mrs. devos revealed that she
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would support -- quote -- "whatever the president does" end quote. in some ways that answer is as repugnant as the remark about grizzlies. to say she would follow whatever the president does without leading and providing vision and the intellectual tools that are necessary for the president to act is an abdication of responsibility. these answers are woefully unacceptable. we recently observed the fourth anniversary of the sandy hook elementary school shooting. we still remember the 20 beautiful children and 6 exceptional educators who were brutally murdered in newtown. the day of the sandy hook
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shooting was the most heartbreaking of all my years in public service. according to every town for gun safety, there have been at least 210 school shootings since sandy hook. words cannot capture the sense of grief and outrage that we must feel in the face of continued gun violence around the country in our schools, malls, clubs, churches, public venues, private homes. this scourge of gun violence must be combated, and yet mrs. devos has indicated that she is impervious to the emotional force of the tragedies arising from gun violence. i want to share a passage from a column written by my friend,
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erica lafferty, the daughter of dawn lafferty hopspring. dawn was the principal at sandy hook elementary school murdered at the massacre that day as she desperately attempted to save her students and staff. "my mom spent her life preparing to take care of students. she earned a degree in education. she spent years in a classroom teaching special education for kindergartners and middle schoolers. by the time she became a principal of sandy hook, she knew exactly what elementary school should be: a happy place for kids where they could learn and grow in a safe environment. to claim that she should have done more to take care of her kids is an insult to all that
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she did and to the lengths to which so many teachers go to ensure a good and safe learning environment. that mrs. devos thinks bears, when asked about guns in schools, proves just how little she has considered the important role of the education secretary in keeping students and faculty safe. it is insulting to tell teachers that they should add sharpshooters to their job description. it's absurd to teach students to duck and cover in active shooter drills rather than demanding our legislators do the responsible thing and make it more difficult for dangerous people to get their hands on firearms."
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that is what betsy devos should have said in her hearing when she was asked about gun violence in our schools. that is the sense of outrage that should have come from her spontaneously, and it should be the leadership that she should provide. there is nothing more important than keeping our children safe from anyone who would do them harm, particularly in a school which should be the safest place in the world. and that means that our secretary of education must provide leadership and courage and strength to stand up to an administration that fails in its
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responsibility on the issue of gun violence. the families of sandy hook ask us to honor their children and family members with action, to make america safer and to make our schools safer. i cannot support a nominee who fails to prioritize the basic safety of students in our schools or take the scourge of gun violence seriously. i cannot support betsy devos because she fails to demonstrate basic caring. put aside her lack of knowledge, but a basic caring about the fates of students who may be in danger of gun violence
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and equally in danger of failing to achieve the american dream. her responsibility is beyond being a bureaucrat or a place holder in a federal organization chart. she has a public trust even as a nominee to show america the importance of public education. her career is about demeaning and detracting from public school. her testimony at the senate hearing portrayed a lack of preparing that would disqualify students in school from a passing grade. i have received numerous
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correspondence, letters and e-mails, about this nomination. in fact, 14,000 letters from teachers and concerned parents and citizens expressing outrage at the threat that mrs. devos poses to public education, disability rights and student success. for a small state like connecticut, 14,000 e-mails and letters is unprecedented. it is an outpouring, an uproar that is certainly unprecedented in my time in the united states senate and in the memory of staff who have worked here. and these letters come from
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teachers, students, parents, really everyone affected by public education. and i want to close by saluting them, and most especially the teachers and parents who are so committed to their students. i ask that a representative sample be entered in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: and finish by saying is i firmly believe that we owe our students high standards, just as we demand of them high performance. but that requires of us a commitment that betsy devos has failed to make. it is a commitment to invest more resources in public education, to give back and give more to our public schools.
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after observing her testimony, i am convinced that she lacks that leadership ability or requisite record to serve as the steward of public education and to hold that trust that our country desperately and urgently needs now, not at some point in the future. that commitment is necessary now because every day, every month, every year is a lifetime in a student's education. so i will vote against her confirmation today, and i encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do the same. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland.
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mr. van hollen: mr. president, i want to start by thanking my colleague, the senator from connecticut for his leadership on public education issues and the fight against gun violence. he's been a voice calling for commonsense measures to address gun violence and to make our schools more safe, and i thank him for all that he's done in that regard. mr. president, yesterday i came to this floor to discuss the risks in a betsy devos would pose to our public education system for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. with herzl lust focus -- with her zealous focus on vouchers for private schools, she's ignored accountability and unique needs in communities in maryland and throughout the nation. education is a public trust, and we should not contract it out to the highest bidders in various voucher schemes. but in addition to overseeing support for k-12 education, the secretary of education is also
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responsible for federal efforts in the area of higher education. so this morning, mr. president, i'd like to talk a little bit about higher education. we know very little about the positions the new president will take in the area of higher education. however, what we do know about his track record is very troubling. and based on the testimony of ms. devos and her responses to questions for the record, we can have little confidence that she will be a check on president trump's worst instincts. here's what we know. we know that president trump's main foray into continuing education is the now extinct trump university. make no mistake about it, trump university was a scam. it was a con game. it promised students great wealth if they only paid thousands of dollars for
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seminars on mr. trump's real estate -- quote -- "secrets." as senator rubio once pointed out not that long ago -- and i quote -- "there are people who borrowed $36,000 to go to trump university, and they're suing now. $36,000 to go to a university that's a fake school. and you know what they got?" senator rubio asked. "they got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of donald trump." end of quote. senator rubio was absolutely right when he made that statement. first of all, the word "university" in trump university was totally misleading. trump university was not an acredited institution, but it did promise to educate its students in the real estate industry so they could become skilled investors. an article in the conservative
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"national review" entitled -- quote -- "yes, trump university was a massive scam" explained that prospective students were offered a free seminar where they would be pressured to purchase a class where they would be -- quote -- "mentored by hand-picked real estate experts who would use president trump's own real estate strategies." end of quote. of course, mr. trump was neither hand-picking instructors nor developing class materials, and instructors did not even necessarily have a real estate background. in a deposition, plp trump could not -- mr. trump could not identify a similar instructor at trump university. so students were promised access to lenders, improved credit scores and long-term mentoring. the university did not deliver. according to a former employee,
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trump university -- quote -- preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money." unquote. employees were told to rank students based on their liquid assets so they could target them to sell more seminars. they took advantage of people. mr. president, because of its fraudulent practices, trump university was sued multiple times. in february, 2016, mr. trump dismissed those suits, saying, and i quote, i could settle it right now for very little money, but i don't want to do it out of principle, unquote. right before the class action lawsuit in san diego was scheduled to be heard by a jury, those principles evaporated and mr. trump settled all the lawsuits for a whopping $25 million, about 7,000 former students were granted a full or partial refund. now, mr. president, because
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trump university was a university in name only and not accredited, students attending trump university were not eligible to use federal student loans or grants. thank goodness. but there are many accredited for-profit colleges and universities that do make large sums of money from students who obtain federal student loans or federal grants, and it is the job of the secretary of education to make sure that those for-profit colleges are good stewards of those taxpayer dollars and that they are giving their students a good education. for example, under president obama's leadership, the department of education took action against the for-profit corinthian college for fraudulently enticing students to enroll by lying about their job placement rates. they told students if you enroll in our programs, we can get you a job. it wasn't true.
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as california's attorney general, our colleague, senator harris, pointed out in her lawsuit, they got more than $1 billion in damages and restitution from corinthian college because they targeted vulnerable low-income populations, including the homeless, directed them to predatory lending and failed to deliver an education that could really help them get a job. mr. president, their tactics were similar to those of trump university, callously targeting -- quote -- prospects they perceived as having -- quote -- low self-esteem who were -- quote -- unable to see and plan well for the future and those who had few people in their lives who cared about them. in order to stop these kind of abuses, the department of education under the obama administration put in place something called the gainful employment rule, which requires
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for-profit colleges to demonstrate real results for their students in order to continue to enroll students who use federal student loans and grants. we want to make sure that students enrolling in those programs have a decent shot at success and are not simply being separated from their money, including federal student loans. this gainful employment rule is important for protecting both students and taxpayers. that's why it was alarming that during her hearing, miss devos would not commit to enforcing the gainful employment rule. mr. president, our veterans have been among the students who have been most targeted by these abusive practices. just last week, i received a copy of a letter that was sent to senators alexander and murray and representatives foxx and
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scott from a coalition of veterans' organizations. i have it here, mr. president. it's a letter from the paralyzed veterans of america, the veterans -- the reserve officers association of the united states, the national military family association, amvets, blue star families, vietnam veterans of america, the wounded warriors project and student veterans of america. all opposing any weakening of the gainful employment rule and urging greater, not fewer, consumer protections. as they note in this letter, a loophole in what is known as the 9-10 law that caps the amount of funding for-profit schools can obtain from federal sources, exempts funds from the departments of defense and veterans' affairs.
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they write, as a result, our nation's heroes, our nation's heroes are targeted with the most deceptive and aggressive recruiting. the letter quotes holly petraeus of the u.s. consumer financial protection bureau who said that some for-profit colleges are motivated to view veterans and their families as, quote, nothing more than dollar signs in uniform, unquote. the letter further states, mr. president, that veterans express anger when they discover that the government knew that a career education program had a lousy record but allowed them to waste their time and g.i. bill benefits enrolled in it -- end quote. mr. president, that should make all of us angry. it should make us angry because of the service our veterans performed for our country. it should make us angry because
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it's a waste of taxpayer dollars to have these moneys spent in institutions that are not providing an education to our veterans or other students in the way that they advertise. yet, miss devos provided no assurance, none, that she would enforce the gainful employment rule that these veterans groups are calling to strengthen. and she also provided no insurance that she would pursue other consumer protections to help our students and veterans. in fact, when asked, she pointedly did not make that commitment. mr. president, taxpayers and students should be also troubled by statements that had been made by the trump team regarding their plans for the federal student loan program. as many people know, the department of education is
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responsible for managing a $1 trillion bank of student loans and $30 billion in pell grants each year. it's very important that these funds be managed in a way that protects the best interests of both students and taxpayers rather than simply fattening the bottom lines of the big banks and big lenders. in fact, seven years ago, congress, the house and the senate and the president signed the bill. we made important reforms to the federal student loan program. under the old system, banks distributed federally guaranteed loans in exchange for a subsidy from the federal government. in effect, banks were paid a premium to be the middleman and were also insured against most of the risk of the loan with a federal guarantee. in other words, they got a great return and took very little
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risk. in fact, the old system was rigged to provide huge returns to banks on certain loans. shortly after i came to congress, i worked with my colleagues to close what was then called the 9.5% loophole. the way it worked was this, written right into the code. some banks were able to make loans guaranteed by the federal government to give them a 9.5% return even though students receiving those loans were paying a 3.5% interest rate. the difference, mr. president, 6%, was pure profit paid by the taxpayers to the banks at zero risk. we were able to close that loophole after a number of years, and then in 2010, the congress, president obama, agreed that we should stop using banks as the middlemen in the student loan process.
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we shifted entirely to the direct loan program through the department of education. that move saved taxpayers $61 billion over a ten-year period, and we were able to use the savings to increase support for students to make college more affordable by increasing funding for pell grants, indexing to new inflation. we were able to expand the income-based repayment program so more students could afford college. and we put $10 billion toward deficit reduction. mr. president, the republican party platform under president trump calls for rolling back those important reforms and putting student loans back in the hands of the big banks, and when senator murray, the ranking member of the education committee, asked miss devos in a
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question for the record about privatization of the student loan industry, miss devos refused to rule out a return to the days when the big banks reaped huge profits off students and taxpayers by taking very little risk. it turns out, mr. president, that miss devos may herself have investments that represent conflicts of interest with the job of secretary of education or indicate a preference for privatization within higher education. for example, according to her ethics form, she has an investment in performant recovery inc which had a contract with the department of student loan for debt collection. performant lost that contract last year and is currently challenging the decision. mr. president, there is a common thread connecting the approach
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that both president trump and miss devos have taken with respect to both k-12 education and higher education, and that is the idea that we should put for-profit private interests over the interests of students and taxpayers. as we have heard, in michigan, miss devos was very instrumental in changing michigan state law in a way that attracted for-profit charter schools to the state of michigan. those schools have a very sorry record in terms of the education they provided to students in michigan. and now when it comes to higher education in her hearing, she refused to commit to enforcing the gainful employment rule which is designed to protect students and taxpayers from the kind of predatory practices engaged in by the likes of trump university.
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and she did not disavow proposals to turn the student loan program back over to the big banks. mr. president, we need a secretary of education who understands that our education system is a public trust and not simply a vehicle that allows for-profit schools and big banks to make a profit off of these important taxpayer investments. now, mr. president, i want to say a word as well about community colleges. i think all of us recognize the really important role that community colleges play in our education system. just two weeks ago, i had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the presidents of maryland's community colleges. it was organized by the maryland association of community colleges and included folks from all over the state. and we are fortunate in maryland
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and around the country to have some terrific community colleges that provide associate's degrees and certifications to advance careers, two-year programs for those students who plan to go on to get a four-year education and continuing education colleges for people who want to go back to school to learn new skills. our community colleges are particularly important because they are able to work closely with employers to identify skills that are in demand and adjust programs to prepare students to move directly into the work force. a number of years ago, i had the opportunity to work with my colleagues, senator mikulski and others, to obtain a federal grant for a consortium of maryland community colleges to train and prepare students in the area of cybersecurity.
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cybersecurity is something that's important to all americans. we're realizing more and more the costs and dangers of hacking, both in the government sector as well as the private sector. it's really important that we build a work force that has those important skills, and i am pleased, mr. president, that maryland is home to the u.s. cyber command at fort meade alongside n.s.a. we need to make sure we have students who have those important skims, and community -- important skills and community colleges along with others can help fill that skills gap. i also visited the community college of baltimore county where they're responding to the need for medical professionals by providing training to nurses and other medical assistants. they use something called
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technology, life-like man ne kins to help train nurses and emergency technical assistants and physician assistants. i think we should all agree that those community college programs are a really important block in our education system, and we should be supporting those colleges and the students that want to attend. now, mr. president, i was pleased that at the hearing ms. devos acknowledged the importance of community college. unfortunately she didn't put forward any concrete recommendations about how we can help those community colleges succeed, and that's particularly troubling in light of the fact that if you look at previous republican budgets, especially those coming out of
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the house of representatives but also those that were adopted in republican-controlled senates, they would do great damage to students' ability to access community college programs. mr. president, let's just look at the last budget conference agreement that passed from fiscal year 2016. it contains a whopping 35% cut to pell grants. that would eliminate all of the mandatory funding for pell and eliminate another almost $30 billion in discretionary funding. all together, it's a $117 billion cut over ten years. now, mr. president, nearly
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three million community college students in maryland and around the country depend on pell grants in order to be able to afford an education. so rather than making dramatic cuts to the program, we should listen to our community colleges and expand the program to a year-round grant to give students greater flexibility to finish their degrees in less time. that's what -- those are the cuts that the republican budget would make to the pell grant program. at the same time when it comes to the other components of the federal student loan program, the republican budget would cut so much that in order to compensate, you'd have to raise student loan rates to make up the difference. mr. president, those troubling
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positions are on top of a proposal made by the trump team to require colleges to -- quote -- "risk share" by taking some responsibility for nonpayment of loans among their students, which would have a particularly damaging impact for community colleges. community colleges already operate on very narrow margins, so any cut to their budget from risk sharing would require them to do one of two things. increase tuition, making community college less affordable. or cutting programs, including the kind of program i just talked about that helps those students build the skills that are needed in the workforce of today. sam clovis, who was a trump campaign cochair, also said
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that mr. trump would reject president obama's plan for free community college for our students. in an interview with the daily online publicationinside higher ed, mr. clovis said community colleges are -- quote -- "damned near free and did not require any further assistance." i hope mr. clovis would come to the state of maryland and talk to our students. we work very hard in the state of maryland to keep tuition low at community colleges. but for folks who are just trying to scrape by, i can assure him that it's not damned near free. and i certainly hope that ms. devos does not share this gross misunderstanding of student needs.
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mr. president, we heard from senator blumenthal, we heard from others on this floor about the incredible outpouring, grassroots outpouring of opposition to the nomination of ms. devos. she's drawn opposition from teachers and parents and civil rights organizations. we've seen that ground swell overwhelm the phone systems here in the united states senate. maryland schools, schools throughout the country deserve a champion in their secretary of education. when president trump and congressional republicans proposed plans to cut and divert federal education funding, we need a secretary of education who's going to fight for public education. ms. devos is clearly not that person. our founders understood and from the earliest days of this
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republic we understood that a free public education is a fundamental american value. free public education at neighborhood schools throughout our land has helped make america more productive, broadened opportunity and sustained local neighborhood schools and communities. i share my colleagues' deep concern that ms. devos does not appear to share a commitment to that american idea. she has devoted much of her adult life and career, in fact to advancing private educations that would divert resources from our public schools. she has shown a lack of awareness in many statements alarming views about our nation's commitment to equal rights for children with disabilities. we cannot retreat from that commitment that we made as a country, and we cannot return to an era when equal rights were just another concern for states
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to decide on their own. we also heard, as senator blumenthal discussed, the flippant statements about guns in schools and the safety of our children. we cannot retreat from our determination to keep our schools safe and gun-free. and when president trump has a history of promoting a sham for-profit trump university, we need a secretary of education who will zealously oversee for-profit colleges that receive students with federal student loans and grants. nothing in her testimony or statements in response to questions gives me any comfort that ms. devos can be that person. mr. president, education holds
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the key to a more prosperous america, a better informed electorate and a society in which the nation's bounty is more fairly shared as more citizens have access to a good education. we cannot advance those goals without a strong secretary of education. we cannot leave this job to just happen on its own. we need somebody who's going to fight for those ideals, and unfortunately the record indicates that ms. devos is not that person. so i join with my colleagues in opposing the nomination. i hope between now and the time of the vote other senators will take another look at the record, because it is important that we muster the votes to defeat this nomination. and we also must show very
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clearly that we will not accept a department of education that is focused more on undermining our commitment to a public education than one that is upholding that important american tradition. so i thank you, mr. president, and i defer now to the ranking member of the education committee. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i have been so impressed by the large number of senators who have come to the floor to tell their stories of why public education is so personal and important to them and to their constituents. and i want to thank all of the staff who is here all night
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long, our clerks, pages, people in the cloakrooms, everyone who has given time of their own to be here to support us to be able to talk about this critical, important nomination: the secretary of education. i think all of my colleagues will agree with me that there has been an unprecedented outpouring of concern from across the country about this cabinet nominee. why is that? why is it that the secretary of education has brought such emotion and discussion to this country? well, for a very important reason. education is a critical part of everyone's lives. the founders of this country knew that when they determined that we in this country were going to have a free public education system. why? because they wanted to make sure that every citizen had the opportunity to read and write and participate in this democracy.
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a core principle to assure that all of us would have a voice in who our president and who our elected officials were, so that we would understand and be educated and make the right decisions. that core principle is so important to this country and has allowed us for centuries to be the kind of country where we have a middle class, people who are born into poverty know that there is a school there that they can go to to learn, to read and write and get the skills they need to be a participant in our democracy and in our economy. that's what's at stake in this nomination. people across the country are writing in and calling and holding rallies and talking to their neighbors and friends and letting us know how important this is because they do not want to lose that principle. in this nominee that has been sent to us is a threat to that very basic core value that so many people believe in in this
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country, that no matter who you are or where you grow up, how much money you have or who your parents are, you will have that public education, that public school in your community that you will be able to go to. i was a school board member before i was a u.s. senator, before i was in the state senate. and those school board meetings were jammed with parents who wanted to know what was happening in their schools, who would call me at midnight and complain about a school policy or what was going on. and as a school board member, i had to listen and respond to that. people value their schools. they want to know they're there. our schools are the heart of our communities. it's where people from different backgrounds who may be fighting with their neighbor across the street during the day but show up on friday night to cheer together for that football team. it is the center and the epi center of our communities. it's the epicenter of our country. and that's what's at stake in this nomination. and people want the secretary of education to be a champion for
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their public schools. in this nomination that has been sent to us by the president, betsy devos, we have someone who values and speaks out for and has used her fortune to fight for something very different. she has denigrated public schools. she says they need to end. she advocates giving our young kids a voucher and telling them to find a private school, leaving behind kids who can't afford to go hours to another school or to pay that extra money that the voucher doesn't cover, leaving kids in poverty, robbing them of really critical money from our schools and from the kids who would be left behind. yes, our kids want choices. this is not a debate about charter schools. many states, including mine, have charter schools. but the difference is in those states and in my state and many, those charter schools are held accountable just like the public schools, so that you
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know your child is getting the education that they have been promised and that it is held accountable to taxpayers. ms. devos refused in our committee to say that those charter schools, those private schools, if they take taxpayer dollars, which a voucher is, would be held accountable to the taxpayers. to the parents in those communities who showed up at my school board meetings to tell me what they thought of their schools and what we should be doing and had a voice. it would not be accountable to them. now, i just find that wrong. as a principle in this country and our democracy and what we have fought so hard for. that's why so many parents are speaking out. that's why so many senators have been here on the floor. that's why we have been here all night long and will be here until noon today during this vote. that's what's at stake. and in our higher education system, where all of us know that so many young people today want that ticket to success and student loan debt is such an
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incredibly huge challenge to so many people, a barrier to getting the education they need. they want someone who's going to head up the department of education who understands that. betsy devos has no experience in higher education. none. and she is going to lead the agency and be the voice and be the vision? that's were parents and students and teachers and community leaders and superintendents and school board members and families across the country have stood up and said no. mr. president, this is so close. we are within just one vote of sending this nomination back and asking the president to send us a nominee that can be supported by members on both sides of the aisle, that can set a vision, that can fight for public schools, that can be that champion and that leader that sets us apart in the world as a country that values the core principle that every child, no matter who they are or where they live, will get a good
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education. mr. president, the secretary of education is not a figurehead. the secretary of education spends his or her days trying to make the right decision, and being a champion across the country on issues across the board. they oversee the office of civil rights. last night i had the opportunity to listen to senator booker speak about the importance of that office and what it meant to him and what it means to so many kids today to know that there is in this country an agency, the office of civil rights, embedded in the department of education to assure that they will not be denied an education because of the color of their skin. isn't that a value we all want to continue? that's why people have spoken out and written letters and made phone calls and had their voices heard. so many parents in this country today want to make sure that the basic education law that we have
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fought for for so long, idea, that assures that students with disabilities get a good education is not put in jeopardy. well, miss devos came to our education committee and was asked about this, she had no idea that it was the law of the land. she said to our committee, the states can do that. well, no, why is it a law of the land? why is it a principle of the united states of america to assure that no matter where you live, if you are someone with a disability, you will get access to an education. i listened to nor hassan last night -- to senator hassan last night talk about her own young son and the challenges he has had. he is a bright man, but he is unable to speak or move, but he got an education in this country and he can get back and he can participate. disabilities come in all sizes and all different shapes and all different forms, and i assure you when you are a parent of a disabled child, you are passionate and you want to make sure that your child has access to that education, and you want
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the secretary of education, the top person in this land to be your advocate, too. not someone who doesn't know the law. not someone who isn't directing her staff to make sure that no matter where you are, if you are a student of disability, you get access to public education and are not denied. our country is great because we have these principles. our country is great because we value each individual. our country is great and will continue to be great if we continue to do that. but it won't be great if this body gives the nod to a secretary of education who doesn't value that. what does that say to young kids across the country? to parents of students with disabilities. to young people in this country living in poverty or living in the community or having family issues that wants to know they, too, live in a land of opportunity. that's why we have heard from so many parents and so many administrators and so many
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community leaders, because that is a core value of our country. the ability to know that you can get an education. mr. president, again, this is not a debate about charter schools. there are charter schools in many states. this is a debate about taking as much as $20 billion from our public education system and using it for vouchers for private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers. if nothing else, i appeal to my republican colleagues to think about that, to think about the fact that taxpayer dollars will not be held accountable under miss devos' plans and policies. you give a voucher to a student and they go to a school and they're not teaching what they should be. there's nowhere to go for those parents. and it's their taxpayer dollars and it's our taxpayer dollars. that's why this nominee is so important. that's why so many have stood up on our side and two republicans
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have stood up and spoken out against this nominee. title 9, making sure that we protect students and making sure that their rights are protected and that women have the opportunity to go and get a degree without being challenged or being put down or being a victim of sexual harassment. we need a secretary of education who knows that law, who will enforce it so that students across the country know that there is a champion in the top office of this land who is telling their staff to enforce this law and to back up those students. that's what this debate is about. i heard some of my colleagues on the other side talk about the fact that we have a g.i. bill which they essentially called in the debate a voucher for men and women who have served our country to go to higher education and likened that to the voucher system they're talking about in k-12. mr. president, that's not equal. that's given to members of our service rightly so to say you served our country, we will make
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sure that you get an education. but, mr. president, in our country, we value every student in every community to give them a voucher and say go find a school is not a way of providing education. ask any school board member in this country. ask any parent in this country. they want that public education school. that school in their community that is valued. they don't want that money taken away from that school, and they want every child to know that just as our founders said, a public education that will assure that every child has that opportunity. so, mr. president, this really is an important debate and we are very close to the hour when we are going to have a vote, and it will only take one more courageous republican to say, you know, i have thought about this. i listened to her testimony, the short testimony that we have had. i looked at her answers to the questions, and i, too, want to
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send a message to this country that the value of public education is critical. the president has other people they can -- he could send over, a lot of them who value education, who have had experience, unlike this candidate, who will send a message to this country that truly we do value public education. so i hope that in the next few hours we can take pause and have that happen. it won't be the end of the world. it won't be the first nominee that doesn't get the votes they need in the senate, but it certainly will be a moment in the history of this country where we stand up and we're proud and we say not on our watch. not on our watch. and we want the head of the department of education who actually values education for all students, public education for all students. again, mr. president, i know i have a colleague behind me who is ready to speak here, and i thank him for being here this morning and will yield him the floor. i just want to say again thank you to all the parents and
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students and family members and school officials and community leaders and so many people who have called and written and spoken up. your voice matters. your country matters. public education matters. and i'm so proud to stand with all of you and to fight to make sure this country remembers that and votes right at the end of the day. with that, i will yield to my colleague. mr. wyden: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: before i begin my remarks, i just want to make sure that everyone understands that senator murray has been on this floor hour after hour after hour for a reason, and that is these nominations are enormously important, and this one is right at the heart of what families and parents and communities want because it deals with education. i heard that again this weekend, mr. president. i had three town hall meetings,
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mostly rural areas. we had record turnouts. senator murray knows oregon and washington have just gotten pounded here in the last few weeks with bad weather. i had to fly all night to get back for this debate. and everybody said how important this was because they understand what betsy devos, if she is confirmed, would mean for our country. and i want to start by putting a focus on this issue around what oregonians are particularly concerned about this morning. they are concerned when we talk about education about boosting our high school graduation rates. parents, teaches, the community all mobilized, and i want to start my remarks by saying that i know people across the country are concerned about this, worked
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very closely with senator murray and senator alexander on this, and the reason that oregonians feel so strongly is that we have been first in so many areas. for example, protecting our natural treasures. but we're not where we want to be in terms of high school graduation rates. and so for communities across oregon, the business community, democrats, republicans, liberals, conservatives, independents, you name it, it is top priority business for our state to improve high school graduation rates. that's because we understand that getting those graduation rates up is crucial to making sure that young people can be better prepared for their next step, whether that's college, whether it's work force. anything that they want to do. and i want to start my remarks
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with respect to the devos nomination very specifically. i do not believe improving high school graduation rates can be built on a foundation of alternative facts, yet that is what betsy devos has been promoting. for example, she recently told the senate that graduation rates at virtual private schools, private schools which she has invested in, were almost twice as high as the actual graduation rates at those schools. she said that at the nevada virtual academy, there was a graduation rate of 100%. the actual graduation rate is 57%. she claimed that at the ohio virtual academy, there was a graduation rate of 92%.
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the actual rate is 46%. i think this pretty much qualifies as a set of alternative facts. but at home, with the kind of town meetings that i just had this weekend, people would probably call them four pinocchio falsehoods, an ideological hocus-pocus. the alternative facts just may be the devos way but they aren't the oregon way. as i said to oregonians this weekend, we had teachers and community leaders come to these meetings. what we do is we operate on something we call the oregon way. the oregon way is about democrats and republicans, people of all philosophies. we had great republican governors, tom mccall, mark hatfield who also served in this
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body and were independent. who want fresh, practical approaches. and we focus on ideas that work, ideas that get results, and we focus not on alternative facts but on the truth. so what i heard again this weekend at home is that we're bringing together teachers and the classrooms and parents and community leaders and trying to determine what are the key factors in why students are not graduating. and at home, people are asking how do you get results? what actually is going to work in the classroom? and at our schools? educators and principals tell me that mentoring programs work. they tell me at home that summer learning programs work. they point out the track record of after-school programs.
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and they've got the facts, mr. president, to back them up. these facts aren't alternative facts. they're not inflated graduation rates. the way betsy devos told the senate. these are based on actual studies, studies that have shown that youth, especially at-risk youth with mentors are more likely to join extracurricular activities, take on leadership roles at school or volunteer in their communities. after school and summer learning programs, again very solid track records providing a safe place to learn and keeping low-income and at-risk youngsters on a path towards graduation. those same educators have told me in my town halls that they oppose elevating betsy devos into a job with the important
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responsibility of steering the future of our nation's children. and the reason they have expressed these views is much like what i have stated to the senate, and that is that the evidence, not alternative facts but hard evidence doesn't back up many of the judgments betsy devos has made in guiding her work in this field. in oregon citizens, thousands of them, worry that the confirmation of betsy devos is going to make it harder to help students succeed in the classroom and graduate from high school. now, this graduation rate for us in oregon, mr. president, and i'm sure we're not alone, takes on a new and important urgency because of the changes that were made last year, bipartisan change, senator murray and senator alexander made in the
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paspassing of every student succeeds act. the whole point of this bill is of course there's great frustration across the country with leave no child behind, the predecessor, and i remember at one point illustrating the frustration with that law, we had a wonderful school in rural oregon, mostly low-income youngsters, mostly minority youngsters. they worked like crazy. their parents were very involved. their teachers just rolled up their sleeves and they were doing very well at getting their test scores up. and at one point we were told they were going to be labeled a failing school because apparently for a short period of time, a number of youngsters had the flu and so the attendance rate wasn't what it should be fnl--should be. those were the kinds of stories that illustrated why it was so
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important to fix leave no child behind, focus on approaches that work, and it's my view that what senator murray and senator alexander did with respect to bipartisan leadership around an important bill, important for the future of students, important for their ability to get a job, do what they want in their years ahead. when you have a bipartisan bill which the president has signed into law, replacing failed education policies and giving teachers more control over their classrooms, you ought to move quickly and boldly to carry out that law. and that law included a provision that i wrote to help high schools with low graduation rates turn around student achievement by putting the most disadvantaged students on a path to success. it allows local educators --
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this isn't run by washington, d.c. i'm always hearing oh, you know, everybody is talking about having it run from washington, d.c. that's not what i voted for. what i voted for and the majority of senators voted for was a fresh approach allowing local educators to promote and expand on programs and policies that actually work in their community. they recognize that what works in roseberg, oregon, may not necessarily work in tallahassee. and so we wrote a bipartisan bill to come up with approaches tailored to what local educators want to pursue and i think now is we're moving to see this law implemented and states and schools across the country are moving to implementation. it's more important than ever that the senate get this right,
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that we get it right now and that we use approaches grounded in the facts and grounded in the reality of public education. my concern is based on betsy devos' record which i have looked at at length, that bipartisan work could be undercut by a system that has not been shown to improve academic outcomes for students. in detroit, ms. devos has spent years advocating for a voucher system that gives scarce taxpayer dollars to private and religious schools. her efforts have essentially left public schools to do more for their students with less of the funding they desperately need. now, i was on a program this morning, a radio program. they were discussing the views of various senators on this and
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i heard discussion of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle describing the fact that they were supportive ms. devos because they thought her unconventional approaches and her fresh ideas were a real advantage in her having this position. mr. president, i don't take a back seat to anybody in terms of being unconventional approaches. i think it would be fair to say pretty much most of my time in public life has been defined by taking unconventional approaches. so i welcome new ideas, ideas from people who have not been involved in government and ideas that frankly that are out of the box, that are unconventional, but they still have to be based on hard evidence that they're going to work. we're trying fresh approaches in medicare, for example.
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the idea is that medicare today is no longer the medicare of 1965. it's all about chronic disease, cancer, diabetes and heart disease and strokes, and a big bipartisan group of us here in the senate have written bipartisan legislation to try a very different approach, certainly unconventional but it's grounded on the facts. it's grounded on what we know about taking care of folks at home and on the benefits of telemedicine. so that is why i'm opposing the devos nomination, not because i'm hostile to unconventional approaches or fresh faces or people who haven't been involved in government. quite the contrary. i probably have a bit of a bias for just that. i'm opposing the nomination because of the track record, the track record that muscle of what she has advocated for hasn't
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worked, number one, and number two, when she was challenged on it, such as the question of the graduation rates in some of those programs she invested in, she inflated their rates. she said they were almost twice as high as they actually were. so the country can't afford to allow failed policies, particularly as we move to implement the new law that in particular do not suggest a very positive set of opportunities for public schools at the local level. we've recognized as a nation for years how vital public education is to giving children in america the chance to climb the economic ladder. it is a bedrock principle of public education that investment in public schools, an investment where there's a track record of fresh ideas that work rather
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than ideological approaches where the evidence suggests it doesn't work. when you make those investments, you can serve everyone. i cannot support an education secretary with a track record that flies in the face of the need for our country to make smart investments in public schools. i've described how the next education secretary faces a challenging agenda with huge stakes and graduation rates and improving them are right at the heart of it. but obviously we're going to have a need for other fresh ideas making college more affordable. ms. devos just doesn't have the qualifications to achieve the success that 50 million students in american public schools demand. the person entrusted with our children's future should not be put at the head of the class
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just because she is part of a family that wields enormous public influence. you get these jobs because you earn them, because you have been involved in your community, in various kinds of charitable or philanthropic efforts and your work produces concrete, tangible results that indicate that you can carry out a job of this importance. the reality is, mr. president, these nominations are some of the most important judgments we make as a senate. the people we budget in these offices -- we put in these offices are going to control literally billions of dollars in spending. they are going to enforce laws that in some instances are
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decades and decades old and at a minimum update the ones that need updating. and i can tell you what i heard again this weekend in rural oregon indicates that the people i have the honor to represent do not believe betsy devos is up for the job. so this morning i stand up for kids and parents and families who deserve education policies that will let them go after their dreams and secure their futures. and i believe they deserve better. i believe betsy devos is going to make it harder for working families to achieve those aspirations. that is why i will vote this morning against the nomination of betsy devos to be secretary of education. i encourage my colleagues to do the same. i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from dell ware card mr. president, i would like to -- mr. cardin: mr. president, i would like to thank my colleague for his deeply and compelling remarks on the floor this morning about why he will vote against betsy devos -- mr. coons: -- for secretary of education of the united states. you heard from my colleagues last night, this morning, for an entire day the concerns that they've come away from. her confirmation hearing with, the concerns they've heard from their home state and from educators and parents, teachers and administrator, all concerned about education in their home states, and i am honored to have a chance to add my few brief words this morning to explain to my constituents and to everyone in this chamber why i, too, believe that betsy devos is not qualified to serve as secretary of education of the united states. mr. president, a simple question
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for any parent out there is why would a parent want a classroom teacher who want qualified to stand before that class and teach their children? why would any community leader, civic leader, parent, educator want a principal who want qualified to lead the school building and to lead instruction and to make sure that the school was moving forward in a good and positive way. the answer is they wouldn't. why would any parent, why would any business leader, why would any legislator want a superintendent for a school district who had no previous experience in public education and whose agenda was well outside the mainstream of education? the answer is they wouldn't. so i think the yes before us as a senate today is why would any of us want support, vote for a nominee to be secretary of education who's demonstrated lack of grasp of the basics of
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education makes her obviously unqualified? the answer is i don't. we don't. we shouldn't. as we saw during her abbreviated senate hearing, ms. devos has no grasp of basic public education issues. she has zero direct experience. she hasn't taught in the public schools. she hasn't sent her kids to public schools. she hasn't been educated or trained in teaching in the public schools. she doesn't seem to understand, for example, that federal law provides basic protections for students with disabilities. she has no idea what the idea is and why it is a central part of protecting and supporting and serving students with intellectual intabilities. she -- disabilities. she refused to rule out privatizing public schools and refused to commit to enforcing federal laws that protect women and girls in schools from sexual assault. but that's not all as if that weren't enough. betsy devos has spent her entire
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career and millions, even tens of millions of dollars methodical undermining the public school system in the united states, from privatizing and defunding public education to undermining accountable standards in michigan and across the country. betsy betsy devos has turned michigan into the biggest school choice experiment in the nation. unfortunately for michigan, students and families, that experiment has gone terribly wrong. there is a lot of talk in education circles about two key issues -- access and accountability. what is stunning about betsy devos' record in michigan is that she worked tirelessly to ensure access to taxpayer dollars for the widest possible range of private and parochial schools, charters and through vouchers, schools of all type, academies, newly established to take advantage of taxpayer dollars and to siphon them into nontraditional or nonpublic schools. but without accountability. without accountability, charters
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and choice can lead to tragic results, can literally lead to siphoning desperately needed dollars out of our public schools and into the pockets of those who would profit from experiments in public education. why would we allow access to taxpayer dollars with no accountability for the performance, and when did it become something that the other party would champion that we would have access to taxpayer dollars without accountability for results. i understand the drive, the desire, even the passion for experimentation in public education. i spent more than 20 years working with the i have a dream foundation, and we served parents and students in some of the toughest, most struggling public schools in the entire united states. and i heard from parents that they wanted better schools for their kids, and i understand that in some communities, there is a passion for experimentation with charters and with choice. but to embrace that without accountability, to ensure that the outcomes are better, without
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making any serious effort to ensure that these diverted taxpayer dollars are not simply wasted or turned into a mill in a machine for profit i think is the worst sort of taking advantage of the hopes and dreams of parents and students who are seeking progress, and it ends up undermining and defunding and devaluing traditional public schools all across our country. as my colleagues, my friend from the state of washington and many others have pointed out, there are serious concerns with how republicans have considered her nomination. miss devos was rushed into her confirmation hearing before she had submitted the basic and appropriate ethics paperwork, meaning senators had no way of clearing her from potential conflicts of interest. traditionally, this hasn't been much of a concern since we have often had secretaries of education with long public careers who had been subject to some transparency and some
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review previously, and i can't remember a time when we had a secretary of education who was a billionaire and thus subject to much broader potential conflicts of interest. and i frankly can't remember a time when we had a president who was a billionaire and declined, refused to release his taxes or to address his manifest conflicts of interest. so, frankly, the fact that the senate help committee raced forward with miss devos' confirmation without addressing some of these basic issues is more concerning in this context than in any previous time. and if the members of this committee, who represent a broad range of views and experiences and is exactly what the senate is for, were limited to one round of five minutes per question, hardly sufficient for any nominee let alone a controversial nominee with no public experience let alone undermining the underpinnings of the public school system, we can only conclude there was something behind this effort to race miss devos forward.
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we have seen here on the floor she has become so unpopular that the other party has had to delay the confirmation vote in order to ensure her confirmation. and it's my guess that later this morning, we will see the president of the senate cast a deciding vote, something that although not unprecedented is certainly unusual and suggests that other senators have heard from their states as i have from mine. a chorus of opposition. in her confirmation hearing, miss devos struggled to articulate basic concepts central to current debates and publications. in trying to identify and reconcile the simple concepts of growth and proficiency, she showed neither growth nor proficiency. she showed neither a grasp of the basics nor ability to learn nor a mastery of the simple concepts central to how we make progress in public education. you know, here in the senate, congress in recent years after years of disagreement and fighting with the every student succeeds act, we have reached a
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modicum of agreement. we have reached a point of equilibrium and had hopefully turned to a point where we could work together in a bipartisan and balanced way on some of the pressing issues in higher education, in elementary education, in career and technical education. but instead, we see one of the more radical nominees ever for secretary of education, someone who brings, i am afraid, an agenda, a strong and forceful agenda that if it is continued nationally as it was in michigan, i am concerned predicts a difficult future. even for those who are most in need of support of engagement of quality schools, even those who miss devos claims to have dedicated, her education activism to advancing i think will be deeply harmed. none of these reasons that i just laid out about the timing, about the length of the hearing, about the disclosures, about her
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performance in the confirmation hearing, none of them would necessarily taken alone be cause for grave concern and alarm, but taken in combination, they are fundamentally disqualified. but don't take my word for it. don't take my word for it. i'm on five different committees. i have lots of other confirmations i am challenged to be engaged in. i have other issues going on that have made it hard for me to attend every single meeting and hearing about ms. devos. but there are folks in my home state of delaware who have watched every minute, who have followed it very closely and who have in an unprecedented wave of input reached out to my office. now, these numbers, if i were from a state like california or texas or new york might not seem striking, but from my little state of 900,000 constituents, the idea that more than 3,000 delawareans have reached out to me urgently and directly is fairly striking. i've gotten more than 450 phone calls in opposition to
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ms. devos. my office in wilmington ton received a signed petition with 800 signatures from delawareans asking me, urging me to vote no. someone buttonholed me literally on the train this morning to make certain that i was going to vote no. and i have received more than 2,200 letters from delawareans, letters from educators, from parents, from community and civic leaders of all different backgrounds all up and down my state, and those 2,200 letters makes this one of the top issues that delawareans have reached out to me on in this past year. as i said, that may not sound like a lot of input. if i were from california, new york, oklahoma, washington state, 3,000 would be relatively few, but in my state, that is a loud and clear message. and so let me be just as loud and clear in my replay. i hear you and i will vote
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against betsy devos for secretary of education. let me take a minute and share with you some of the concerns i have heard from delawareans, constituents who followed her confirmation hearing closely, who followed the record of its progress from committee to floor closely and who raised the alarm and who have shared that with me. one educator, a career teacher, somebody who is veriage stated about the record she showed in michigan and what it might mean for our state in delaware said concisely why should we roll call a billionaire president who nominates a billionaire friend, who sees children not so much as children to be educated and supported and served but as tokens, to be used as an experiment in privatization and profit made off our public school system. that educator said he was terrified. jen, a middle school teacher at
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reading school district tells me her first thought after watching mrs. red cross' senate hearing closely was that students deserve better than her. jen goes on to say students deserve a national leader who has real experience working in public schools, someone who knows the strengths and challenges that each student brings to the classroom. jen said as a teacher, i need someone who will fight for all students, low income, gifted, talented and especially our students with disabilities. jen said i work in a classroom filled with students like these, students of every background, skill level and need, and they deserve someone better. sherry wrote to me from lewes, delaware. she is a retired lifetime educator and district supervisor and coordinator and just a few years ago she retired to lewes after spending her life advancing public education. she wrote that until now, she --
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quote -- never felt it necessary to write my senators to oppose a presidential nomination, but here is why this time is different. as sherry rights, betsy devos is a proponent of school dollars which siphoned off from public schools. she does not have a degree in education, she has no experience in public education, and hasn't shown a willingness to listen to and learn from practitioners and experts in the field. mr. president, shari is exactly right. our kids deserve better. that's why, mr. president, when it comes to betsy devos' nomination to serve as secretary of education, i'm not just voting no. i'm voting no way. and it is important to me that everybody here know that my constituents in my state have spoken with nearly a unanimous voice, a very, very few have conveyed any support whatsoever for ms. devos, and an
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overwhelming voice of thousands have expressed concern, agitation, even alarm at the idea that this person with this record would be handed the reins of the federal department of education with likely disastrous results. for this most foundational experiment that is at the core of american democracy, that is essential to our being a country where equality of opportunity, the freedom to pursue our own skills and gifts and have them enlightened, educated, uplifted is at the very core of what it means to be american. public schools in which any child of any background has a free and fair opportunity to pursue their god-given talents and to rise through our society and contribute at the highest levels isn't something to be played with, isn't something to be experimented with casually. is something to be taken deeply
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seriously. we have challenges in our public schools. we have challenges in our society, and they are reflected in our schools. but if our schools are not strong, if our schools are not educating our children, we have no hope of becoming a more just, a more equal, a more constructive, a more coherent and a more inspiring society. our public schools are the very foundation of what it means to be american and to put in charge of our department of education someone who doesn't share that view. it pains me deeply, concerns my constituents and alarms many of us who have spent year after year trying to support to improve and advance public education in the united states. for all these reasons, mr. president, it is my intention to vote no. in fact, no way today on miss devos. with that, i yield the floor.
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mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: mr. president, again i am on the floor and i want to thank all of our staff and clerks and everyone who has been here throughout the last 28 hours and speaking from their hearts about the issue of public education, why it's so important to them and why they want a secretary of education that has that value and promotes that value and has the vision of that value which is really why so many people in this country have spoken up and sent us letters and held rallies and inundated our phones. i want to thank all those people have done that. it's made an impact here and made a difference. i think it's woken each one of us up to what we care about in this country and what we value and what we want. like many people i received so many letters from my
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constituents, over 48,000 letters. that's just letters, not phone calls that i got. i want to share some of them with you because they come from people's hearts. they're not form letters. they're not something i got from somebody else and forwarded. these are personal. i think it is important that we hear these people. i want to thank marie carlson from federal way. she sent me a letter and she said dear senator murray, thank you for your continuing efforts at trying to prevent betsy devos from becoming the head of department of education. i have a child who just started his schooling in our public school system and from everything i've read or listened to about this woman, she has no business in education at all. she has no knowledge of the laws and protections guaranteed to our children, no comprehension of what our educators deal with on a daily basis and would regress and otherwise destroy our education system if she were allowed to become head of the department.
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i fear for my child's education, his safety and his ability to compete in a global community in the future. i stand with you and thank you again for your efforts. i want to thank marie for writing in and like so many people across the country, watched the hearing that ms. devos came to and spoke to our committee. we were only allowed five minutes each which i really regret because i think it is important that we see who is going to be leading this agency and our ability to not ask her questions with full information really gave just a shallow picture of who she was, but like many people, my constituents and those across the country watched and we're just shocked that somebody who had been nominated to head the department of education had such little experience and knowledge and understanding of the agency that they had been tapped to lead. i heard from miz zyna howl in seattle. she said, i'm writing to express opposition to the nomination of ms. betsy devos as education
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secretary. mrs. devos does not have any experience in the field of education and as a result will not effectively lead the department of education in maintaining and improving public education in the country. she did not seem to possess a basic understanding of key education policies, including the responsibilities of the idea act. she did not understand the difference between student proficiency and student growth measures. she did not understand simple facts and figures like the percent increase in student debt from 2008 to 2016. she failed to adequately answer questions on equal protection for lgbt students and their civil rights, confronting campus sexual assault and the regulation of the for-profit higher education industry. this is mrs. howl and she happened to be the alliance of black school educators expressing deep concerns that the nominee doesn't have the
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basic issues and knowledge of -- that she should have in running this agency nor the passion for them which is so important as the leading spokesperson in the country. i heard from dana hayden from washington. she said dear senator patty murray, i've been an educator in our state since 1984. i have seen your positive efforts for the citizens of washington firsthand. last night we found out that our family will be welcoming our first grandchild in july, a girl. i am so joyful yet quite worried about the world she's coming into. then i saw you on the news. you give me hope. i wonder what kind of school experience the next generation will have if devos is allowed to decimate our educational system the way trump is decimating our nation with orders. these are people who have not written in before. they are writing long letters, many of them pages long speaking
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from their heart about the value of public education, what it means to them and their grandchildren, that they know that this country was built on a system of public education that assured every child would be provided a school in their community to go to so that they could have the opportunity that their parents and grandparents and great grandparents had. mr. president, i could read through so many of these. here's one from miles from kent, washington. he says my name is miles earl, a principal in kent. as a strong supporter of education i ask that you very mentally oppose the nomination of betsy devos as secretary of the u.s. department of education. educators and students deserve a secretary who can commit to supporting every student in all public schools and a leader that will work tirelessly to promote a public education system that provides each child with the
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optimum conditions for teaching and learning. betsy devos' past work in education and her performance at the recent confirmation hearing demonstrated neither a depth of experience nor knowledge base in education policy and on critical issues facing the community. ask a principal -- as a principal, i have spoken with teachers and parents and students and community members across the political spectrum, and there is widespread agreement that betsy devos is just not the right person for the job. this is miles early, a principal. he watched the hearings like so many people did and was just so concerned that we had in front of us a nominee for the secretary of education that didn't share that core value of public education for all students. miss gabriel gurston from seattle, washington. as a college student, the idea of betsy devos becoming the secretary of education concerns me for multiple reasons. she obviously has been fortunate
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enough to go through school and a higher education without a worry about money. but that's not the case for most college students. i myself, she says, am lucky enough that my mom saved money for me to attend college, but many of my friends are working hard on their own to pay for college education themselves. and also zeroing out the funds for title 1 is worrisome because every state should be held to the same standard to give children in poverty access to an education. an education nation is a stronger nation. not everyone can afford to go to private school or have the opportunity to attend one, whether that be the money or finding even a way to get to that school. she has goals but they are not as easy to achieve for everyone, and i don't think she understands that. additionally, title 9, title 9 is very important to me as a female college student and the rest of my peers. she needs to support title 9 and
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keep universities accountable to it. mr. president, i couldn't agree more. title 9 is critically important in our higher education system. we have worked in a bipartisan basis to assure that title 9 is enforced. and to have a secretary of education who came before our committee, did not understand title 89, didn't have the commitment to title 9 sends shock waves through students across this country and their parents who have pushed and pushed for us to make sure that title 9 is overseen in a way that makes sure that our students at schools have the support they need from our highest education person in this country. i can go on forever. i know that several of the senators are going to be here on the floor shortly, but let me just say n. i've had the -- say this. i've had the opportunity to be out here on the floor, to hear from so many senators who gave their personal stories about what education meant to them,
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young people growing up in poverty knew that that school was there for them, that they knew that they had teachers and friends, not everyone perfect, certainly not every school perfect, certainly all of us strive for better every day who have been involved in public education, but that school was there for them. and the thought that we have a secretary of education nominee who doesn't share that basic value, who wants to change the system to privatize it, who has said herself that she wants to end public education, that privatizing schools and some kind of corps running our schools -- corps running our schools is not what our country is about, what we want, not even leaning in that direction. they want the country to lean in the other direction, to strengthen all of our public schools, to have taxpayers across the country invest in every student and that those schoolsbe held accountable and we ask their elected -- as their representatives hold them accountable. that is the vision this nominee has presented to us and it's a
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vision that i have worked for passionately all my life and really that is why i'm here to oppose this. again, i want to thank everybody who's written in and called and been passionate about public education in this country, and i encourage them to keep using their voices to fight for their passion. it is well worth the fight. with that i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senate majority leader. mr. mcconnell: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent that present proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, now is the time to put country before party. that was an observation by the
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democratic leader just yesterday here on the senate floor. our friend from new york makes a good point, and i'm hopeful that it's a principle his own caucus will follow in the days to come. we're no longer in the midst of a contentious presidential election. we have a new president, and that president has now put forth an exceptional supreme court nominee and a number of well-qualified cabinet nominees, and yet more than two weeks into his term, president trump has the fewest cabinet secretaries confirmed at this point than any other president since george washington. the president deserves to have his cabinet in place. the american people deserve that as well. i would remind our democratic colleagues that the things they themselves have said when the
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shoe was on the other foot. here's what their last vice-presidential candidate, our colleague from virginia, had to say. i think we owe a deference to a president for choices for executive positions. so yes, now is the time, as the democratic leader said, to put country before party. one way to do so is by ending the unprecedented delay we have seen by democrats on the president's cabinet appointments. our colleagues will have an opportunity to chart a different path later this afternoon and the rest of the week as we vote to confirm more nominees. this afternoon we'll vote on the president's nominee for secretary of education, betsy devos. i look forward to confirming her to this important position so she can get to work on behalf of america's students and schools. as i said yesterday, this
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well-qualified candidate has earned the support of several education groups and nearly two dozen governors from across the nation. she understands that teachers, students, parents, school boards and state and local governments, not washington bureaucrats, are best suited to make education decisions for our kids, and i know she is committed to improving our education system so that every child, every child has a brighter future. after we confirm miss devos, the senate will turn to another well-qualified cabinet nominee, our own colleague, senator jeff sessions of alabama. we all know senator sessions, and we know him to be a man of his word. we know he's a man who believes in the rule of law. we know him as someone who is willing to work with anyone regardless of party, like when he teamed up on legislation with democratic colleagues like senator durbin and our late colleague ted kennedy.
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i would remind democratic colleagues that republicans did not, did not filibuster when a newly elected president obama put forward his own attorney general nominee, eric holder. in fact, the nominee who will soon be before us, senator sessions, crossed the aisle to vote for eric holder. this despite the fact that the holder nomination in our party, in the republican conference here in the senate, was one steeped in considerable controversy. what a contrast with the way the democrats are now treating our colleague's own nomination now. they're looking to waste even more time for its own sake today. it's been unfortunate to hear the attacks that some on the far left have directed at our friend over the past few weeks, but i'm pleased the american people have had the opportunity to learn the
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truth about senator sessions and to see for themselves how qualified he is to lead the justice department. we can expect that senator sessions and his -- in his new role will continue fighting to protect the rights and freedoms of all americans as he also defends the safety and security of our nation. tomorrow i will have more to say about senator sessions and the impact he's had on each of us here in the senate, but for now i'd encourage colleagues to finally come together and show him, show him and each of those remaining nominees the fair consideration that they deserve.
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the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the democratic leader. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: lefty versus righty microphones, mr. president. okay. now, i've just listened to my friend, the majority leader, mr. president, and the majority whip on the floor. they're able legislators, but they are sort of misleading the public as to the motivation. they have tried to -- our motivation. they have tried to paint every democratic request as leftover resentment from the election. sour grapes, the majority leader said a few weeks ago. they can say it day after day after day, but it will never be