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Democrats Played a Key Role in DeVos Confirmation… in 2013

February 7, 2017

Michigan billionaire and former Michigan Republican Party Chair, Betsy DeVos, was confirmed on February 07, 2017, as US secretary of education.

While the Senate was casting its historic 51-50 vote/VP tiebreaker around noon, I was in a place that DeVos has yet to demonstrate she has actually been:

I was in my traditional public school classroom, teaching.

The 48 Democratic Senators tried to prevent DeVos’ nomination, which made me feel as if they really were on the side of the traditional public school. However, the DeVos nomination is such an extreme situation that Democratic involvement in pushing charter schools to the detriment of the neighborhood public school, coupled with the bipartisan idolization of standardized testing, took an almost-forgotten back seat ever since noon on November 23, 2016, when Trump announced DeVos as his US ed sec pick.

But there is something else that Democrats did that actually advanced the amazingly unqualified DeVos right into the US ed sec seat, and it happened in November 2013:

Senate Democrats lowered the bar for number of affirmative votes needed to confirm a Presidential nominee.

As the January 2017 Atlantic reports:

At the urging of Majority Leader Harry Reid, [in November 2013], Democrats had just voted along strict party lines to change the rules of the Senate, deploying what had become known in Washington as “the nuclear option.” McConnell and his Republican colleagues were furious. Under the new rules, presidential nominees for all executive-branch position—including the Cabinet—and judicial vacancies below the Supreme Court could advance with a simple majority of 51 votes. The rules for legislation were untouched, but the 60-vote threshold for overcoming a filibuster on nearly all nominations was dead.

The practical outcome of that fateful (and arguably shortsighted/foolish) 2013 Democratic decision is that while I was discussing The Tragedy of Julius Caesar with my fourth-period English II students, a billionaire who likely has not walked the main hallway of a single traditional public school ever— not as a student, or parent, or office holder, or even citizen– officially snagged her first job as overseer of America’s traditional public schools.

Senate Democrats, you tried hard in these last few weeks to derail the highly controversial and clueless DeVos nomination, and for that, I thank you, just as I thank the two Senate Republicans who joined your efforts.

That noted, your collective 2013 arrogance put my students and me under the federal auspices of the likes of Betsy DeVos, and I wish you would just own it.

betsy-devos-13  Betsy DeVos

_____________________________________________________________

Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

From → Betsy Devos

12 Comments
  1. Erich Martel permalink

    Amen!!
    And it started long before 2013 by Democrats & Republicans, who piously profess belief that an individual is only responsible for his or her actions, as supported by evidence.
    Yet:
    1) they overwhelmingly endorsed the totalitarian principle (embodied in NCLB) that a “school” (a euphemistic term for a collective group of individual teachers and other professionals) can be evaluated as a single, organic entity; and
    2) can all be held responsible for the school-wide test averages of some of the students, i.e. those in the tested grades,
    3) who, in turn, were taught by only some of the teachers,
    4) and whose students knew in advance that the tests had no individual stakes for them, i.e. there was no “individual mandate” that triggered an inherent self-interest to do their best;
    5) and, if the multiple-grade level, school-wide test averages were not high enough, the “school” could be “turned around” with all teachers and professional staff (sometimes even custodians) would have to “reapply for their jobs,” but the decision would be solely at the discretion of the principal.
    6) And that the “school” could be closed, transferred to a “high performing charter” operator.

    I, too, thank the 48 Democrats and 2 Republicans for their opposition to DeVos.

    I wonder how many teachers in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin voted for Trump, a third party, or stayed at home, because of Hillary’s collusion with the Waltons and other privatizers.
    Can’t help but wonder!

  2. Doug Hill permalink

    Excellent point, Mercedes! Further, those two Republican Senators (Collins & Murkowski), as applaud-worthy as their opposition votes were, had the opportunity to stop this runaway train in the HELP Committee by casting no votes there and thus prevent the advancement to the full Senate. Alas they did not:-(

  3. KenMC permalink

    Good point, Mercedes. However, your piece assumes that the Republicans wouldn’t have “gone nuclear” themselves even if the Dems hadn’t changed the rules in ’13. I suspect that’s what will probably happen with the current Supreme Court nominee. Right now, the rules remain 60 votes in the Senate needed to approve Gorsuch, which you point out in your piece above. But I’d bet that the Republicans will “go nuclear” and change the rules to make 51 all that would be required to seat Gorsuch on the High Court, assuming all the Dems hold fast and don’t allow the GOP its its filibuster-proof 60 votes. In other words, while it might’ve been shortsighted of the Dems back in ’13: Who’s to say the Republicans wouldn’t have just “gone nuclear” this week or last week if the rules for approving Cabinet-level posts hadn’t changed in ’13, and hence they would’ve been able to approve DeVos with the 51…?

    • LA Educator permalink

      Good points made here, but the bottom line here is that the Republicans now own Betsy DeVos.

  4. Lisa B permalink

    But with her nomination comes the reality of it all….the big picture….the grand scheme….the end result. A group of GOP Senators want to dismantle the USDE by 2018. Heavens to Betsy is just the person to make this all happen. I don’t understand why everyone focused on DeVos instead of thinking ahead to the final outcome? This is like a game of chess, and if one wants to win, one needs to think ahead in the game. Trump (and his administration) thinks ahead while the masses react in the moment… and that’s why we will be beat every single time.

  5. SargeOfNY permalink

    Do not kid yourself. The two GOP Senators who voted with the 48 Dem Senators were essentially allowed to jump ship, with the GOP knowing they had the tie break vote, in an effort to strengthen their bid for their own reelection, to maintain GOP control of the Senate.

    • Zorba permalink

      Yes, exactly so, SargeOfNY. The GOP knew how many votes they had and that Pence would break the tie. Lisa and Susan were definitely allowed to “jump ship” in order to protect their Senate seats.
      It was all a set-up, and I don’t give the two of them any credit whatsoever.

  6. All proving that SOME Dems can be as unscrupulous and short sighted as MOST Repubs.

    It will take generations of better Dem structure and approach to win enough votes to take back Congress. And with so much of Trump/Bannon’s disaster politicking in only two weeks of theocratic, leading to fascistic, Repub edicts, there might never be a democracy left to rescue.

  7. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    You said it :”The 48 Democratic Senators tried to prevent DeVos’ nomination, which made me feel as if they really were on the side of the traditional public school. However, the DeVos nomination is such an extreme situation that Democratic involvement in pushing charter schools to the detriment of the neighborhood public school, coupled with the bipartisan idolization of standardized testing, took an almost-forgotten back seat ever since noon on November 23, 2016, when Trump announced DeVos as his US ed sec pick.” Arnett Duncan and John King under the Obama Administration led us to this. Bush’s No Child Left Behind followed by Obama’s Race to The Top with the support of Teacher Unions led us to this point. Now what?

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