U.S. Senate Democrats Continue to Hold Floor as De Vos Vote Looms CSPAN February 6, 2017 9:59pm-12:00am EST
live in extreme poverty. some may have a pertinent in prison or a parent who -- may have a parent in prison or a parent who passed away. they may have experienced physical abuse or emotional abuse or neglect. there may be drug abuse or alcohol abuse taking place in the house. some have witnessed domestic violence in their homes or street violence in their neighborhood. some have seen siblings shot and killed right in front of them. decades of research have shown that the trauma that comes from such adverse childhood experiences actually changes a child's brain chemistry. and affects their basel development, their -- their behavioral development, their mental and physical health and
their chances to succeed in society and school and in society long term. but research has also shown that these challenges can be overcome and that the kids who do overcome them are the most resilient kids you've ever met. our public education system was designed to give these kids a shot. but teachers and administrators often lack the resources they need to give these children the chance that they deserve. and because mrs. devos' crusade for school vouchers would further rob our public schools of these limited funds, i wanted to know her thoughts on this important issue. mrs. devos' answer, a written answer -- this is a take-home --
her answer was brief and superficial. she wrote that she had heard that children are impacted by trauma and that trauma can cause difficulties in a child's education. that was it. was she unfamiliar with the literature? was sheunwilling to acknowledge that poor kids face special challenges? would she be remotely interested in addressing these challenges, as secretary of education? i guess we may never know. i also asked mrs. devos in writing about her vision for education in rural communities. as the president knows, as
governor and now senator from south dakota, many of our children in america attend schools in rural america. 10 million american kids, schools that struggle with teacher shortages and transportation challenges. i asked, how would her school choice agenda help them? in her response, she pointed to online schools, which are often run by for-profit companies, many with questionable records. in fact, one of the country's biggest online schools recently agreed to $168.5 million settlement in california for allegedly defrauding families. $168.5 million settlement. but even online schools that
aren't out to rip off students often wind up failing them. a 2015 stanford study showed that, on averages kids in online schools lose the equivalent of 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, and that's for each 180-day school year. which means that kids in online schools can fall up to a year behind in math. and, of course, as the presiding officer knows, as the president knows, many rural communities lack reliable broadband and access to reliable -- i've been on rural education tours where i find that students go to a
mcdonald's, to the parking lot so they can get some wi-fi to read at their public school an assignment or get materials to study. this was yet another answer that wasn't an answer at all, yet another piece of evidence that mrs. devos is simply not up to this job. mr. president, like many americans, i have serious concerns about many aspects of the trum trump administration's agenda. still i believe that as a united states senator, it is my job to evaluate each nominee on his or her own merits. that's why i voted for nominees like secretary mattis and secretary chew, even though i -- and secretary chao, even though
i -- secretary mattis has earned the respect of people on each side of the aisle and i believe he will be a voice of reason on the trump administration's foreign policy. ms. chao h's a lengthy background in public service, including as secretary of labor and deputy secretary of transportation. i believe she will bring significant and valuable experience to her important ro role. i may well take issue with the decisions that they make and the agenda that they implement as members of president trump's cabinet, but at the very least, each illustrated during their confirmation hearings that they have a basic understanding of the issues that they will be responsible for. mrs. devos is different. i've heard from minnesotans about many of president trump's
nominees, but the outcry over this nomination far surpasses anything else. as of a week ago, my office had received 3,000 calls about this nominee, a grand total of 12 were in favor of her confirmation. additionally, we received more than 18,000 letters and e-mails and, again, the overwhelming majority of them have urged me to oppose this nomination. for example, a woman from brainard, minnesota, twroat say that she'd -- wrote to say that she'd never contacted one of her representatives before and didn't consider heave self -- herself very political. she was near the democrat nor republican. but she has daughter in second grade and a son beginning kindergarten in the fall and she wanted me to vote against betsy devos. how, she asked, is someone who has never had any experience in
public education supposed to competently preside over it? a mother of two school -- public school students in fairbow, minnesota, wrote, "as i watched her during the hearing, i was in disbelief that she would be appointed to such an important position." another constituent from warren, minnesota, wrote, "this woman is so unqualified, it's scary." last week i went to dinner with vice president walter mondale. i went to his favorite restaurant. and so afterwards he took me into the kitchen to greet some of the men and women who worked at the restaurant. and one of the guys in the kitchen -- i'm little unclear whether he was taking dishes to the dishwasher or he was washing
dishes. he's not a teacher, not an education advocate, just a guy who works in the kitchen, and he said, please vote against mrs. devos. there's a reason why this nomination has been met with such overwhelming resistance on the part of the american people, and i know i'm not the only one who has heard it. in fact, two of my republican colleagues and fellow help committee members who sat through that hearing -- senator collins and senator murkowski -- have stepped forward to announce that they cannot vote for this nominee. they don't -- they don't agree with me on every aspect of education policy, but, believe me when we put essa together,
the every student succeeds arctic the committee -- was it unanimous? -- voted unanimously on it. there's a lot of agreement on education policy in our committee, on our committee. but senator collins and senator murkowski saw the same hearing that i did, and like me, they saw a nominee who simply does not understand the needs of the students our secretary of education is posed to serve. -- is supposed to serve. i'll let me colleagues speak for themselves as to the reasons why they'll be joining me in voting against this nominee, but i'd like to close by asking a few questions of my colleagues who are still considering a vote in her favor. if mrs. devos' performance
didn't convince you that she lacks the qualifications for this job, what would have to have happened? in that hearing in order to convince you? if you can not bring yourself to vote against this nominee, is there anyone president trump could nominate for any position that you could vote against? and if we cannot set party loyaltyaside long enough to -- loyalty aside long enough to perform the essential duty of vetting the president' presidens nominees, what are we even doing here? mr. president, the constitution gives us that power to reject
cabinet nominations specifically so that we can prevent fundamentally ill-equipped nominees like betsy devos from assuming positions of power for which they are not qualified. let's do our job. for the sake of our children, let's do our job. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: thank you, mr. president. i would like to add a few rhode island voices to the voice of the senator from minnesota.
i have a letter here -- by the way, i'm not cherry-picking my correspondent sponge dense to -- correspondence to find the rare letters in opposition to this nominee. we have had an unprecedented avalanche of opposition to this nominee. it's running well more than 100-1 against her, and it's people from all walks of of life. here's a letter from william, who is a 12th grader in pawtucket, rhode island. william took the trouble to twriet me. "hello, senator whitehouse." concern over betty devos. my name is william and i am a senior at blackstone academy charter school, a public charter
school in pawtucket, rhode island. i'm contacting you today due to my concern about educational equality. specifically, mrs. devos' ability to commit to practices that ensure that the children who need the most help aren't forgotten about and brushed under the rug. these children are our kids of color as well as our lk kids -- our low-income kids attending public schools with limited resources. having attended a pa pawtucket public school, i can confidently say that there are some genuinely brilliant minds here in this very city in the areas where somebody like ms. devos would least expect. yet it also cannot be denied that the students here begin their journey on ground that is unequal to that of other kids who are not people of color or are not part of the public school system, et cetera.
these bright young sap links are being -- sap lings are being crushed before given the chance. mrs. devos' shortcomings will only serve to perpetuate and make worse. mrs. devos given her support of the privatization of public schools and her open disdain towards the lgbt community has established that she will not improve the experiences of marginalized communities. her interest is not the bermt of education for people but the monetization of education. she will never spearhead movements that promote education and will continuously disappoint us all throughout her term which will not be defined by deviating from the status quo and creating a system that our troubled by gifted youth can thrive in. in fact, she will dot opposite.
with this in mind, i ask that you, senator whitehouse, openly speak out against ms. devos and do everything in your power to keep her out of the secretary of education office. i also ask that you continue to remember me and children like me. public school youth who could be incredible if they are just given the opportunity to thrive. thank you for your time, william." now let's hear from a tenth grade remember from central falls, rhode island. dear senator sheldon, whitehouse, my name is are danesha and i'm in tenth grade at a public charter school. i live in central falls, rhode island. i'm writing today because i'm concerned about kids being able to afford college, regardless of background. i care about this because i have plenty of family members and friends who go to public schools and they either want or are
trying go to college. i know they will need help for paying for college because they don't come from a very wealthy background. fair and equal education is so important to me because i think everybody should be treated fairly regardless of how they look because we are humans. i am concerned about betsy devos being nominated for secretary of education because she doesn't have any experience with classrooms, also because she basically doesn't like public schools since she is trying to make public school private and trialing to take resources away from public schools. with that being said, i hope you do everything you can to help kids in public school to get as much fair education as private schools do. please read my e-mail when you can, and i would like to thank you for your time. sincerely, denesha."
next is sarah. "i'm writing today about i'm concerned about the public schools in my city. the schools here are not given the education they deserve as schools are in other districts. this is important to me because my younger brother is a disabled boy and it worries me he won't continue to get the education he deserves. i'm concerned about the nominee, betsy devos, because she has zero experience in the role as secretary of education and there are videos on social media and youtube and it shows that she has no experience and will put our education, and i'll say foughture, at risk. please, senator, i hope you do everything you can to prevent her nomination. thank you, sincerely, sarah." the last one i'll read is from jennifer, in the tenth grade at blackstone charter school, from
pawtucket. i'm worried because -- i'm worried students from public schools won't receive the same education as those in charter schools. i'm concerned about students in public schools because i want every kid to have the -- have the chance at fair and equal education. it is so important to me because i'm latina and a woman of collar. i deserve the same chance at a fair education as everyone else. i want my siblings to receive the same resources that i get. i am concerned about betsy devos, that she will take that privilege away from students in public schools. i hope you do everything you can to help betsy devos from taking this privilege away from students in public schools. thank you for your time." now, there are more letters that i could read, but one point i'd like to make sheer these are students -- make here is these
are students writing from -rt -- from charter schools. this flood of letters has included teachers, managers, and students in charter schools. there has been a notion developed that this is a battle between public schools and charter schools, and that public schools aren't good, that they want to trap children in them, and that charter schools are the way out and ms. devos is going to lead us off into that charter school happy land. welshing the fact of the matter is it's not that simple. we have great charter schools in rhode island and we have some great public schools in rhode island. we have both, but the charter school leaders are opposed to her nomination. why is that? it's in part because the
transition from charter to public schools can be done fairly or it can be done unfairly, and in all of her work, ms. devos has shown that she will do it unfairly. there is an obvious what demog demografh -- demock fersing -- denothing ferss would say is -- the selection bias is based on different reasons of it could be as simple as they have more engaged paerpbts. the parents are interested enough in their education will sign them up for the charter school and that creates a different demografic and it helps the charter school population and makes it easier for the charter schools. charter schools have authority that public schools don't have with respect to discipline.
indeed, the ability to remove children and return them to the public schools. they are able to force students to sign contracts and agreements regarding their behavior. public schools can't do that. again, that gives the charter school an advantage that a public school doesn't have. children with disabilities often get immense support through the public school system. when they try to go to the charter school, they see the support for children with disabilities aren't there and so it doesn't make sense to move to a charter school, so the charter schools tend to get a smaller population of children with disabilities so they don't have that additional expense of dealing with and meeting a child wherever their disabilities are, but the public school keeps that expense. in rhode island we have people flooding into providence.
we have students who speak 70 original languages in our providence public schools. a new immigrant is going to go to the public school. that's where they will go. it takes time to get settled and learn about america and pick up enough language to make the choice to move their child there and by the time they do -- fine, if they make the choice, but, again, the public school had to be there for them, and, again, it's an advantage to the charter school. all great for charter schools, but the idea that they are outperforming public schools and there's no recognition of that selection bias is just unfair to the public schools. it gets worse when you move from the selection bias on students to the funding because the way temperature often works, and the way it works in rhode island is that the money follows the student. so if you're in the public school and you are -- and are
selected for a charter school, then a certain stipend of money goes with you to support that charter school. the problem is that as that money gets taken out of the public schools' budget, the costs in the public school didn't follow you to the charter school. the money followed you to the charter school, but many of the costs remained. if one child leaves a public school classroom and goes to a charter school, you still have to turn the lights on, you still have to hire the teacher, you still have to heat the building, you have maybe one less pencil and one less piece of tphaeup the room -- piece of paper in the room, but those are tiny costs, the fixed costs remain the same. that is a serious threat to public schools. anybody who truly supports the charter school movement, as our charter schools do, has to understand, first, the selection
bias problem and understand that the testing and accountability has to be fair between public and charter schools and, second, this funding problem that if you're simply pulling the money out of the public schools into charter schools and the costs are staying behind, what you're doing is crashing the revenues but leaving the expenses of public schools. and the public school students are, of course, going to suffer from that, and if you don't adjust for it, you are being unfair to the public schools and being unfair to the students. this is a serious enough problem that our providence city council is debating the issue right now and trying to figure out, as students move to charter schools, how do you provide adequate funding so you're not stripping the public schools of what they need to continue to teach the other students. not only are they serious about it at the city council live trying to figure out the budget equation, but moody's, the
service that looks at municipal budgets and determines how sound they are and rates municipalities, has looked at this problem of charter school movement and the remaining costs in public schools and identified it as a fiscal threat to municipalities. so these are both real problems, and the refusal of ms. devos to grapple with them suggests to our charter school leaders and to me that this is not just an effort to enhance students and being -- and being able to go to a good charter school. this is actually an attack on public schools. now, there are all sorts of reasons why somebody might want to knock down public schools. one is that they simply don't like teachers unions. teachers unions tend to vote democratic, let's face it. and if you want to cripple
teachers unions, destroy the schools they work in. that's a really nasty reason to get into the charter school fight, but it's real and it's out there. a second is, if you want to bring for-profit investment into this space -- a lot of money gets spent on education. people who can figure out how to make money in this space want to get their noses in and get a chunk of that money. when they come in, they may or may not do a good job, but they are highly profit motivated and if you are interested in trying to facilitate them and give them a money-making opportunity, then you may well want to damage public schools in order to support that move to for-profits. so this creates a fairly significant problem when you connect it to the next piece of
ms. devos's application here. and that's conflict of interest. one of the basic elements that we are here to look at in our advice and consent process is conflict of interest. will the nominee be able to do a fair job? will she be looking at things fair and square or will she have conflicts of interest that impede the fair exercise of her judgment? well, one place that we need to look for conflict of interest is when we have nominees who have run political dark money operations. is this a new things for us. not too long ago we swore in a new president, president barack obama, and when we did we had
ethics rules, government ethics offices, filing requirements, and all of that in place. that was in twaeut. then -- 2008. then came the united decision, and it opened up the floodgates of dark money. well, this nominee is a practitioner of the dark arts of dark money. and we know nothing about what she has done, but the conflicts of interest ought to be pretty obvious. if you raised millions of dollars from people in your dark money operation, then there is an indebtedness there that somebody might think could be an appearance of impropriety or conflict. we should know so that evaluation could be made. or if are you spent money in --
spent dark money in support of things, we should know so we can connect the dots and evaluate the linkages and see if it is a conflict of interest. we wrote to ms. devos about this. the first letter was on januar january 5, 2017. we got an answer and the answer was spectacularly incomplete and unhelpful. so we wrote back a second letter on january 27. i would like to take a minute and read this letter because i think it explains our predicament. elisabeth devos, washington, dc dear mrs. devos, thank you to your response of january -- i ask unanimous consent that the january 5 letter be made an exhibit at the end of my remarks. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. whitehouse: our january 5 letter questioning your fund
raiding network. you had a series of already public campaign finance reports related to the american fedrated action fund and its various state affiliates. for the reasons that follow, we viewed your response, while sizable, nonresponsive. we ask that you provide information about the organizations which you havessociated, the american federation for children and the great lakes education fund. you acknowledged your association with these entities with your disclosures to the office of government ethics. you also acknowledged in your letter to us -- and i quote -- "each organization with which you have been involved is independent" -- end quote. it is not clear what you mean by "independent," since you have already acknowledged your association with these
organizations. i hope you can appreciate how both fund-raising and spending of these organizations -- from whom, to whom, in what amount a, your personal role -- might produce conflicts much interest in potential decisions before you if you are confirmed to serve as secretary of the department of education. our concerns are not hypothetical. as known contributors to your political organizations have had business before the department of education. for example, vahan gorigian, in 2010 donated $100,000 to the american federation for action fund. mr. gorigian founded and is the c.e.o. of csmiccla pennsylvania charter school management company and helped found the
chester community charter school. he has been a major donor in promoting charter schools in pennsylvania. i'll interrupt reading the letter for a moment to point out how obvious that is somebody that involved in the charter school movement could very easily have business before the department of education and who knows how much he gave. we know about $100,000, but it could be a lot more. he knows, she knows, but the public won't know, and when bids or competitions are up, that is simply not fair. on to the next one and back to the next of the letter. " j.c. wizenga. between 2005 and 200, he donated $25,000 to all children matter, and in 2010 he donated $30,000 to the american federation for children action fund. mr. wizenga founded the national heritage academies, a for-profit
charter network that has 80 schools in nine states and has received over $34 million in federal -- $43 million in federal funding. according to a 2012 review by the michigan department of education, of the schools in the focus category due to significant gaps in achievement, more than half were managed by national heritage academies. it has been reported that mr. wizenga said that his involvement was due to realizing that "privatizing public education was not only practical but also desperately needed." so again, to step back out from the letter, here is somebody who is in the for-profit charter school business whose charter schools are more than half of the troubled charter schools reviewed by the michigan department of education and who wants to privatize public education, and he's linked with her through the dark money
operation. and we don't know anything about the dark money side. david l. brennan, back to the letter now. "brennan donated a total of $200,000 to all children matter from 2004 to 2007. prior to a.m.c.'s winddown due to campaign finance violations. this is the series of campaign finance violations at that led to the $5 million fine that near the the entity nor plies devos -- nor ms. devos have ever paid. "in 2010 he donated $39,000 to the american federation for children action fund. he is the founder of white hat management l.l.c., a for-profit charter school management company that operates 15 schools in three states with over 12,000 students. since 2008, white hat and its affiliates haveseeched $3.6
million in -- received $3.6 million in federal funds, klug idea funds. -- including idea fund. how the are we ever going to know if people like this are making dig dark money contributions into the dark money operation that she runs that they will not be rewarded in a pay-to-pay fashion with grants and favors and an advantage in competition at the department of education? you'd eerld evaluate that by knowing that the conflict of interest existed. but because it's dark money, we'll never know. they'll know. she'll know. but the public will never know. the senate will never know. the press will never know. so back to the letter. "while you may not have a direct financial interest in the for-profit educationent prices headed by those listed above, your political fund-raising relationship with them and
perhaps others could cause a reasonable person concern over your impartiality in matters involving them." let me step out of the letter again. doesn't that make sense? if you were applying for a grant before the department of education and your competitor was somebody who had given, say, $1 million to ms. devos' action fund, wouldn't you want to know that? don't you think the public should know that? if you were to find out later that that had taken place and they were awarded the grant and you were not, wouldn't that rankle a bit, would that suggest that you perhaps were not being treated fairly because of that big contribution that was made? but we'll never know. we'll never know. we are disabled from doing our constitutional job of reviewing
these nominees for conflict of interest when it's dark money that's at stake. back to the letter. "the o.g.e. of course, the office of government ethics process, does not capture conflicts that arise through political activity." this is the first transition of presidents since the citizens united decision. this is the first one. so there is no history. we have to do it now, but we are not -- not for this nominee, not for other nominees. we are leaving a black hole of secrecy around this enormous conflict of interest potential. the o.g.e. process does not capture conflicts that arise through political activity, so it is incouple incumbent upon us to assure the senate record is complete as to such conflicts and how they will be wree solved. -- resolved. we continue in the letter,
"these are just the publicly known examples of potential conflicts. our original request asked you for information to assess potential conflicts with 501c4 organizations that are 23409 required to publicly disclose information. accordingly, we reiterate our request that you provide, one, a list of all donors, their total donations ages affiliations who have contributed to the american federation for children 501c4 and the great lakes education 501c4 since their inception. and, two, a list of donations made by you, members of your family, and foundations or organized with which you are affiliated to other 501c4 organizations over the past five years. that seems like a perfectly reasonable q we continue in the letter. "according to the american federation for children's i.r.s. form 990 filed for the year
2014, it spent near $1 .1 million on political activities just that that year, including a $315,000 transfer to the american federation for children action fund, wisconsin i.e. committee. so how this works, as i think most people here know, but just to make it clear for people listening, many political organizations require that the donors be disclosed. so if you want to engage in the dark money game and hide your political influence seeking, what you do is you take your money and you give it to a 501c4, a dark money operation, and then they in turn give it to the political action group. that's what happened here. $1.1 million into the american federation for children. $315,000 transferred to the american federation for children action fund in wisconsin. the only function that that provides is to launder the
identity of who the donor was so that all you see is the money emerging from the dark money organization, with no transparency as to who put it in. so back to the letter. "because donations to a 501c4 are anonymous, they effectively launder the identities of donors to the other parts of the political apparatus. but you know and the donors know and therein lies the potential for conflict of interest. additionally, you refused to disclose donations to 501c4 organizations that you, your family on the one hand your fawnings have made. you explained the information requested has no bearing on the office to which i have been nominated nor the duties of the department of education. that was her answer to the first letter. our letter here continues, "your donations to 501c4 organizations
are indeed relevant to your nomination, just as your donations to political candidates, parties, and causes are. one obvious ink substance would be where -- instance would be to groups where you made political contributions are before the department, as advocates or grant seekers. again, you know and the donors know and therefore lies the potential for conflict of interest. senators have a constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on presidential nominees and understanding the scope and nature of potential conflicts of interest is at the heart of that duty. i do hope that we can agree on that in this body. that part of our advice and consent role is to understand the potential for conflicts of interest. if we can't agree on that, then we have a real problem here. because that's the purpose -- at least one purpose -- of what we do. i continue in the letter. "your role in raising and
distributing dark money clearly raises the possibility of such conflicts, as a result, we renew our are request for information related to your 501c4 organizations as outlined above. please contact us if you have any questions regarding this request. we look forward to your additional information and disclosures and timely and responsive answers." well, as of today, what we have is no answer at all. no answer at all. mr. president, this is a recurring problem here. this business of dark money not being caught by the rather obsolete in the that respect government ethics reporting conventions that have been carried forward from the obama transition before all of this became a problem doesn't just
apply to mrs. devos. now secretary of state tillerson as c.e.o. of exxonmobil ran a massive dark money operation. exxonmobil has got money all over front groups that deny climate change, all over political groups that try to discourage action on climate change, and a lot of it is dark money. and there's been reporting that traces it back to exxon, but we never know how much because it's dark money. and mr. tillerson hasn't told us one thing about it in his hearing. we'll be shortly considering the nomination of scott pruitt as the e.p.a. administrator. scott pruitt ran a dark money operation as the attorney general of oklahoma. why would an attorney general want to run a dark money operation in the first place? that's a whole separate question, but he d it was called
the rule of law defense fund, whangdz it did it was took -- and what it did was it took in money, protest prevented the donors from having their identities revealed and then funneled the money publicly to the republican attorney general's association. it was an identity laundering machine for the republican attorney general's association for big donors who didn't want anybody to know who the source was of the money that was being funneled into the republican attorney general association. fine -- i guess. i'd like to be rid of all of t we should pass the disclose act and clean this mess up. but, for sure, when somebody who has run a dark money operation comes before the senate seeking to be nominated to a cabinet office while we hold a constitutional duty to protect that office from improper conflicts of interest, surely then their role in the dark money operation should be disclosed.
it only makes sense. but, no ... like ms. devos, absolute stonewall on any information related to the rule of law defense fund and mr. pruitt's dark money operation. and black hole of secrecy and enormous opportunity for conflict. because obviously given his background and where the rest of his fund raying raising money went, you can imagine where it came from, exxonmobil, and the usual suspects. that's where a lot of his other money came from, you have to believe it went here. but do we know that? no. he could have taken a million dollars from one of those groups and then as e.p.a. administrator ruling on an application of theirs and we don't know. please don't anyone tell me that
is not a potential conflict of interest. we can deal with alternate facts around here, but that's just crazy. we don't know about ms. devos's dark money, we don't know about tillerson's dark money, and we don't know about pruitt's dark money. it is as there was a handmake around here that -- handshake around here and nobody will allow the information about the dark money. that is just wrong and it infects this nomination of ms. devos. we have got to get answers to these questions. let believe on to -- let me move on to one other point. student college debt. i had a meeting recently -- i
think all of us had the same experience. from our home state, groups come to visit and to get our time and bring our attention to problems that concern them. i think we all get visits from the same groups. we get visits from community bankers from our home states, we get visits from our credit unions in our home states, we get visits from our automobile dealers in our home states, we get visits from the insurance brokers in our home states, and we get visits from the realtors in our home states. when the realtors of rhode island came in to visit me the last time, they raised a new issue that i have not heard before from them. the issue that they raised was: you know, we're starting to have a real problem financing houses
for the next generation of home buyers -- the young home buyers who will coming into the market who would narrowly be buying their starter homes. the problem that we're finding with them is that they are so loaded up with college debt that we can't finance the purchase of a home for them. that's how enormous the student loan debt problem is in this country. it is now preventing so many young people from buying a home, that the realtors have noticed and put it on their problem list as something for us to take action on. if the realtors have noticed this, i don't think it's asking too much for a nominee for secretary of education to have noticed this.
and if, in fact, she has noticed this, i don't think it's asking too much for her to have thoughts and a plan because we are well over a trillion dollars in debt for these kids. think it's about $1.3 trillion now. it's been a known problem for some time. over an over again democrats have -- and over again democrats have tried to find and propose solutions in the senate and over and over again we have been shot down, but it remains a very considerable issue. you would think that a new secretary of education coming in would want to hit the ground running on this issue, she would have something to get done to solve it, there would be a plan or an outline. we may not agree with it. it may have to be something that we have to work together to find a way to get it to the floor, but at least there would be a starting point. all i got was, well, i'd be
interested in your views on that issue. how is it possible that with over $1 trillion in student debt piled up, with a student debt problem so severe that even realtors have put it on that to-do list to get something done about it, that a nominee for the secretary of education has nothing? pockets out, nothing to get started on this problem. is she ever going to take an interest? i don't know. but it would seam to me -- seem to me, particularly when you look at where we are in the help committee -- our ranking member is here, senator murray. senator murray and chairman alexander helped lead us together through the essa, the reform of "no child left behind,," the every student succeeds act. it passed roaring through the
student. the house even picked it up and took it. it came out of committee unanimously. states are still working on implementation of it because it freed them up to do a lot more thing so they have to go through the process of deciding how to take advantage of its new freedoms. with respect to elementary and secondary education, we're actually in pretty good shape. all we have to do is implement the bipartisan popular law that we passed. so where is the attention going to be? well, what we haven't passed is the higher education reform act. so if you know at all what's been going on on education in the congress, which is not asking too much of a secretary of education nominee, you know that we have just implemented a
major reform of elementary and secondary education and that our next order of business is higher education and that an elemental part of that is going to be college debt. so the fact that this nominee has nothing on that issue and is in the traditional deer in the healths mode of, well, i look forward to working with you on that, senator. oh, yes, i skwr-pbd stand that is a -- i understand that is a serious problem, senator, but i have no ideas, no plan, no strategy. i've got nothing. let's just work together on it. that's not very convincing. not very convincing to me. i see the senator from new jersey is here and the night is going on, so i will yield the floor to him, but i'll -- i'll close by saying that this recurring question about nomin
nominees who are involved in dark money operations and then refuse to disclose anything about their dark money operation so that it remains a black hole of secrecy and potential conflict of interest is wrong. it is just wrong. and i know there are forces in this building that love the dark money and there are huge special interests behind the dark money and there are a lot of people who benefit from the dark money who don't want any light on it ever, but once a nominee has had their name put in for a cabinet position for the government of the united states, by god they ought to disclose their dark money connections because otherwise it is an avenue towards conflict of interest and where there is conflict of interest there comes scandal. it is our job to head that off by getting the information
before the public so everybody can evaluate it and we have been kneecapped in that effort by an absolutely positive shutdown from the other side of the aisle on any information about any dark money from any nominee. they don't have to be nominees. if they don't want to cough up their dark money information, they can turn the papers back in and tell president trump, find someone else. i'd rather keep my secrets. but you shouldn't keep your secrets and get the job. with that, i yield the floor. mr. booker: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. booker: mr. president, i would like to ask unanimous consent that the privileges of the floor be granted to the following member of my staff, aron robinson. -- erin robinson.
the presiding officer: without objection. mr. booker: i know the night is going on and i wish to express my appreciation to the staff members. there are a number of people here, if the gentleman typing very quickly. i want to express my gratitude to those who stay here. especially to the pages, this is their second week of being here they are forced to grapple with not just school but with the long nights of the senate. i really do respect them and i am grateful for their endurance tonight as well. i rise today, as many of my colleagues have, to speak to the nomination of betsy devos -- to speak specifically in opposition to her nomination to serve as sefbgt of education -- secretary of education. i listened to as much of my colleague's words as i can, and i want to say that, particularly those on the senate health,
education, labor and pension, they have all and will and continue to expand upon many of the concerning elements of mrs. devos's record -- concerns that i share about her lack of support for critical accountability measures, her lack of familiarity with many of the basic policy aid programs which is essential for people to have access to higher education, our inability do say that guns should not be in schools and her seeming lack of understanding of many of the fundamental, yet critical education policy perspectives that i think are necessary for a job of this magnitude. i know there's been much said and there will be many more issues brought up of concern to many of the democrats who spoke tonight. but tonight i'd like to focus on an area that is very personal to me and also very personal to millions and millions of americans that is essential to
this role, but one that may not be immediately understood when you talk about a secretary of education, but it is absolutely critical to that department. in fact, i think it is one of the more critical roles of that department it comes to fulfil fulfilling the ideals of our nation. within the department of education is the office for civil rights, and that office is profoundly important, but it's one that many people don't have a full understanding. what i'd like to do right now is highlight four areas in which the office for civil rights functions and also talk to as it relates to my concerns about and my opposition to betsy devos to serve as secretary of education. first, i'd like to talk about what's at stake for children
with disabilities and their families and their parents. about 13% to 14% of our american school-aged children, about 6.5 million kids an young adults in america are students -- and young adults in america are students with disabilities. here in the united states, i am so proud that we have a deep belief and, in fact, our laws passed by people of both houses of both parties dictate that all children be treated with dignity and respect and that they will get the educational opportunities that all children deserve. indeed, our laws reflect that but the spirit of america is to see that in this nation all of our children have unique gifts. all of our children have beauty, and we, as a nation,
collectively believe that they all deserve a strong pathway to the fundamental american ideals. they deserve pathways to life an liberty and the purr -- and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. when we say justice for all, we really do mean all children. but, unfortunately, as the work of the department of he'd kaeugts's office -- education's office of civil rights demonstrates, the federal government is often at odds with some school districts who do not properly enforce protections granted to students with disabilities under the federal law, again, passed by both houses, passed by both parties. within our country thousands of parents do not believe their children are receiving justice in their local school systems for their children with disability kwreugs, and --
disabilities, and they reach out to the federal government for help, for relief for that justice. take the example of one child, the case of a 9-year-old child in california whose name i'm withholding and is withheld for privacy. this child, and let's call her jane, is a student like so many others. has the same dreams, aspirations, has hopes, has promise, has untapped, unlimited potential. at the age of 9, this child, jane, had been physically restrained in her school more than 92 times during the 11 h month period -- during the 11-month period by her school because of her disability. and as a part of that restraint, she had been held face down for a total of 2,200 minutes.
now, the office of civil rights at the federal level, the federal government, took them to investigate this case, and they found that the district was in violation of the federal law and required the school district to stop using these kind of restraints on students and actually take the time, energy and invest the resources in training the staff on alternative intervention methods , methods that recognize the dignity of that child and show that we have the potential and power to elevate that child, not to so savagely restrain them. this was not only unconscionable treatment that the federal government intervened in, but clearly it was illegal within the lines of federal law. this is not the way that anyone here, anyone in this body with a child with a disability, any of us would want our children to be
treated. if i had a child, i know it's not the way that i would want them treated, but frankly when it comes to the children of america, they are our children. whether republican or democrat, we know that our children, our kids, american children, all children, frankly, deserve better than this kind of physical abuse. it's these kind of reasons that i believe we need to have an aggressive office for civil rights because the story of jane, of a 9-year-old, is not an anomaly. it's not something that is rare. unfortunately, as we're seeing, there are many violations that go on of federal law when it comes to our children with disabilities. there is tremendous evidence that this kind of abuse still goes on in our country, and there needs to be an ultimate authority that can investigate this abuse and if necessary hold those people accountable who are
the abusers. and the additional step that the office for civil rights does is give advisement, give instruction on how to make sure the abuse does not happen in the future. we need our office for civil rights to work with school districts to establish those policies and procedures to be prevent that abuse. when mrs. devos during her testimony was given the opportunity to speak to the millions of parents who have real legitimate concerns about their children with disabilities and the treatment they received in school, she was given the opportunity to speak to the vital role of the federal government in protecting our children and affirming those rights, but the role of the office for civil rights, instead of talking and taking that opportunity, instead of seizing the moment to talk about what
she would be doing to leave, she actually denied a role for the federal government. when asked about protecting students with disabilities, she simply said it should be left up to the states. i'll tell you right now, for that 9-year-old child physically restrained more than 92 times, held face down for hours, the federal government clearly had an important role to play for that mom, for that family, for that child in making sure that this kind of atrocity doesn't happen and won't happen for more children. secondly, i'd like to talk about what's at stake for the office of civil rights as it results to children who are different, whether that be the color of their skin, whether they wear a job to school as an expression of their faith or they are a minority or again a child of
disability. i have spoken, for example, much as a senator about the school-to-prison pipeline and often how certain categories of children experience different types of discipline for the same act in school just because of how they look. school disciplinary policies, we know, play a big role in a child's success, and if those disciplinary policies are clearly treating different children in different ways, there will be different outcomes for those categories of kids. we know that children with out-of-school suspensions often graduate at significantly lower rates, have significantly higher run-ins with the law. i am one that believes that we cannot allow discrimination to happen in that manner in our school. and these are the pacts. this is the data. take, for example, black students are 3.8 times more likely than their white peers to
receive one or more out-of-school suspensions while students with disabilities are twice as likely as those who are likely to receive one or more suspensions. i will give you the case of tanette powell who wrote about her son who is black. his name is joah. he was suspended five times in 2014. he was 3 years old. she said one after another, white mothers confessed the trouble their children had gotten into. some of the behavior was similar to j.j.'s, her son's. some was much worse. most startling to me, to her, was that none of their children had been suspended. she continues to write, after this party where she had heard this from other white parents, i read a study reflecting everything that i was living. black children represent 18% of
preschool enrollment but make up 48% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension. according to a study released by the federal department of education's office for civil rights in march, she writes. one of the critical things about the office for civil rights is that they have been proactively collecting data about differences in treatment in our schools. now, there are many people who actively assert that the role of the office for civil rights has grown too large, that they are poking around in local matters too much, that even collecting such data as was relied on by this mother is an intrusion into states' rights.
but i believe when it comes to civil rights, when it comes to religious freedom and the treatment of our children, i do not believe that the office of civil rights has grown too large. i believe that they are offering critical transparency into the workings of our schools, that they are collecting data that parents and policymakers and civil rights groups can use to see who is being left behind, who might be facing discrimination, who is not receiving justice. what do we have to be afraid of even on just the collection of data to allow ourselves to have that transparency, to create an environment of accountability. i worry that if this is not a priority for the next secretary of education, then closing the achievement gap, shutting down the school-to-prison pipeline and empowering all children to
have an equal opportunity to learn will be undermined. these are real problems in our country, and they aren't just going to go away, and the federal government, especially when they insist upon data transparency, is an active partner in helping us to receive the justice that we deserve and need and pledge allegiance to as a country. now, i hope during the hearings of miss devos, that i hear more, that even if i had the opportunity to talk to my nominee myself, i would have asked for more information around these issues, but i didn't have that opportunity. and in the very rushed hearing, the issue wasn't raised. i believe, though, that based on the testimony that was given, that the nominee may not see
this as a vital function of the office of civil rights, and in fact may shrink that office and the ongoing proactive investigations that we see right now into such matters. and we know that the school-to-prison pipeline, particularly for young people of color, isn't just real. it actually is pervasive. but during mrs. devos' confirmation hearing, when asked about the office of civil rights within the department of education that is responsible for rectifying such unjust situations, she refused to comment. she refused to comment. she refused to commit herself even to directing the office of civil rights to investigate such civil rights violations. now, i don't understand what is a difficult thing to even commit the department to continuing such investigations, but that
commitment was denied. i want to next talk about the serious problem we have in america with sexual assault and sexual violence in schools and on college campuses. one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in their college years, but only 1% of assailants on college campuses are arrested, charged or convicted. we still know that too many people on college campuses who have been sexually assaulted who are survivors are routinely denied justice and forced to even live or even go to class with their attackers. the office for civil rights has rose to this challenge and this crisis. they have opened investigations in over 200 schools in america.
there is a crisis of campus sexual assault in america. and now the office of civil rights expanding their work, they have stepped up to that challenge. in addition to that, they have issued guidance to all college campuses on preventing and combating sexual assault. miss devos again during her testimony, many of us were hoping that this is an issue she would rye to the occasion, that she would speak to this issue. she was given the chance, given the chance not just to speak to the issue but to talk to the federal role in meeting this crisis, to acknowledge that this is an issue our nation must grapple with and must end. but she did not speak to the concerns of parents.
she did not speak to the concerns of survivors. she did not speak to america about the urgent need for all of us to be engaged with dealing with a crisis for which there has been silence on too long. more than this, she did not speak to the role of the office for civil rights, to the expanding role that they have been taking, to the expanding investigations on college campuses all across the country, giving no confidence to me or others that this will be a role that will continue. in fact, a role that i believe should be expanded. and again, even when she was specifically asked about what upholding guidance within the department of education on combating and preventing sexual assault, not asked to commit on the investigation, not asked to
commit to expanding the efforts, but just asked about upholding the guidance within the department of education on combating and preventing sexual assault, she refused to commit to maintaining that guidance. i'd like to speak to another area. before i do, i do believe this idea of transparency that my previous colleague talked about when it comes to donation, because some of the donations that people have received charity from miss devos have a history of fighting against efforts to combat sexual assault and worked -- some of these
organizations worked to make it more difficult for sexual assault victims to seek justice. and that brings me to an area in which i had a deep level of concern, that i hoped that miss devos would take the opportunity to set the record straight because much had been written before even the hearings. this involves an area where there is a clear crisis in our country. it is a crisis involving the safety and security of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in american. lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth face a stunning level of prejudice and discrimination inside and outside of schools starting at a young age. we know that lgbt are two times more likely than their
heterosexual peers to be physically assaulted in schools. lgbt youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide. according to youth risk behavior survey, 34% of lgbt students were bullied on school property. more than a third of lgbt students were bullied on school property. 13% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, students did not go to school because of concern for their safety. we know that in america this kind of harassment has no place in our classrooms, no place in our schools. it has no place anywhere in our country, but it is all too common and all too often unaddressed. i'd like to talk about a parent.
her name is wendy walsh. the harassment against wendy's son, death, began -- death deth -- seth began for him in the fourth grade when his classmates thought he was gay. by the time he reached the seventh grade, the bullying was so bad that he was afraid to walk home from school. this child lived in terror of just going to class. after one bully incident -- bullying incident in a local park, his mom said that 13-year-old seth came home from school. she talked to him.
he asked to borrow a pen from his mom. that conversation will be the last time she would see her son alive. the next time wendy saw her son seth, he had hanged himself on a tree in their back yard. after seth's death, wendy, experiencing a level of grief and agony i cannot imagine, she decided to file a complaint with the department of education's office for civil rights. when the office for civil rights came in and investigated, they found that seth's school district was in violation of
several federal laws. they failed to intervene and stop the bullying and the harassment and thor meanting that --or meanting that this child -- t -frp o tormenting. they could have prevented this. wendy went to the federal government, to the office of civil rights, and they took her concerns seriously and they aggressively investigated. because of their investigation, because of wendy's courage in
her time of grief, the school district, in violation of federal laws, was required to take steps, though not there to prevent her child's death, they were required to take steps to prevent the kind of harassment and tormenting and bullying from happening to other students. i'm not sure if any of that is of solace to a mother who lost their child. i'm not sure if it gave her comfort, but i am hopeful that with an active office of civil rights th at the federal departt of education at a time where
more than 10% of our lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are missing school because of that kind of fear, when a third are reporting bullying and harassment in person or on-line at this level of unconscionable treatment for any child, there is a role for the federal government to protect our children. i believe if we take these matters seriously, that we could ensure that this kind of bullying and harrassment will come to an end in america. it is unacceptable in a country this great. there are laws against this, and there are folks that have an obligation for enforcing those laws. that's the office of civil
rights. i believe things will get better, but they won't get better automatically because we hope for them, because we pray for it. they'll get better because we are a country that loves our children and love is not a being verb. it demands action, and we see time and time again that children aren't seeing the kind of action where they are. thank god, right now, there's a place where parents can go. they can appeal to the federal government. the secretary of education, the office of civil rights has to be led by someone who takes this seriously, who sees the calls for justice of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender youth as valid, that sees the crisis, that sees the problem.
it was widely reported when mrss made -- widely reported that her family had given support -- significant support that she, herself, significant support to discriminatory extremist, dangerous, and hateful groups that promote ideas that say a child who is gay is somehow lesser than a child who is no not -- groups that have supported things like conversation therapy, something that has been resoundingly condemned, dangerous ideas that are hurtful to children. with all of that -- with all of the articles that have been
written, this was a chance for mrs. devos to sit before the american public knowing that these concerns with out there and it's understandable, even if she doesn't hold them, it's understandable that this is a moment for her to allay the fears of thousands and thousands of children who are being isolated and hurt biualies -- bull which ares, -- bullies, children who have suicide rates that are unconsciousably high, with all of these chances to set the record straight to say i will uphold the value and dignity of those children, but more than that, i recognize that there is a crisis in our country and that i will work with the office of civil rights to do something to address this evil in our country that has so many kids being hurt and harmed.
this was her chance to go just beyond just denying she believed in conversation therapy, to go beyond in asserting that she values equality. this was her chance. it should have been understood that because of the record and the charitable donations that there was a degree of suspicion, that there was an understandable degree of legitimate fear that she would not continue the courageous work of the office of civil rights in combating discrimination and harrassment and fiscal abuse of children across our country. she had the opportunity. given the fears and concerns that have been expressed, i would have hoped that she would have spoken directly to the work of the office of civil rights to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgendered teens who are factually experiencing some of the highest levels of hate crimes, and bullying of any children in america, that she would have made some affirmation that she would be a champion for their equality and dignity and the office of civil rights would continue its needed work. but she didn't. i hope that she would stand up and say: we have violence on our college campuses. that right now silence is allowing insidious realities to exist. we have a problem with reporting rates. we have a problem with those
reports being made and not taken seriously that she could have used that as an opportunity to speak against what is happening to an unconscionable level of young women on college campuses, something that we would never want to happen to our daughters. to make a phepblg that the office -- to make a pledge that the office of civil rights would not just continue campus advisories, but will hold those college campuses accountable. but she didn't. for students and families across the country, this may not be a celebrated part, we may not all know in america that the secretary of education -- many people don't know they have an office for civil rights. but for so many families with
children on college campuses and preschools and grade schools and high schools, the office for civil rights has been the difference -- the difference makers between injustice and justice. the difference makers between violence and security, the difference makers between who we say we are as a nation, liberty and justice for all, and experiencing a terrible, awful lie. i feel compelled to speak out on the vital importance of the secretary of education regardless of party, regardless of background, i feel a personal
responsibility to ensure that if i cast my vote as a senator that whoever takes that office will be tireless in the defense of all the rights and privileges and liberties of our students because i personally stand here today because of the role of the federal government in enforcing civil rights laws. i stand here today because of the courageous federal laws that were put in place by bipartisanship -- republicans and democrats -- great battles on this floor for civil rights and disability rights, for title 9 protections for women, i am a
product for these types of fights for the federal role when it comes to civil rights. i stand here today because of our collective history. i -- i believe in states' rights. it's enshrined in our constitution, but i cannot ignore the role of the federal government. brown versus board of education perhaps one of the most famous supreme court cases affirming the federal role. look, when i -- i hung a picture i hung a picture in front of my office. i come out of my office into
where my assistant sits. and the first thing i see, the first thing i see on the wall in front of me is a norman rockwell painting. there is this young girl in that painting. and she is striding proudly to school. and behind her are racial epithets. a tomato smashed against that wall. she, this little girl, god, her
courage. a little girl named ruby. ruby bridges. and there are these white men surrounding her, walking just as tall. and they are escorting that girl to school. and there is clearly hate swirling around. you look at that picture and you can feel it, but i don't care what your background, what your religion, you look at norman rockwell's painting, as i make sure every day that i leave my office as a united states senator, i see that picture and i am reminded that sometimes when there is hate, sometimes when there is violence, sometimes the state doesn't get the job done, that sometimes the
most vulnerable of child needs a little help, not just from a loving teacher or a loving parent, but that there is a government that stands behind her and says you matter. i can't stand here today without recognizing that's my history, that's your history, that's all of our history that our federal government has a role to play. and i drink deeply from the wells of the freedom and the struggles and the sacrifice. i reap a harvest from ruby bridges and her courage, and our country has come so far, there is so much love, so much more recognition of the dignity of all children. but come on, we're not there yet.
children are often harassed because they wear a head scarf. i just recently heard about a sikh child wearing a turbine. still -- a turban. still harassed. a mother concerned that her child is no more bad than another but seems to get suspended more for the same behavior. children with disabilities. parents still are concerned that even though we've affirmed their rights and dignities in law, that those laws aren't being carried out like they should. god, there are young women on a college campus today who question rightfully whether their campus is committed to
eradicating sexual violence. with all of these things going on, we have to have champions here. we have to have people that understand that public education is a right for everyone. some of the most profound battles in our country have been fought to get equal access for children to school so that they can stride toward that school door, knowing that they will get a quality education free from bullying, free from harassment,
free from the binds of hatred or discrimination that might hold them back in their lives. now, i have faith in who we are as a nation. i know we are a loving country and a good country, but we haven't got it perfect yet. and so i stand here today in opposition to this nomination because i believe that we need a champion, and i wish that i had a chance to meet with the nominee. i wish that the hearings were longer. i've never seen them so rushed. but there's too much at stake right now. there are too many problems that still exist.
sadly, there still is a need for an office for civil rights in the department of education that is aggressive when it comes to the defense of freedom and our rights. i did not hear such a commitment from this nominee. there are millions of parents who didn't hear her speak to the concerns that they have about their gay child. the concerns they have about a child with a disability. the concerns of their children going off to college. we did not hear that commitment. in fact, what we heard was a belief that states can figure it out, was a failure to commit to even the most basic continuance of the office of civil rights.
i'm glad i hung that picture in front of my office. i may not be able to get what i consider an open hearing in answer to these questions. as i walk by ruby bridges, i feel i owe her a duty and so many others not to vote on someone who has been see length on -- has been silent on the issues that are so critical to this country being who we say we are. there is a child i think that wonders right now somewhere in america, is wondering if this country will prove itself true
to them. they are probably enduring some things i never had to endure. they are probably worried about their safety. they are probably being put in a situation where they're questioning their worth. they probably feel alone and isolated. my prayer is that that child knows that even though it ain't perfect and it won't be easy, that that child somehow knows that they're not alone, that there will be people fighting for them, because i was taught, in the words of a great poet, there is a dream in this land with his back against the wall.
to save the dream for one, we must save it for all. may the office of civil rights in the years to come remain vigilant, remain strong, remain expansive in their efforts, but i have no confidence it will do so under this person. and therefore i oppose the nomination. thank you very much, and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i want to thank the senator from new jersey who has given us such a compelling reason to remind all of us why we are here at almost midnight, why we all intend to keep talking, keep working and keep trying to convince one more senator to say no to this nominee. how important it is for that basic principle in this country that our forefathers dreamed of, that they put into our constitution, that we have
fought for, that every child should have dignity and every child should have a public education, and why it is so important that we have someone who leads this agency that shares that conviction, and i really want to thank him for his tremendous words tonight. mr. president, as the ranking member on this committee and who has been here throughout the friday debate and through the 12 hours debate we have had tonight and will continue to have up until the vote tomorrow, i've had the opportunity to hear many senators speak passionately. senator tester was here on friday from a very rural state speaking about how important it was to have a public education system that didn't have its funds robbed away from that public education system in those small little school districts to go to students with vouchers for private schools that didn't exist in those rural communities. he talked about the importance of our public schools and our public school institutions in a
slightly different way than the senator from new jersey did. he talked about how his grandmother who came and settled in montana, his grandparents were instead of being ranchers like those before him were wheat farmers and there was cattlemen and wheat farmers who were fighting in odds with each other in the community and where they came together was in their schools for kids, both cattlemen's kids and ranchers' kids played in school and played on basketball together and it healed the wounds of that community. the senator from new jersey just talked about the office of civil rights and why it's so important that no matter what we look like or what we stand for, this country says you have a right to an education. and it is in our public schools where kids from all strata and all economic lives and different backgrounds and different colors and different religions and different thoughts come together and heal our communities. that's what's at risk with this nominee, and that's why so many
senators on our side have said one more republican senator, send this nomination back, and to the president who campaigned saying let's heal this nation, let's bring people together, sends us a nominee that actually does that. so i again want to thank the senator from new jersey and all the senators who have been here to speak about how important it is to have a public education. i wouldn't be in the senate tonight without a public education. i come from a family of nine, and my father who was a world war ii veteran got sick when i was in junior high, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. my mom had been at home taking care of seven kids. she didn't have a job, she didn't have skills. we didn't know what was going to happen to us, but we had a public education system that was there for us. our country was there for us with a public education system, not a voucher that said you can go to a private school that we couldn't have afforded even with
it or be able to get to one, but a public education school in our community that gave the education to each one of those kids in my family, all seven of us, and then allowed us to go on to college with pell grants and student loans because our government was there for us. even though my dad was sick and my mom had to stay home and take care of him and we had food stamps for a while, and it was tough, but we made it because this country had a commitment to public education, and every student, no matter where you live, where you came from, what challenges you had at home. that's why i am here in the senate. that's why many of us are here in the senate. and it's why this nominee has sparked such an interest across this country. like many senators, i think like all senators, my office has been inundated with mail and phone call and e-mails and rallies and people saying please, stop this nominee and send us someone who
can actually work for all of us because education is a critical piece for each one of us, and it is across the country. i want to share some of the letters that i have gotten about this nominee. i have received 48,000 pieces of mail opposed to ms. devos. the number of pro-devos e-mails and letters is in the teens. they all tell a story. -- these railroad personal -- these are personal pleas. why and how? because they saw this nominee at this hearing and their expectations for the educational system are high and they want somebody leading the secretary of education who knows the issues and believes in public education. they were appalled at what they
heard. a woman from a small community. dr. senator murray, as an -- dear senator murray, as an educator, i was shocked and dismayed by the lack of knowledge and depth of understanding that ms. devos has about education. our education system needs a leader who can be a true leader in this arena with the background and backbone to do what is in the best interest of the children in this great country. do everything in your power to make sure this woman is not -- does not have this power. i heard from joe pechler, seattle, washington. he said, please do everything in your power to stop devos from becoming secretary of education. she is transparently incompetent and will be destructive to the
nation's education system through both intent and ineptitude. demand a competent appointee from the president-elect. i'm an educator. my wife is an educator. my grandfather was the first commissioner of education, so-called at the time, under the johnson administration. he would be thrilled to see a competent woman in this appointment, but categorically horrified at the possibility of devos, just as i am. mr. president, these are the kinds of reactions i am hearing from my constituents. why? because we had this nominee come before our committee. we were allowed five minutes each to ask her questions. she has a very complex financial background. we were not allowed to look at those background papers before we had a chance to talk to her, so we only had some information, so the only thing we could do
was ask her questions about what she believed in and her answers were astounding and many people saw them, whether it was about id ea and the ability for children in this country to get an education with disabilities, whether there was policy debates we were having on educations, what she saw as her drive and ambition. people in this country want someone who feels passionately about public education, not somebody who has used her vast amounts of wealth and experience to go after what she calls an education system that is incompetent and in her opinion needs to go away. her drive was been to take the funds out of public education and go for profit education. i can understand a woman who is a billionaire with a lot of money and invested in companies wanting companies to succeed,
but our public education system is not a company. our public education system is something that is derived from the communities it is in, from the teachers who are there, from the parents who participate as school board members and teacher volunteers. it is the drive and passion of our communities. it is not something people want ripped away, torn apart, or degraded. that's why this nominee has touched a nerve across the country. i heard from ms. rebecca blankenship. she said, i urge you to oppose the nomination of betsy devos as secretary of education. as a certified teacher who has taught for many years in public schools and as a parent of two young girls in the peninsula school district, i find ms. devos to be highly unqualified as she has had no school experience an funneled
money away from the schools in need and lacks the educational background to help students. there is no important issue to me than our education system. i heard from mrs. carole pa lander, a former teacher in tacoma, washington. as a retired public school teacher, who continues to train new school teachers, i am concerned about what would happen to public education if betsy devos is the secretary of education. our mission is to help teach kids how to live and work together in a diverse community and the proposals brought to the table by ms. devos to privatize education will further divide us as a community and significantly reduce our already limited resources. she is not qualified for this
important leadership position. mr. president, i have been in the senate for a long time. i have been -- i have gotten a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls and talked to a lot of constituent and been to a lot of community meetings. these are not form letters that we will getting -- these thousands of letters. these are letters of people telling stories. they are passionate about their public education system. and in this one nominee, they have spoken louder than any other in saying, this is not what i want for our country. i heard from so many people in our rural communities who are so concerned about privatizing our public education system because they don't have a private school to send their children to. again, in a lot0 of rural community -- a lot of rural community -- and i grew up in a rural community. i grew up in batho.
i -- it was a small community of 999 people. public schools is where you met your neighbors and everybody showed up for the football games and the music concerts and it was our community. we loved it and owned it. did we say it was perfect? did my parents say it was perfect? no, but it was the heart and soul of that community and they do not want to lose it just like so man kweu other parents in this -- so many parents in this country who want a secretary of education who want all of those kids to have a good he'd case. -- education. i have a letter from adam brikkett. and he says, thank you for your years of service representing our state. i have never contacted an elected official before, but with the changes happening in our country, i feel the need to
now. i am writing specifically to you today about the nominee for secretary of education, betsy devos. as a middle school teacher for seattle public schools, i work hard every day to ensure that my students get the best education possible to be successful in their future careers and lives. i am concerned that mrs. devos does not have the experience necessary nor the best intentions for our nation's students and schools to be our secretary of education. i believe she would put profits and money ahead of students, schools, and teachers. i felt this way before her nomination hear hearing and feel even more strongly after h.r. hearing. i am worried -- hearing. i am worried wha about the damae that she could do. i am not alone as all of my colleagues have expressed similar dismay in her
nomination. her record of attacking public schools and funneling money to charter and parolal schools wi with -- is troubling. her lack of experience with public education is also very disturbing. not only has she never been an educator or administrator but she has never attended or enrolled her children in public education. a high-quality, public education is one of the most powerful tools a society has. please don't allow someone with no experience and fundamentally against public education be the person in charge of it. i respectfully ask you and your colleagues in the senate to do what is right by our nation's students and reskwrebgt ms. devos -- reject ms. devos as secretary of education. thank you again for your tireless service. mr. president, i have 48,000
records. my staff handed me a pile of them. they are all very similar. they are very heartfelt. they are not writing a wrote letter to us. they watched the hearings, they listened, they care about our public schools, and they want this president and some of -- and some of these are trump supporters. they want this president to support our public schools. they did not, in this past election, have a debate about whether we should privatize public schools. we talked about the debate, and i know my candidate didn't win, but in this country i never heard a debate about taking public education away, about voucherrizing our public schools, about having someone who is the top person in the secretary of education espouse positions that are so fundamentally opposed to what i grew up with and what so many
parents, teachers, students, family members, and people involved in schools and business leaders are writing to us now because they saw the same thing we did in this hearing. let me read a letter from trina whitaker. she said this is my 16th year of being a teacher in washington state. i'm an advocate of public schools as i feel strongly that all of our students deserve a right to free and quality education. i am opposed to the nomination of betsy devos for the secretary of education. her past actions and beliefs clearly demonstrate she is not an advocate for our public schools. it would be so damaging if we move in the direction of privatizing public education. please consider opposing the nomination of betsy devos in the best interest for our public school system. let me read another letter from rachel gwenn. she says, as a committed public
school teacher, i believe in our neighborhood public schools which open their doors to all children. because unlike betsy devos, i see them work for children and their families every single day. we, as a community, are being undermine by charter and vouchers, for-profit schools, on-line schools, precious tax dollars are being wasted creating a parallel school system when we are already underfunded and not meeting legal requirements. our democratically governed schools, we, the people, you have vowed to represent need your commitment an support. choice is a disguise for school privatization and nothing more. stop the takeover of our democratically -- democratic schools. again, mr. president, so many letters from so many people from so many different walks of life all concerned about having a secretary of education that doesn't represent the best values and the best beliefs of
our country. ms. amanda smith, a kindergarten teacher wrote to me sand said -- to me and said, i'm a public teacher, i am concerned about betsy devos's potential nomination as secretary of education. as someone who never attended public school, didn't send her school to public schools, has never taught, she hardly seems like a fitting candidate for secretary of education. can anything be done to stop this education? mr. president, let me read just a few more. from gina, a teacher in washington. dear patty murray, as a recently retired public school teacher, i urge you to fight against betsy devos for secretary of education. she is not in any way qualified for the job. her commitment to charter schools, combined with a lack of experience with public schools
could destroy our nation's educational system. public school teachers provide an education for all of our students. teachers need more respect and more remuneration. we need the very best college graduates to be attracted to the profession. i have known so many dedicated and effective public school teachers during my 25-year career and those of us retiring, pwaeupy -- baby boomers, need the best successors possible. we need your support. don't let this undermine our efforts an thank you again for -- and thank you again for all of your work. mr. president, what i hear from people is, over an over again, they -- over and over again, they want somebody leading our public school system who believes in public schools, who has the education, experience, the compassion, the willingness to skwhrupbd stand