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Published: Tue, January 24, 2017
USA | By Yvette Dunn

What does Trump's nominee for education secretary mean for Penn?

What does Trump's nominee for education secretary mean for Penn?

In our new era of " alternative facts", as Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway put it, it wouldn't be surprising if someone was paying Patru to be Betsy DeVos's most vocal friend.

"Betsy DeVos has already met with each committee member in their offices, spent almost an hour and a half longer in her Senate hearing than either of President Obama's education secretaries, and is now answering 837 written questions - 1,397 including all the questions within a question- that Democrats have submitted for her to answer".

DeVos, a member of a wealthy MI family, has said that she will divest from 102 companies and investment funds. The website, for instance, includes a link to a Washington Post article about Kirk Cousins, a Washington Redskins quarterback who describes how he "retrained" his brain to better perform on the field by going to a Neurocore center. She hasn't - so what was the point of this question except to portray her as a religious zealot hell-bent on bringing her "overtly Christian agenda to Washington" - as per a 20-page screed by Politico - and besmirch her passion for school choice as a ploy to turn over schools to Christian churches? She vowed during the hearing to be a "strong advocate for great public schools".

"We would like to ask Ms. DeVos additional questions we were prevented from asking [last] week given we did not know all of the financial and ethical information that has now been shared with us, as well as address additional questions that have arisen from the [Office of Government Ethics] paperwork", reads a portion of the January 23 letter. The nominee answered, "No".

Besides the questions surrounding her familiarity with public school, many liberals and conservatives have noticed that DeVos' stances on early childhood and higher education issues remain unclear. While Devos is pending approval by the Senate after Trump's inauguration, many red flags have been raised about her qualifications and her plans for education. She and her husband, the Amway heir Dick DeVos, have $583 million to $1.5 billion in assets and hold a minority stake in Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs and an interest in the N.B.A.'s Orlando Magic, among other holdings.

"The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) was gutted by regulatory fiat during the Obama administration", Effrem notes.

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With mass shootings happening all across the country, her comment is, at the very least, insensitive. "Privacy was mentioned by Mr. Trump and was one of our questions".

Monday's letter, signed by the committee's 11 Democrats, said the group was "extremely disappointed" at what happened in last week's hearing, adding, "instead of anything approaching an appropriate and reasonable level of robust scrutiny, Democrats were cut off from asking additional questions beyond a single round, which is unprecedented in the Committee". Without proper funding, the services they provide will be inadequate, and while private schools might seem like the right solution to funding issues, the idea of selected admission and lack of requirements for standard of education can result in a lot of under-educated children. She is a mother and grandmother who understands the plights of families who want to see children attend the best schools possible - not just the only one available.

Choosing the learning environment is NOT true choice.

DEVOS: They have been fortunate not to. DeVos, however, said "it would be premature" for her to commit to supporting that letter. Their only educational choice at the time says Booy: a public school ranked third lowest in the state.

But the federal government must play a pivotal role where it can, assuring legal protections for students and teachers and acting as an agent for positive change.

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