Trump’s Controversial Education Secretary Nominee Opposed by Unions, Two GOP Senators

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Turning aside objections from teachers, parents, the PTA and Senate Democrats, the Republican-run Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved GOP President Donald Trump’s nomination of Michigan millionaire Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos to be Secretary of Education. But DeVos is in trouble, anyway.

That’s because on Feb. 1, Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, said they would vote against GOP big giver DeVos for the Education seat. If all 46 Democrats and both independents do, too, the result is a 50-50 tie. One more “no” sinks her.

The panel's 12-11 party-line vote came despite more than 1 million phone calls, e-mails and tweets, according to the National Education Association, a 2-page ad by the American Federation of Teachers, laying out the case against DeVos, in a widely read D.C. newspaper, and doubts about DeVos raised by top panel Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, a former kindergarten teacher.

DeVos is known for adamant advocacy of taxpayer-paid vouchers for parents of private school kids, her campaigns in Michigan for unregulated and unsupervised charter schools and to deny teachers tenure. She's also a GOP big donor and former Michigan GOP chair.

And she's drawn support from rabid anti-unionists, including right wing Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., who boasted in a letter to the panel that DeVos would agree with his anti-worker anti-union actions in the Badger State. He denounced “union bosses” who oppose her.

DeVos is one of several Trump cabinet nominees to face trouble from Senate Democrats, who, however, lack enough votes by themselves to derail the picks. Others facing problems are Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for Health and Human Services and fast food magnate Andy Puzder for the Labor Department. Puzder’s confirmation hearing was reset to Feb. 7.

DeVos "has shown great hostility toward public schools, which educate 90 percent of our children," said AFT President Randi Weingarten after the panel's vote.

"DeVos’ lack of experience, combined with her ideological zeal to put profits over children, has led to millions of Americans across the country — regardless of party affiliation — to ask their senators to reject her nomination. It is deeply troubling that Republicans on the committee would move her nomination forward following a hearing that exposed her lack of qualifications and her troubling record," the New York City high school history teacher added.

"The level of engagement from parents, students, and educators —from both parties — across the country in opposition to DeVos’ nomination and agenda has been nothing short of astounding," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, a pre-K teacher from Salt Lake City.

"This is a clear signal that a dangerously unqualified nominee has failed to convince the American people that she is capable of doing the job for which Donald Trump nominated her...As the nomination moves to the floor, every senator has a unique opportunity to put students before all else.

"The moment of truth is now. Will senators stand with our students and the public education system that educates nine out of every 10 students or will they ignore the growing chorus of bipartisan voices urging them to vote no on the controversial pick?

“Senators: We are watching. America is watching to see if you do what is right — reject the DeVos nomination — on behalf of students and public education.”

Murray hit DeVos for putting an ideological agenda above the nation's kids.

DeVos spent decades “using her inherited fortune to influence Republican candidates and push her extreme anti-student ideology," Murray said. DeVos fought for "the failed education policies that siphoned money away from strengthening public schools for all students and toward taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, with little accountability, for just a few."

And she cited DeVos' work "to reduce accountability for charter schools -- including for-profit charters -- and the devastating impact her advocacy has had on students in Michigan and across the country.

Trump's nominee was "stealing their opportunities to learn, pushing them into failed schools without true accountability, demonizing teachers, and weakening public education in their communities,” the senator said.




Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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