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.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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