Published: Fri, February 03, 2017
National | By Traci Kelley

Pat Toomey, sought by constituents, 'big fan of Betsy DeVos'


In back-to-back speeches today, Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) announced they will oppose Betsy DeVos becoming Secretary of Education.

Amid fierce criticism from Democrats and teachers unions, senators Susan Collins of ME and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska announced their opposition to DeVos due to her lack of experience in the nation's public schools.

"I'm concerned that Mrs. DeVos's lack of experience with public schools will make it hard for her to fully understand, identify and assist with those challenges", Ms. Collins said. That tie would be broken by Vice President Mike Pence, who serves as Senate President.

White House officials expressed confidence that DeVos would be confirmed despite the misgivings of Murkowski and Collins.

"They fear that the voucher programs that are meant to serve them may actually rob them of the opportunity to benefit from an education in an inclusive environment with their nondisabled peers", she said.

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A Senate committee forwarded DeVos to the full body for confirmation Tuesday (Feb. 1).

Ohioans flooded Senate phone lines in Washington, hoping that Portman, of Terrace Park, would cast the deciding vote on her nomination.

Murkowski, the senior senator from Alaska, said that the outreach she has heard from constituents has compelled her to vote against DeVos' confirmation. That is the final step in the confirmation process, and all DeVos needs in order to become the next Education secretary is 51 votes in her favor. But if just one more Republican senator opposes DeVos, she will not make it through the Senate, making her the only member of Trump's cabinet to be rejected. She has drawn the fire of teachers unions for her advocacy for charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers for private education.

But there's no answer when she calls Toomey's office.

Mark Desetti, director of legislative advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association, said Moran's vote for DeVos would be "a serious mistake with education in Kansas". While DeVos has donated her time and money extensively to education reform causes over the years, she has no experience in public schools, and much of her time and energy has focused on school choice that provides alternatives to the traditional public school sector.

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