Knox County teachers’ union says education secretary nominee DeVos unqualified

Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – There wasn’t an empty seat in the house as the Knox County Education Association discussed their concerns about Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos.

KCEA President Lauren Hopson says charter schools and vouchers are among the biggest concerns. She says DeVos has been a big financial backer for the voucher and charter system in the state of Michigan, which Hopson calls a disaster. She says the system hasn’t worked at all, specifically in Detroit.

Hopson says DeVos’s positions on charters and vouchers are a large reason for concern, but the KCEA’s biggest concern is DeVos’s lack of experience.

“That really is the biggest concern is that she is unqualified,” said Hopson. ”During her confirmation hearing she couldn’t answer basic questions about testing or federal law or financial aid, and those are things that affect all of our students.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, who is in support of DeVos, has a long history in the education system. Hopson says she doesn’t believe Sen. Alexander always makes the best decisions about education.

“Senator Alexander has done some really good things for education but he has also done some things that have been very detrimental to it,” said Hopson. “We appreciate that he helped pass through the ESSA law because it really is an improvement on ‘No Child Left Behind’ but it’s one step forward and two steps back with this appointment.”

Alexander said Tuesday he is confident the Senate will approve DeVos’s nomination when he spoke about her on the Senate floor:

“Few Americans have done as much as Betsy DeVos has to help low-income children have a choice of a better school. The Democrats’ opposition to her says more about them than it does about her.

“Would her critics have been happier if she had spent the last 30 years trying to deny low-income children an opportunity to go to a better school? No. She spent her money and her time trying to help children from low-income families go to a better school.

“Next Tuesday, we will vote on whether to approve Betsy DeVos’ nomination to the office of United States Education Secretary and will send that to the floor of the full Senate. I’m confident we will do that. I’m confident the Senate will approve her. Even though they may disagree with her, Democrats should give the new president a chance to have his own education secretary just as we did — just as we Republicans did for President Obama.”

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