Todd Spangler , Detroit Free Press
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sat down today with Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s west Michigan pick to be education secretary – but DeVos won’t be getting her vote.
“Our conversation reaffirmed my strong concerns about her nomination,” Stabenow said. “Betsy DeVos and her family have a long record of pushing policies that I believe have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children. Therefore, I cannot support (her).”
DeVos, a former state Republican Party chairman and wife of former Amway head Dick DeVos, has long been an advocate of education reform, promoting charter schools and private schools through vouchers and other means that critics say undermine traditional public schools.
DeVos has argued that public dollars should flow to families who then get to pick the schools they deem best, saying such a system would create competition and improve education overall. But public education supporters say that drains funding from their institutions and students, who are already suffering from too little investment.
Stabenow said she asked DeVos “a number of tough questions about her record in Michigan” during the interview.
Ed Patru, a spokesman for a group called Friends of Betsy DeVos, which is supporting her nomination, downplayed Stabenow’s characterization of the meeting, calling it “a great conversation” and expressing confidence that the two can find “common ground” such as they have in the past on school financing when Stabenow was a state legislator.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee has set a hearing on DeVos’ nomination next Wednesday. With rules requiring only a simple majority vote in the Senate and Republicans in control, DeVos’ confirmation is likely.