Senate postpones Devos confirmation after ethics concerns, unfinished paperwork

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 - 2:12pm

Betsy DeVos, U.S. Department of Education Secretary nominee, will wait one more week until she can officially be confirmed to begin her responsibilities under president-elect Donald Trump’s new administration.

The Senate announced a delay of Devos’ confirmation hearing late Monday evening; though the original hearing was scheduled for Jan. 11, the Michigan native, education activist and philanthropist will now seek confirmation next Tuesday.  

The Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) postponed the hearing due to Devos’ incomplete financial disclosures and an unfinished ethics review with pending conflicts of interest. Such potential conflicts include DeVos’s status as the chairman of Windquest Group Inc. and her family’s philanthropic fund, which has donated heavily to education causes.

Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.) and Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray (D–Wash.) said in a joint statement the delay was "at the request of Senate leadership to accommodate Senate schedule."

DeVos is an active supporter of school of choice, a point of contention in education debates, as education remains an important focus in American politics. Her selection signals Trump’s focus on crafting voucher plans for low-income families as a high priority on his education agenda. DeVos has made Michigan’s charter schools some of the least regulated in the country; around 80 percent of Michigan’s charters are privately operated.

Despite the delay by HELP, Trump, who spoke alongside her in his Grand Rapids “USA Thank You Tour 2016” victory speech, stands by his choice and hails DeVos as a leader in her field. In a statement, Trump called DeVos “a brilliant and passionate education advocate” that will be able to “break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back.”

DeVos has received criticism from educators across the country, who say she has little experience with the public school system.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.) openly rejected DeVos after sitting down with her earlier this month, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“Our conversation reaffirmed my strong concerns about her nomination,” Stabenow said. “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).”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney wrote in a Jan. 6 Washington Post op-ed that DeVos is a smart pick for the job, and will “challenge the status quo” like he said he did for education during his tenure as governor.

“I am truly excited that someone of Betsy DeVos’s capability, dedication and absence of financial bias is willing to take an honest and open look at our schools,” Romney wrote.

LSA junior Collin Kelly, chair of College Democrats, said he is pleased to see the hearing pushed back in order to ensure proper vetting.

"Like many of Trump's cabinet appointees, Betsy DeVos is a controversial choice, and we are happy to see her hearing delayed so that a more thorough screening process can take place," he said. "We hope that the hearing will showcase what we already know: that Betsy DeVos is just a lobbyist and big donor with no experience in education policy, and she is not the right choice to lead the Dept. of Education."