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tv   U.S. Senate Democrats Continue to Hold Floor as De Vos Vote Looms  CSPAN  February 6, 2017 3:59pm-6:00pm EST

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live, how much money their parents have, or how they learn. government at all levels, state, local and federal, share the responsibility of ensuring that our children have access to quality education. in addition to providing significant federal dollars to local school districts, the federal government plays a critical role in preventing discrimination and creating opportunity. federal education laws play a vital role in ensuring that all students have equal access to learning opportunities, laws like the landmark 1975 individuals with disabilities act or idea. before the enactment of idea, too many of our children with disabilities were denied the chance to learn from our broader community. and likewise, our broader communities were denied the chance to learn from these youth and the extraordinary perspectives and contributions that they offer to american
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society. now, thanks to idea, six and a half million of our children or 13% of all public school students are not condemned to a life of isolation or mere accommodation. instead, federal law ensures every child has access to the resources that he or she needs to become productive and included members of our increasingly diverse 21st century. idea assists public schools with offering high-quality special education and early intervention services for children with disabilities from birth to age 21. as a result of idea, idea's responsible for millions of youth with disabilities graduating from high school, enrolling in college and finding jobs as valuable participants in the american economy. but idea will not enforce itself. it is the responsibility of the
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department of education and its leadership to monitor, evaluate and provide technical assistance to states making sure that our schools are offering learning opportunities that meet every student's needs. it is the responsibility of the senate to determine whether or not mrs. devos can carry out this task and live up to the creed of forever encouraging education. unfortunately, mrs. devos has demonstrated little comprehension of the federal role in protecting students with disabilities' equal right to education. this became evidence when -- evident when she was asked directly about idea during her confirmation hearing, and mrs. devos tried to excuse her erroneous answer by saying, and i quote, i may have confused it. now, every student knows the importance of doing their homework, studying for their exams and practicing for any
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class presentations in advance. every educator knows that the answer i may have confused it is not a response that leads to a passing grade. with the stakes as high as they are, it is clear that mrs. devos did not do her homework. she did not study for her potential role. she did not practice for her interview with the senate committee, and most importantly, the american people. now, she has contributed millions of dollars to republican politicians over the years and probably thought that was the only qualification that she needs. we need to prove to the american people that she is wrong. i take the responsibility under the united states constitution to provide advice and consent to the president very seriously, and i know my colleagues here in the senate do so as well. but given mrs. devos' weak performance in her interview before the american people and her inability to demonstrate a
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basic understanding of key education concepts, i do not think that we can give her a passing grade. as senators, we do not operate under a model of social promotion under which we pass an unqualified individual to a higher office simply because they showed up. perhaps this is why mrs. devos' nomination is expected to see the most bipartisan opposition to her confirmation of all of the president's nominations to date. mr. president, mrs. devos' response regarding idea during her confirmation hearing was not the only response that i found alarming. as the father of two college-aged daughters, i'm extremely concerned about ensuring that our college campuses provide safe environments where students can learn and grow, and i was shocked by a recent comprehensive report done by one
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school that found over 20% of female undergraduates experienced unwanted sexual contact. sadly, this problem is not confined to one school. it is a public safety and health crisis that we must immediately take action on. the department of education has taken important first steps to combat the prevalence of campus sexual assault by opening investigations in over 200 schools and publishing guidance to ensure that universities are affording students title ix protections, freedom from discrimination on the basis of sex and freedom from sexual violence. mrs. devos apparently has a different reaction to the threats many young students face while pursuing their higher education. as we saw during her confirmation hearing, she said it is -- quote -- premature for her to say if she will choose to uphold the department of education's guidance on
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preventing sexual violence. this is completely unacceptable to me as a senator, representing over 500,000 undergraduate students attending one of michigan's outstanding colleges and universities. this is completely unacceptable to me as a father. it is also unacceptable in the eyes of over 1,000 graduates of the same school in michigan that mrs. devos attended herself, calvin college. calvin college alumni from the class of 1947 to the class of 2020 sent my office an extensive petition expressing their deep concern with mrs. devos' nomination. in their letter, these alumni presented several reasons they oppose mrs. devos' confirmation. specifically, they expressed concerns that she does not understand or support the many federal policies like idea and title ix that she would be required to enforce. they wrote, and i quote -- "this is especially concerning be given that the individuals with
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disabilities education act and entitle 9 which ensure that all all -- and title 9 which ensure that all students and educational experiences that are free of discrimination and impede learning are not of value to mrs. devos." end quote. i could not agree more with her fellow alumni. my office has received over 8,000 calls in opposition to the nomination of betsy devos, and i'm sure my colleagues have heard from thousands and thousands of their own constituents all across this country. the american people are making their voices heard, and they are telling the united states senate that mrs. devos is not the right choice to lead the department of education. i urge my colleagues to listen to their constituents who are forcefully, forcefully rejecting mrs. devos' misguided vision for neighborhood public schools in america. i will be standing with the people of michigan and once again call on my colleagues to
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join the bipartisan opposition to mrs. devos' nomination. our children's future defends on it, and for their sake, please vote no. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. inhofe: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. inhofe: mr. president, i believe betsy devos is going to make an excellent secretary of education. let me share -- first of all, mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that my defense fellow, captain james hart, be granted floor privileges for the remainder of this calendar year. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. inhofe: mr. president, i have been fortunate enough to get to know jeff sessions for the last -- the last 20 years. not only is he a colleague that i admire and respect, but he is also one of my very best friends. i actually suffered through with
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him back when he had a nomination that was rejected by this body many years ago. as you know, senator sessions has been nominated by the president to be the next attorney general of the united states. it's an incredible honor. there is no doubt in my mind that my friend will be perfect for the job. he's more than qualified for this position, and i know he will keep his word when he says he plans to uphold the laws that we pass in congress. senator sessions was elected to the united states senate in 1997. that was two years after i was elected. it -- we have been very close friends ever since. 20 years now we have known each other and worked alongside with both the senate armed services committee and the environment and public works committee. those are the two major committees that we have been on, mr. president. he is seated just to my right at each one of the committees. as the chair knows, you get to know a person pretty well when you have been sitting there for
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these three or four-hour-long meetings. we have had that relationship with each other. not only have we worked together, we have also traveled and prayed together. you know, you really get to know someone when you work, travel and pray together. when working, a person's mind is revealed. when traveling, a person's character is revealed. when praying, a person's heart is revealed. i've come to know senator sessions as a god-fearing family man who puts others before himself and has a deep respect for the rule of law. family man. every time he has a grandchild, his wife and my wife talk about our competing grandchildren. he helps those in need and makes sure that the legal system is protecting our citizens and holding criminals accountable. a person also only needs to look at the legislation and causes that he's championed to know it. he played a key role in fighting for fairness and defending for
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the rural hiv-aids patients when negotiating the reauthorization of the bipartisan ryan white care act. his advocacy brought funding to low-income mostly african-american women who did not have easily accessible health care before. senator sessions has been an author and supporter of many pieces of bipartisan legislation, including protecting victims of child abuse, reducing prison sentences for those who are unfairly targeted and helping the families of our fallen military personnel. as a member of the senate armed services committee, senator sessions has become a fierce advocate for keeping our country safe from terrorism, and he understands the risks that we face. in fact, senator sessions is tough on crime and is well suited to oversee federal law enforcement activities and assist local governments in
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their efforts. pilot crime has recently been increasing. furthermore -- and i just found this out, mr. president -- the shooting deaths of police officers has increased by 68% just last year between 2015-2016. that's pretty remarkable. and these trends are unacceptable, and senator sessions has pledged to reverse the course by strengthening the participate between federal and local law enforcement and going after drug traffickers, aliens who violate the laws and criminals who use guns to commit crimes. there's no question that senator sessions is qualified to do what he says he will and what the job asks of him. he serves as a -- has served as a united states attorney in alabama and the southern district, and he was also -- alabama's attorney general, so he clearly knows the job. he doesn't have to be trained.
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it is because of his previous experiences that he will be able to transition from a partisan legislator to our nation's top law enforcement officer with great ease. countless groups of people have come out in support of the nominee. the fraternal order of police, the national sheriffs association, former u.s. attorneys, former f.b.i. director, current state attorneys general and many more. all the law enforcement people are behind him, and there's a reason for it, because that's his record and peel are aware of it. so i'd like to take a minute to point out that it's crucial -- cruel and unfair that people have tried to paint a picture of senator sessions as someone and something that he is not. this is something that needs to be said. the man the opposition has painted does not exist. you all know jeff sessions. you know that the awful things being said about him are
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completely false. in fact, back in 1981, the ku klux klan ordered the tragic extremely undeserved murder of a young african-american by the name of michael donald. because of senator sessions' help and support, these klan members were convicted and given either life sentences or the death penalty. that's jeff sessions. furthermore, he later played a major role in the destruction of the ku klux klan in alabama when he helped bring a civil suit against them. as a result, the k.k.k. went bankrupt and caused them to fall apart in that region. again, that's jeff sessions' efforts. and before we vote on the confirmation of our friend and colleague, i ask that you all take a moment and seriously reflect how senator sessions has worked diligently with you over the past two decades and how perfectly qualified he is for this position. now, as for me, i thank him for his tireless efforts in congress, for his friendship and
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his fellship. he will go down as one of the truly great u.s. attorney generals in this country's history. mr. president, there are a lot of other nominees, and i have gotten to know -- i had an experience of going actually to trump tower and getting to know some of the people that advise him. as i looked around the table, i saw people that were the right kind of people in health care, the right kind of people in energy, the right kind of people in military to give him advice in areas that he might not have been exposed to in the past. and i just notice that it's been very slow. i was not aware of this until just a few minutes ago that apparently the cabinet confirmations are the slowest since george washington. this is something that's really wrong and it's -- you know, you can criticize someone, but after a while, you just go ahead and you know that the votes are there and you make sure that we go ahead and do it.
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but i would say this to the presiding officer since he and i are both from oklahoma, which is in the tenth circuit, that last week president trump announced that he is nominating judge neil gorsuch gorsuch -- judge neil gorsuch of the tenth court of appeals to be the united states supreme court justice. as someone who has been following the news and rumors on who the pick will be, i have been looking into potential nominees for weeks, and i was pleased to see judge gorsuch when his name came up because we know something about him. after the untimely death of justice scalia a year ago, it was clear that the presidential election would be about the direction of the supreme court for the next generation, or maybe even generations. with the results of the election, the republican president and the republican congress, the american people have entrusted us with confirming a justice that would
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adhere to the rule of law and would not try to read between the lines when interpreting legislation or the constitution. with the selection of judge gorsuch, i believe president trump has picked just such a justice. the president might not know or remember, but george w. bush nominated judge gorsuch to his current position and the senate confirmed him unanimously by voice vote. we went back and looked at the record. no one had voted against him. the same guy that is up before us this time. there's no question that judge gorsuch who is qualified for the supreme court, he is a graduate of columbia university, harvard law school and of oxford. he clerked for judge sentelly of the u.s. court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. he clerked for supreme court justices byron white and anthony kennedy, so he knows the job.
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there's no on-the-job training for him. he's been in private practice. he's been principal deputy to the associate attorney general and the acting associate attorney general at the u.s. department of justice, much like the justice he is nominated to replace, judge gorsuch has become known for his writing style. one of his former law clerks said that his -- quote -- favorite aspect of the judge's writing is his ability to humanize disputes. it appears that gorsuch has more in common with the late justice scalia than just writing abilities. he has said that -- this is the quote -- a focus on tax structure and history is essential to the proper exercise of judicial function, that judicial philosophy has been borne out in his record on the tenth circuit. my home state of oklahoma is within the tenth circuit
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jurisdiction so we know him very well. oklahoma is the home of hobby lobby. everyone is familiar with what hobby lobby is. it's -- it started out -- a lot of people don't realize this, it started out when i was in the state legislature. the greens who have hobby lobby started out in their garage. they were putting together at that time things that they could -- frames for miniature picture frames and that type of thing. and with a loan of $600, david and barbara green began making miniature patient frames. now today hobby lobby is the largest privately owned arts and crafts store in the world with over 700 stores in every state except three. the greens are people of faith and when they were facing fines under the owe back macara for not -- under obamacare for not providing certain coverage that
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violated their faith, they were faced with an impossible choice and they took it to court risking millions of personal dollars in doing so. in citing with hobby lobby against obamacare contraceptive mandate, judge gorsuch stressed the point that it is not for a court to decide whether the owners' religious convictions or correct or consistent but instead the courts' role is only to protect the exercise of faith and the supreme court agreed. again, judge gorsuch defended the little sisters of the poors religious beliefs in his dissent of the tenth circuit refusal to rehear their case against the obama administration regarding the same mandate hobby lobby was contesting. time and again judge gorsuch was -- has defended religious expressions in public space. in addition to defending the
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first amendment protection regarding the free exercise of religion, he is also skeptical of the idea that agencies should be given wide latitude when interpreting statutory language. in a recent opinion, judge gorsuch suggested that the precedent of the judiciary to give deference to agencies on statutory interpretations limits the courts when reviewing the legality of agency actions. gorsuch believes it is for congress to write the laws, the executive to carry them out and the judiciary to interpret them just as our founding fathers had planned. i look forward to working with -- to move judge gorsuch's nomination forward. he's going to be confirm and he'll make a great justice of the united states supreme court. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan.
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ms. stabenow: before my colleague and friend from oklahoma leaves the floor, while we disagree on the current debates in terms of voting, i just have to say when i see him, i constantly thank him for his efforts last year as he worked with us for the community of flint. and we're finally seeing some hope in terms of replacing and addressing lead contamination and without the distinguished senator from oklahoma, that literally would not have happened. and so we have things we disagree on and agree on and on this one coming together with the families so flint and particularly the children and the long-term impacts, you'll always have a warm space in the hearts of all of us who care deeply about that issue. thank you very much. mr. president, i want to speak today about the nomination in
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front of us, betsy devos. you know, betsy devos' nomination is very personal to many people who live in michigan because betsy devos is from michigan, and her vision of education and her actions have unfortunately played a major role in undermining our public schools. families all across our state can tell the story of her work with michigan schools firsthand because they've seen it firsthand. they've lived it firsthand. and they all say the same thing, democrats, republicans, ends, people who -- independents, people who live in cities that are big and small cities and parents and teachers and principals and community leaders from across the state, overwhelmingly they've told me that betsy devos should not be our next secretary of education.
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i can't believe everywhere that i go how people will stop me about this and how strongly people feel in michigan about this. they're saying this because among other things, she's pushed for policies that have made charter schools in michigan less accountable and taken dollars away from public schools where the vast majority of children get their education in the process of that. policies that have hurt our children and put their futures at risk. i've gotten so many e-mails and phone calls from people involved in every which way, at the grocery store, out in public events, people coming up to me. i just want to share a couple of e-mails. chris who is a teacher from harbor -- harper woods who worked as a teacher in the
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detroit public schools for over 20 years wrote and said to me, betsy devos believes in school privatization and vouchers. she's worked to undermine efforts to regulate michigan charters even when they clearly fail. the marketplace solution of devos' will destroy our democratically governed community schools. her hostility towards public education disqualifies her. those are chris' comments. in michigan last year, state legislators put together a bipartisan plan and our state legislature, house and senate, is majority republicans. and they put together a bipartisan plan to increase both funding and accountability for detroit public schools. mr. president, there's a lot of wonderful things happening in detroit around businesses coming back to detroit and economic development, but we have major work to do for our children in
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the schools. and so there was a huge effort that came together. bipartisan to increase funding and accountability for the public schools, including charter schools. and it was commonsense proposal. betsy devos led the effort to stop it, particularly the part that brought critically needed public accountability for for-profit and nonprofit charter schools. unfortunately right now in michigan, we have a system where anyone can apply to open a charter school. there are no statewide standards for revoking a charter. and taxpayer money is sent to them with virtually no public disclosure requirements. and, for example, we have for-profit charter management companies that say they are private businesses and therefore, even though they're getting public money, they say
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they are private businesses and they should not have to comply with a series of disclosure requirements regarding teachers and other information that frankly parents would want to know and taxpayers have a right to know. 38% of charters in michigan are at the bottom of the 25% of schools in our state. so when you look at the bottom fourth, 38% of the charters are in that category and there is unfortunately very little accountability for their purchas--performance. sadly precious taxpayer dollars have been taken away from public schools, neighborhood schools to fund these charters. and when it comes to funding for public schools, she won't commit to protecting the critical federal dollars that serve our
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children. one mom hillary young from detroit came to washington to watch the confirmation hearing on betsy devos in the help committee. she wrote to me. she said she was not impressed and told a group of parents afterwards, as a parent i can't stand silently and watch other children be subject to similar circumstances to my child in detroit. my sixth grader was without a math teacher for over half the year last year because of funding reductions. the effect of devos policies is not parents voting with their feet to go to better schools, it's children bearing the burden for fixing the education system they're supposed to be served by. and she goes on to say devos' idea of free market school choice system has left our cities' education landscape in chaos leaving less choice, less
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quality, and even more government bureaucracy. we've seen parents get involved and speak out all across michigan and frankly all across the country. i've gotten more mail, more e-mails, morphone calls on this nominee than any other and i've gotten a lot on a lot of nomin nominees. but there is a broad outcry. people like kathleen who's a farmer and a grandmother from farmington hills who wrote to me. we have 15 grandchildren who are in the public school system, and we are terrifed that there will be no more public schools and that the quality will be far inferior to charter and other public schools. i'm writing you to respectfully ask that you do not vote to confirm betsy devos as secretary of education. and i'm deeply concerned about
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what we heard in committee about her views on special education. in the help hearing last week, she suggested that states should decide on whether or not to enforce idea, the individuals with disabilities act that has been such a landmark, opening doors of schools in every neighborhood across our country for children with disabilities. this law was enacted in 1975. and make sure that children with disabilities have the same educational opportunities as other children. my nephew barry who has now gone through the special education system in michigan is a wonderful young man with down syndrome and i've seen personally how important that was for him to be able to go on now and be successful in the community as a part of the community and it is a very
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important school right, frankly, for children with disabilities as well as an essential part of our educational system. betsy devos, after her hearing, followed up when she was asked about special education, she followed up with a letter days later and wrote about -- quote -- expanding the conversation about school choice opportunities for parents of children with disabilities. but she didn't say anything about helping those in traditional public schools or helping students in the schools that they are now. mr. president, for me, this is not about politics or partisan messaging or even charters or private schools versus traditional public schools. it really is about what's best for our children and for our country.
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families in michigan and all across the country know this. tens of thousands of people have called me over the last few weeks and sent e-mails and letters. who we choose to be the secretary of education doesn't just affect the over 50 million children who attend public elementary and secondary schools. it affects the future of our country. and it's a fundamental difference in views. a competitive free market system with winners and losers works in the private marketplace. i support that. businesses open, they compete, they don't do well, they close or they do very well and they go on and they grow. that's the strength in our country. but it doesn't work for educating our children because we can't afford losers.
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we can't afford losers when it comes to something as basic, as fundamental as education and creating opportunity for our children in the future. we need to provide every opportunity for every child to work hard and succeed. you know, i support having choices. i support magnet schools and public charters. i did that as a state senator. other choices that are great opportunities for children if there are equal standards and public accountability for taxpayers' dollars and parents can have confidence in that accountability. and if it's part of the public c school system, the public process, and only if they are in addition to quality neighborhood schools in every neighborhood, in every zip code.
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it's not just a matter to say it shouldn't matter where you live, what kind of opportunity you get or your child has. and that is becoming more and more true. it certainly is in michigan where this philosophy has been a test case and we are seeing it across the country. we can't afford losers. a winners and losers system is not good enough for our kids. betsy devos has a record of working against the vision of accountability and standards in choice within a system where every child has a quality neighborhood school in their -- in their neighborhood, in every zip code. she has worked against that vision. she doesn't believe in it. we have fundamental differences in what will help our children for the future, and that's why i
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will be voting no on her confirmation. thank you. mr. warner: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warner: first of all, i want to thank my friend, the senator from michigan, for her comments and views on this nominee. i rise today to add my voice to those expressing concern about the nomination of betsy devos to serve as u.s. secretary of education. the chorus of concerns not only comes from those colleagues who have already come to the floor last week or earlier today or throughout, i know, the evening and into tomorrow morning, but it also comes from literally tens of thousands of my constituents who have contacted me about ms. devos. i have been flooded with phone calls, e-mails, social media messages from virginians all across the commonwealth. in many ways, in numbers that i haven't seen since the debate about the a.c.a.
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these virginians worry about ms. they worry that it would -- what it would mean for our children, our students and for progress towards proving and providing every child with a quality public education, regardless of their zip code. like many of my colleagues, i bring to the debate some direct experience as both a state or local elected official. i had the great soarn of serving as governor of virginia. i was responsible in that job for how we were preparing our students for success in college and the work force. i took this responsibility very, very personally, as somebody who attended good public schools all his life. i was lucky enough to be the first of my family to graduate from college. i realize that i wouldn't have been able to be governor or obviously, for that matter, senator without that foundation that i received from my education. those public schools -- and i
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had the opportunity to go to public schools in three different states growing up. many of those public school teachers were the folks who framed my views about government, about our system, about how to actually get through in life. and i believe in many ways public schools and the whole notion of public education really forms the cornerstone of what is the social contract in america, that getting that basic public education was a right of all individuals. and when i think back on everything that i was able to accomplish as virginia's governor, the validation i valued the most that was when i left the governor's office in 2006, virginia was consistently recognized by independent validators as the nation's best state for a lifetime of educational opportunity from
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pre-k to college and beyond. so as someone who was committed to reforming and looking at how we can make sure our public education work for all and someone who spent a career before in business and tried producing in a philanthropic sense on how we could expand educational opportunities, i believe that i bring some experiences on this debate, and that's why, mr. president, i stand here today unable to support the nomination of betsy devos to serve as secretary of education. to put it simply, ms. devos' single-minded focus on charter schools, vouchers, on converting federal education dollars into a different program, is simply out of step with the education climate in the commonwealth of virginia. let me make clear. i have supported public charter schools. i believe they are a tool that ought to be in the tool kit. i've taken on those forces who
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stand for simply no reform in education. but i'm unconvinced that ms. devos' complete setting of different priorities at the federal level is in the best interests of our students, our teachers or our public schools, and that's exactly what i have been hearing from constituents all over the state. i'd like to very briefly share some of those concerns that i've heard. laura from my hometown of alexandria writes this. quote -- "while many of our president's cabinet picks worry me, none worry me more than betsy devos for secretary of education. she says she comes from rural appalachia where she said she worked her way through public schools in one of the poorest counties in the country, but that didn't stop her from ending up here in northern virginia, working for the intelligence community. in areas like my hometown where public schools are the only option, they become the lifeblood of a community.
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on limited resources, our high school had to get creative on how to provide for the students, often providing with the local university. but shutting the school down in favor of charters or adding a for-profit alternative definitely wasn't an option in her low-income area. a school administrator with the shenandoah valley says -- quote -- after her confirmation hearing, it was quite clear she had no knowledge of instruction, curriculum, federal programs and most disturbing had no understanding of the federal laws that are in place to protect children with disabilities. quoted as a serious business to educate children and the consequences are huge if we do it wrong. another comment, and again, these are just samples of thousands. olivia, a teacher in williamsburg, shared this. quote -- "i see so much potential in my students every day, and i feel very energetic as a young teacher about the
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opportunities that i know our public schools are providing already and they are capable of providing in the future. she said she was concerned for her lgbt students, her low-income students and for the future of myself and my colleagues as public school educators, trying to do good for our students. mr. president, i have received thousands of similar heartfelt messages from every corner of virginia. now, i welcome this level of public attention and citizen engagement, and sometimes, as the president's nominees have come forward, i voted for many of them, much to the consternation of some folks. but it is my job to weigh, regardless of that public opinion, weigh what i think is best for students in that virginia, for that matter students across the country. with this outpouring from teachers, parents, students, administrators, civil rights groups, charter school proponents and opponents from
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both sides of the political aisle, i believe it does weigh. that's what i have done, listened to my constituents, but more importantly i have listened to ms. devos' own words before the senate help committee, and let me tell you, i still have a lot of unresolved questions after reviewing mrs. doo devos' testimony. for starters, mrs. devos did not demonstrate that she understood the individuals with disabilities education act, idea. she didn't understand it was a federal law passed by congress and signed by president george h.w. bush. contrary to the impression that ms. devos seemed to have at her confirmation hearing, saying that somehow complying with idea was simply a voluntary measure. that is not right, it's not the law, and boy, oh, boy did that frighten a whole lot of parents whose kids have special needs. and without idea, would not have those needs met. they are concerned that
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mrs. devos' seeming lack of familiarity with idea is indicative of how, if confirmed, her department department of education would fail to protect the rights of these children and every child to a free and appropriate public education to allow even kids with special needs to flourish. another area under the department of education's jurisdiction where i have concerns about mrs. devos' jurisdiction and level of understanding is sexual assault and campus enforcement. since 2014, i have been proud to support bipartisan legislation led by my colleague joe moran and claire mccaskill, the senate accountability and safety act. at the end of last congress, this legislation had support of more than one-third of the u.s. senate as well as a number of law enforcement agencies and many of our leading colleges and universities. the department of education's own office of civil rights has also played a very important
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role in initiating and conducting title ix investigations. so you can understand why many folks, including myself, were concerned when ms. devos did not demonstrate any depth of knowledge about the difference of opinion surrounding particular policy issues related to campus sexual assault. similarly, when asked a basic principle of education policy related to measuring students' achievement, ms. devos was not able to articulate an understanding of the difference between growth and proficiency. in the same vein and while this has become the subject of late-night comedy, i think it is a very serious matter, mrs. devos was not able to clearly express her understanding or her commitment to enforcing the gun-free school zone act, which, again, is federal legislation also signed by president bush where compliance is not an option.
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these are fundamental tenets of federal education policy, not some obscure metrics, not small bills that languished in committee or small compromises. these are the principles and cornerstones of federal education civil rights policy, and they could not be more central to the secretary of education's core responsibilities of safeguarding students and civil rights. for all those reasons, and others, i'm not able to support ms. devos' nomination to be secretary of education. i know, mr. president, you have had to hear a number of these comments. i hope that if she is not confirmed, the president will send down an education secretary nominee that brings more mainstream views to this very important issue. those of us with me, i'm all for education reform, but it's got to be led by someone who will always, always put the needs of our kids and making sure they all get a fair and appropriate
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education is guaranteed. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. a senator: mr. president, i am deeply disappointed by the qualification of president trump's nominee to be the leader of our department of education. mr. heinrich: betsy devos has clearly shown a disregard, even a hostility for the public school system. so i stand with the thousands of parents, teachers, and students of new mexico in fighting to stop her confirmation. simply put, education is too important to new mexico's children, to our state's economy, to have a secretary of education not fully invested in the success of our public schools. as someone who grew up going to public school, who is sending my
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own kids to public schools, i am deeply troubled by betsy devos' record on privatization which goes well beyond simply voicing support for vouchers and private school. ms. devos has been a key player in the well moneyed effort to privatize and siphon funds away from public education and she has time and again undermined the teachers that we all rely upon. it appears as though betsy devos' most notable experience in education is spending her career and her fortune advocating for pollties that -- pollties -- policies that divert public tax dollars away from public schools and into private schools. i cannot support a nominee who wants to weaken the kinds of public schools that so many new mexicans rely on. the policies pushed by ms. devos
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would be especially damaging to rural new mexico where there are few options to begin with. it's not uncommon for students to travel more than an hour to get to and from school in those parts of the state. school administrators often wear multiple hats, sometimes running the after-school program or driving the local school bus. in rural areas in my home state, the public school is often the only choice and there simply aren't enough students to support the kinds of for-profit private schools that ms. devos wants to replace them with. having a secretary of education who has spent her entire career pushing a privatization agenda is not reassuring to new mexicans and is at odds with the needs of students and families across my state. further, i do not believe that ms. devos understands the federal government's trust responsibility in serving native american students.
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given ms. devos' rushed nomination hearing in the help committee, senators were given very little opportunity to question her about her understanding of tribal issues and impact aid. so i'm concerned that she will push her privatization agenda in these areas as well. for example, zuny public school district is a small rural district in new mexico. earlier this week their school board sent me a letter asking that i oppose ms. devos' nomination. i want to take a moment and i want to read a few passages from this letter. quote -- the beauty of the united states pub like school system unlike many in the rest of the world is that we take everyone who walks through our doors and love every child who sits in our desks without question.
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this board stands by all of our students no matter what color or ethnicity, regardless of their creed, every child who identifies on the spectrum of lgbt or q, every child with either a physical or learning disability or both, every child who speaks a second language, every immigrant child as well as every native american child who can trace their lineage in this land back thousands of years, every child who sees their education as the bridge between their most ardent dreams and their most hopeful futures. these are powerful words and i fully support and thank the zuni public school district for speaking out on this matter. we should all be this concerned. mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the entire letter from the zuni public school board be included in the record following the rest of my remarks. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mr. heinrich: during her nomination hearing, ms. devos demonstrated over and over that she is unfamiliar with even basic education issues and failed to commit to uphold the responsibilities of the secretary of education to support public schools. given that ms. devos has no relevant experience as a teacher or school administrator, we should be very concerned with entrusting her to enforce key protections under title 9, under idea, and other civil rights laws. in particular, ms. devos' lack of commitment to the office of civil rights within the department of education combined with the fact that she and her family have donated enormous sums of money to organizations that are anti-lgbtq, women's right, anti-muslim is simply
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troubling. the mission of the office of civil rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation with vigorous enforcement of civil rights. during her nomination hearing, ms. devos would not commit to continuing the office's policies that are making our college campuses safer by focusing on prevention and response to sexual assault. in fact, she's donated money to organizations that actually make it harder to prosecute sexual assault on our college campuses, as amazing as that sound, it's true. if my republican colleagues rubber stamp this nominee, they will confirm a secretary of education that doesn't believe in public schools, who will unravel rural education and has even worked to make it harder to protect women against sexual assault on college campuses. i believe that we have a moral
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imperative to ensure that all students have equal protections while attending school. ms. devos will be a massive step in the wrong direction. as the members of the zuni pueblo wrote to me in their -- to me in their letter, our children are our most sacred gifts. this is what we're voting on with this confirmation. we need an education secretary who is committed to upholding its principles. we need an education secretary who is committed to ensuring that every student has access to quality education regardless of their background or their zip code, regardless of their ethnicity or their religion, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. in the last few weeks, my office has fielded thousands of calls and letters asking me to oppose this nomination. i've heard from more than 8,000
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constituents on this one topic alone, many of whom called as parents, as teachers, some as students. that's more than any other trump nominee that we have considered to date. never has an education secretary nomination received so much attention and opposition. mr. president, i stand with the thousands of parents, of teachers and of students across the country and in my home state of new mexico fighting to stop this nomination. i would urge my colleagues to join me in voting no. mr. president, i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mr. manchin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mr. manchin: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call.
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mr. manchin: i would like to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. manchin: i rise to express my concern with the nomination of betsy devos as the secretary of education. i think if you knew my state, the state of west virginia, we're a state made up of a lot of small towns. we don't have any what you would call large metropolitan areas. so we're an urban rural state. for many communities in west virginia, our schools are more than just classrooms, teachers and textbooks. our children in west virginia learn more in their public schools than reading, writing and arithmetic. they're the heart of the community and a home away from home for most of them. they are a safe place to stay after school where no harm will come to them. they are a place where nutritional meals are served and health care services are provided by trusted school nurses. after meeting with mrs. devos and watching her answer questions at her confirmation hearing, i have a hard time believing that she has the qualifications to be the secretary of education.
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i just -- i believe in local control of education and also that strong public schools are vital to our states' future. everything is local. education is local. our 55 counties, each one of the counties is responsible for the financing of their schools, and if the counties do not have the sufficient funds, we have what we call a school aid formula that basically offsets that in order so every child in west virginia will get a quality education, an opportunity for one. in my state, charter schools and school vouchers would pool already limited public funds and resources from the schools and students and teachers that need it the most could be harmed and would probably be harmed. there are some towns in west virginia with only one school, one school only, or where students have to travel for more than an hour on the bus just to get to the school that has been consolidated. voucher policies would be
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completely useless in these places. there is no place for them to attend. in areas where there are few private schools in my state, a voucher program would have devastating effects for public school children. the limited dollars that we do have, if you deviate that money whatsoever, then basically you're going to have the strain on the public system that won't be able to pick it up in the rural areas. there is just no other way for us to have the funding that we need. vouchers will slide the public funding away from our public schools causing them to have to cut resources like teachers, advance course work and other programs. they often do not pay the entire cost of attendance at a private school, making them unusable by low-income students and families. vouchers also conscript students with disabilities and their families of the rights under the individuals with disability education act. the most troubling part of that was in that hearing, if you watched it or saw any parts of
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it, it was a lack of understanding that every child deserves the opportunity for quality education no matter what his or her disabilities may be. that's a responsibility that we have as an american. with that, if you have never been in a public school setting, you've never attended a public school yourself and you have always been privately schooled, your children have never attended a public school and have always either been private schooled or home schooled, you probably have never been in a setting where you have seen a disabled child trying to get the opportunities that other children have, with a special aid that's working with them. and you can see that's a waste of resources. i guess you could say that wasn't your child if it wasn't somebody you knew that needed to say that. you know, just the empathy that you have. so it would be hard for a person to understand that. and i believe that's a compelling reason to make me
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take pause in saying that i believe that we need somebody that has had that diversity, has had that real classroom experience. another thing, never to be in a p.t.a. meeting to where you have problems with schools. you might have problems with the bus and transportation. you might have problems with extracurricular activity or lunch programs or a routine study program to where you can sit down with other parents and work through these programs. that's something that's hard for most of us in west virginia to ever concede that you could ever be in that position, ever have that experience in life. i believe communities in west virginia know our students' needs better than someone who really never attended -- intended to work -- -- attended or worked in the public school system. many people from west virginia expressed their concerns about mrs. devos. i want to read a letter from diane in my home county. we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters that come in. diane writes i'm asking you to vote against the dwirnlings of mrs. betsy devos as secretary of
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education. as an educator with 44 years of experience in public schools, i recognize we have many issues, but i also know we do much that is right for children. educators no longer simply teach core content. we know that children can only thrive if their social, emotional and physical needs are met. the whole child is now the focus of every teacher and teaching has become a very difficult but very rewarding job. educators need and deserve a secretary of education that knows and understands the tremendous responsibility each of us has accepted. we do not have the time to get the leader in step with us. we need and deserve someone who understands how policies can impact what we are able to do for our children. we need and deserve someone who understands the value of academic growth versus proficiency. we need and deserve someone who understands how important it is to send food home in backpacks
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because our children will not eat during a weekend or holiday break. i want to stop right there and give you a personal experience. when i was governor of the state of west virginia, i always would go around to the schools. the school used to tell me what was going on in the community. i would always go to the cooks. because they really had the pulse of the school. this was may and school was getting ready to let out for the summer. one of the cooks was crying in the kitchen. i couldn't figure what was wrong. i went back and tried to console her and talk to her. i says can you explain why are you so upset? you're just about out for the summer. she says i know these little kids aren't going to eat much this summer. she wanted to stay and cook through the summer, have all year so the kids would have nutrition. that tells you what we're dealing with in an awful lot of rural settings. we need and deserve a leader who knows, and almost every teacher utilizes his own personal funds to buy pencils, paper, classroom
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supplies and instructional materials for our students because the budget of what our children deserve is not given to us. that's the strain we already have on the system now. put any more strain on that by taking funds away makes it almost impossible. my request is not politically motivated. my request for you is to vote against mrs. devos. about the teachers i work with in marion county and across pennsylvania. one of the pillars of a great civilization is education. although the american system of education is not perfect, we are still envied by many nations. education is a hope for children of poverty as well as those who have economic security. please encourage president trump to seek out a foreign -- a former or current state superintendent of education or a chancellor of higher education or anyone with the knowledge to walk in step with us as we make a brighter future for our children. during her hearing, mrs. devos
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demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the basic issues in public education, including the debate about how best to measure student progress. she also did not appear to have a solid understanding about the amount of student loan debt in this country, which is now the second largest source of consumer debt in the united states, surpassed only by home mortgages. not only does she lack the institutional knowledge, but she has no personal family experience with the student loan system or any experience running a major loan program like the one she would be in charge of as secretary of education. this leads me to believe she would be unable to run the program effectively and efficiently. and what i have said and spoke to other people about, i understand -- i think most of us who have been in washington long enough understand how the system works. even though the person must have the greatest of intent, the most honorable of intent, wanting to do a balanced job, but if they
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have never had the experience, and basically they are charged with setting up programs that basically is supposed to get incentivized, schools, school districts, states, those programs are not going to lean to where they have no knowledge. those programs will go to where they have the most knowledge and the direction of their policies they believe in. with that being said, the incentives would go in that direction. the incentives go in that direction, it pulls further resources away from a rural public education system. at her hearing, mrs. devos failed to recognize that individuals with disabilities education act is a federal law, a federal law protecting access for individuals with disabilities to a decent public education, and that she would be in charge of insuring that the school implemented the ability. no child, no child should ever be denied access to the same public education because they suffer from a disability.
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as both a governor and a father, i can never look at a parent in the eyes and tell them that their child cannot get the same education as another child simply because they suffer from a disability and it would be too costly for us to do. west virginians need an education secretary who has an understanding of the needs of all children, including those with disabilities, and is committed to ensure they receive a quality education, a strong education is a building block for success for every child and the foundation for our country's long-term economic strength. we need an education secretary that understands the challenges that students, teachers and schools in rural areas face. betsy devos has spent her career working in the private-public school system, not investing in and improving the public school system. the policies that mrs. devos supports would divert public funds to private schools whether it was intentional or not.
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strip accountability from schools and significantly harm the public school system in my state of west virginia which is all we have. mr. president, it's difficult to speak -- and i don't make it personal. i try not to make it personal because i don't believe in the toxic rhetoric that goes on sometimes in this room when it shouldn't, in this great senate chamber of ours, and definitely on the hill. so i know this is probably a great lady, a good lady who is well-intended. she just doesn't have that personal experience it takes to grab this entire country and understand that we're different, states are different. we depend on it. we can't always go in one direction. and that's the flexibility. but we'll give you flexibility. well, we need the support from washington to have the flexibility to make sure the children in west virginia have the same opportunities that a child in pittsburgh, pennsylvania, might have in a
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larger school district, one in a metropolitan area that can afford, because you don't have the travel and everything else that's involved, that they can afford to basically maybe have a charter school. in my state even the legislature couldn't. they looked at charter and voucher systems and couldn't find a pathway forward because of the limited funding and knowing it would divert. if there's no more funding going into it, that means you've got to cut the pie more. and they were concerned about even going in this direction. and my legislature in the last two years has flipped completely to a republican majority in both the house and senate, all good people well intended. they're looking at all these avenues. but tep end of the day you've got to take care of who you're responsible for, and in rural west virginia that's a child who might have to ride one hour just to go to school. i don't know where you would put
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a charter school. i don't know where with a voucher system you can send them. if we have a problem with deficiencies that's basically the responsibility of the county and the community. it's the responsibility of the parents and guard --ians to be involved. i guess where we're going to end up is all the children with disability and children who have basically not the means or a person who is able to drive them or take them to a special school, they're all going to be left, so-called behind. it's just not who we are in west virginia, and i ask for your consideration that maybe we can find a secretary who has the experience and understands and has the real-life experience, that might have attended a public school themselves. i'm a product, i'm sure you're a product of private education -- i mean public. but we're a product of the
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public public school systems, probably more than likely rural public schools dis. -- systems. we had to make some sacrifices and did well with that. the bottom line is there were no options. we did the best with what we had. these kids won't have options. the majority of kids in west virginia won't have options. you better make sure that that system you have in that rural setting is giving that child every opportunity that he and she can excel. and who knows, maybe one day they'll be sitting in my seat or your seat. i hope so. with that, i'd say that i must oppose they -- oppose her secrey position that she has been achieving that president trump put her forward to, with all due respect. and i think i've stated my reasons for that. but i would hope that people understand that our rural public
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schools truly need a champion. we need that champion to really step forward and lift us all up. and with that, i would yield the floor, mr. president. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: thank you, mr. president, very much. i am here this afternoon to stand up to one of the most dangerous nominees in president trump's cabinet of big oil and big banks and big billionaires who are going to be populating the cabinet of the united states. the secretary of education is responsible for a budget that includes $36 billion for elementary and secondary education, $150 billion for higher education each year. and on top of that, the secretary of education is responsible for more than $1.2 trillion in outstanding federal loans. this nominee, betsy devos, would shape the policies and
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programs that affect more than 50 million students across our country. young people may just be 16% of our population, but young people represent 100% of the future of the united states. and we need a secretary of education that believes that all children deserve access to a quality public education regardless of income, race, ethnicity, neighborhood, or disability status. betsy devos does not share this commitment to equal opportunity, and she is unqualified to serve as secretary of education. betsy devos has a long and well-documented record of opposing public school systems. she has implemented school choice voucher programs. she has simultaneously advanced and deregulated charter schools. in massachusetts, we recognize that education is a passport to
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the job opportunities of the 21st century. massachusetts students at the fourth, eighth and tenth grades are number one in america in math, verbal and science. we're number one. math, verbal and science, fourth, eighth and tenlth grades. if massachusetts were a country we'd be second behind singapore in reading. that's massachusetts. we have a very high percentage of our students who are minorities in our home state. i live in malden. malden is a city of 60,000 people. malden high school, 2016 graduation class, 28% white, 258% asian, 24% latin, 23% black, 1% pacific irelander, 28, 25, 24, 23, 1.
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what is our goal? our goal? malden, our goal in massachusetts is to be number one, number one not just in the united states but number one in the world. we know you can do it if you make a commitment to these kids. and it's not just our traditional public schools. it's our public charter schools, our private schools, our preparatory schools are enormously successful. many of them are world famous, these high schools that are senr children to from around the country to go to school in massachusetts. but the success of our public charter schools is largely due to very strong accountability measures brought about through state regulations and rigorous oversight. that's the key to our charter schools. it's accountability. it's oversight.
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it should not be draining money out of the charter school system for profits for private corporations. it has to be invested in the kids. but, betsy devos wants charter schools to have less accountability and has fought to keep charter schools unregulated across michigan. when the michigan state legislature introduced a bipartisan bill that would have expanded oversight of charter schools, betsy devos stepped in, she and her family donated $1.34 million to -- $1.45 million to state legislatures to strip language out of the bill. that works out to $24,000 a day over the seven-week period the bill was being debated. betsy devos and her unlimited funding ultimately succeeded in blocking the commonsense
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accountability legislation, and the students and families of detroit were denied the key protections and oversight that their schools needed. but betsy devos' school choice priorities go beyond expanding and deregulating charter schools. she has puched -- pushed for voucher programs that would use taxpayer money, your money, to pay for a child's private school tuition. under a national voucher system, the funding that would normally go to local school districts would instead be diverted away from public schools towards the for-profit private institutions. in addition to the private schools that benefit from a voucher system, 80% -- 80% of the charter schools in michigan are run by for-profit companies. a much higher percentage than any other state, and these companies are focused first and
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foremost on making money. we don't allow this to happen in massachusetts. we have only one goal, and that is to be number one. that money must stay in the school system, especially if you're trying to educate a minority population, which is the future workforce of our country. that's key. they don't come from the traditional backgrounds in many circumstances. the secretary of education must fight for all children and families, not promote companies seeking to profit off the backs of our students. not even michigan, a state where the devos and her family have tried to exert the most influence over education policy, has implemented a statewide voucher system, despite spending $5.6 million on a campaign to promote school vouchers, the devos family failed to amend michigan state
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constitution. if betsy devos is allowed to expand her school choice policies across the united states, it would be devastating for our students and for the future of our country. her ideas are too extreme. it will not work for our students or for school districts in our nation. i also share serious doubts that betsy devos will support all students in america. the individuals with disabilities education act is the primary federal law that ensures that all students in every state have access to a free and appropriate public education regardless of physical or mental handicaps. learning or attention disorders, this law covers students who are blind, deaf, vocally or mobility impaired and those with autism or adhd. congress passed the original of idea in 1975. it is a bedrock law in our country. yet, when betsy devos was asked
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about it during her nomination hearing before the help committee, she stated that states should be responsible for determining how and even if to enforce the idea. now remember, idea goes right to the heart of what we're going to do for those kids with disabilities. and that's a bedrock law in our nation. states must abide by it. we need a secretary of education who understands long standing federal education law and will commit to protecting every student in america, because every student deserves the guarantee that they can and they will receive a free and appropriate public education that is promised and protected by law. if this laundry list of efforts to undermine public education wasn't enough to cause scep six about betsy devos -- skepticism about betsy devos' qualifications to be secretary of education, in her
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confirmation hearing, betsy devos would not commit to keeping guns out of our schools. her response when asked about the issue was -- quote -- "i think that's best left to locals and states to decide. guns do not belong anywhere near our schools or our students and teachers, not in public or private schools. not in lament year schools and -- not in elementary schools and not in our high schools. i'm proud to have stood with senator blumenthal and chris murphy calling on congressional action on common sense gun safety legislation. and as a senator the safety and security of massachusetts schools, neighborhoods and communities are my top priority. our secretary of education has the safety of every student in every state in his or her hands, and i do not believe betsy devos is up to that job. i do not stand alone in this conclusion to betsy devos is unfit to be secretary of education. i received tens of thousands of letters and phone calls from constituents all across
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massachusetts urging me to reject her nomination. many of these come from teachers and administrators, the people who work on these issues every day. i have a letter here from todd simon dinger, the principal of rock port elementary school in rock port, massachusetts. he wrote to me last week and said -- quote -- "senator markey, as a strong supporter of public education, i ask that you oppose the confirmation of betsy devos as secretary of education. we must have a secretary who can commit to supporting every student in all public schools and provide leadership that will help our neighborhood schools succeed. betsy devos' record in education and her performance at the recent confirmation hearing proved that she is the wrong candidate for the job. as a principal, i have spoken with teachers, parents, students and community members who agree that america's future depends on a strong investment in our nation's public schools. the offices of so many of my
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colleagues who have spoken on the floor already have, like me, received these kinds of letters and messages literally on a minute-by-minute basis from our constituents. their passion is born of a deep commitment to ensuring that the very best education for all of the children of the commonwealth can only be provided if the standards for that education is high. and i commend them and i agree with their concerns. all children deserve that standard. and so from my perspective, you can't have a more fundamental issue before us, this privatization of the public school system in america, the voucherization of our public school system in america. there's a model. it's massachusetts. we do it right now. we're number one in the country, and we look over our shoulders at those who are behind us, but it's a standard that basically says we are going to invest in the public schools, in the charter schools, we're going to make
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sure that they have the highest possible standards, and that's a recipe for ensuring that every child, regardless of their nationality or their income gets an education they need for a portable passport to a global economy for the rest of their lives. that has to be our goal. what's happening using the philosophy of betsy devos is a failure. it's a proven failure. we already see the results. what's happening in massachusetts, what happens in implementing the standards of the laws that we already have on the books across our country. it points us in the correct direction. so with that, mr. president, i urge a no vote on betsy devos and her nomination as secretary of the education department, and i yield back the balance of my time, and i question the presence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. markey: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. markey: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. markey: mr. president,
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american history was made last night. the boston patriots won the super bowl. and this triumph v.r.e. ant of of -- of kraft, tom brady and bill belichick continued this historic journey to being recognized as the single greatest football team in the history of the united states. and even as the falcons were ahead by 25 points, even as the rest of the country thought that the game was over, we in massachusetts, we in new england, we have our own motto -- in belichick we trust. in brady we trust. we knew that it was not over. we knew that there was still hope. we knew that there was a plan that could be implemented that would ensure that the patriots once again would prevail.
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and so i thank you, mr. president, for giving me this opportunity to be recognized on this most important of all subjects, this incredible patriots' victory has brought joy to people all across new england. it's brought dismay to people in other parts of the country. they still continue to be mystified about this incredible team and the incredible leadership that those three great leaders provide. but for us, we realize that we're in the presence of greatness. we know how spoiled we are to have such a great team. and i just wanted to rise and congratulate the new england patriots. their leadership of bob kraft, bill belichick, tom brady, but
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all of this team because their motto is a very simple motto. it says do your job. and that's what every patriot did last night. and because they stuck it out through every single play, at the end of the day they were able to enjoy that historic victory. and so from my part, i can't be more proud of any group of new englanders. it was just a fantastic victory. as a season ticket holder, when i was 19 years old, when it was seven games at $6 apiece, $42 as a season ticket holder at fenway park, you can imagine how almost impossible it is to believe that we have reached such a stage where even those who have been critics of the patriots now are forced to recognize that bill belichick is the greatest coach of all time, tom brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, and the patriots, led by
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robert kraft, are the greatest franchise of all time, and we are very proud that that victory last night cemented that place in history, and once again, i just want to congratulate each and every one of them, and especially the patriots' fans who through thick and thin have been with that team every step of the way. and with that, mr. president, i yield back the balance of my time. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. mr. menendez: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. menendez: mr. president, i rise today as a product of the new jersey public schools. the son of cuban refugees whose parents decided to leave everything behind because they did not like a dictatorship from the right and did not like what they saw in the sierra mastros
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as the castros were seeking to overthrow that government from the right and who fled their own country in order to seek a better life in the united states. they were the lucky ones. they saw the handwriting on the wall, and they got out before the true brutality of the castro regime took hold in cuba. when they arrived here, they had nothing more than the promise of a brighter future, and if not for them, then for their children. in so many ways, it's a quintessential immigrant story, indeed a quintessential american story. my mother worked as a seamstress in the factories of new jersey. my father was an itinerant carpenter. we didn't have a lot of money, just enough to live in a small apartment, in a tenement in union city and put food on the table, but that was plenty.
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it was plenty because my parents knew that living in america gave their children access to a free public education and they always taught us that an education was the key towards a better life. now growing up, i was a quiet kid. i was very studious, i got good grades, but i struggled with public speaking. i know some of my colleagues wouldn't believe that today, but that's true. unfortunately, for me, one of the final requirements before i graduated high school was a public speech class. again, i did all the work, but i refused to actually stand up in front of the class and speak, and i thought i could get away with it but my teacher, gail harper, had other ideas. she kept me after class. she forced me to recite short stories and poetry and speeches i had written that were part of the class work after my
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classmates left. eventually she told me i was going to be the narrator in a school production which meant i was going to be speaking on stage in front of the entire student body. i was petrified. pe try -- petrified and i was inclined to refuse. i'm not sure if there would have been a more terrifying thought to me in the world than having to get up in front of my entire student body. but ms. harper told me that she knew i could succeed, and if i refused, however, she would have no choice but to fail me. and if you knew my mother, my late mother, that was not an option. so i swallowed my fear, and when i got out there i found that ms. harper's work paid off. not only did i realize that i could overcome all of that fear and anxiety, but it had instilled in me a hunger to keep working, to get better, and speaking in front of people is a
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skill that i honestly owe my life's work to. for me, ms. harper was so much more than a teacher. she was a mentor and one of the unsung heroes of our public education system. and i'm privileged to have had an opportunity to tell her that during her lifetime. now, thanks to my parents' commitment and incredible public schoolteachers like ms. harper, this product of new jersey public schools went on to get a law degree from rutgers university, a state institution and was able to rise from a tenement in the city to one of 100 senators in a country of over 100 million people. i got my start in politics fighting for students in my hometown. when i was in high school i was told i could be in the senior's honors program but i had to cough up $200 for the books. my parents were poor and
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couldn't cough up the money for the books. i raised such a ruckus that they gave me the books, told me to be quiet and put me in the honors program but i had friends who had the same circumstances. they had the ability and the grade. they didn't have the money and unlike me, they didn't say anything, and they didn't get in. so i didn't think that was right, and i petitioned to change the school board from being appointed by the mayor at the time to elected by the public. and ultimately i won a fight to change that school board and became the youngest school board member at the time in history when i was 20 years old. so i understand the promise of public education. i understand the challenges that come with it. i understand the need for parental engagement and the extraordinary impact good teachers can have on our children's lives. i understand that our schools need access to adequate resources in order to allow every student to reach their
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full potential. and i understand that we have a long way to go to ensure that we truly do guarantee every child in america equal access to a high-quality public education regardless of where they live, regardless of the happenstance of where they were born, regardless of the station in life. most importantly, i understand that our public education system has formed the foundation upon which the american dream has been built for generations. it is the great socializing factor of our nation, and there is no substitute for it. at its core, it's an all taker system. it does not care whether you are wealthy or poor, whether your family predates european settlement, came on the may flower or is a first-generation american. it does not care whether you are white or black or hispanic or asian or christian or jewish or muslim. it does not care whether you
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struggle with learning disabilities or autism or down's syndrome. our public education system welcomes you in with open arms and adheres to the fundamental principles that all are welcome, all are equal, and all deserve a chance to learn and earn a better life for themselves and their families. while we work to improve public education and renew our commitment to our children, we need a partner in the federal department of education that also understands these challenges and shares our values. unfortunately, i do not believe that betsy devos is that candidate. while i do not question her intentions, her limited experience and advocacy for policies that fundamentally undermine public education make her unqualified to be the secretary of education. mrs. devos has never participated in the public education system that she would be tasked with overseeing oort
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as a student -- either as a student or a parent or a teacher or at administrator. i don't see that fact in and of itself alone as disqualifying, but coupled with the policies that she has advocated for in her home state of michigan, pushing for more charter schools while simultaneously working against accountability for them, even as they profit off the backs of children while showing little improvement in student outcomes. advocating for voucher schemes that put public funding into private schools even for families that do not need the additional assistance. while depriving public schools of vital funding that ne depend upon to provide a quality education to every student. it becomes clear that mrs. devos does not understand that fundamental commitment to american children. my concerns about mrs. devos were compounded by the answers she gave in her confirmation hearing before the help
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committee. guns have no place in our schools, at least in my view, except in the hands of trained law enforcement personnel tasked with keeping our children safe. yet, when asked if she would do away with gun-free school zones, mrs. devos after trying to avoid the question with a nonanswer about grizzly bears attacking schools, said that she would support the president. i do not believe that it is the role of a cabinet secretary to simply and blindly support the president regardless of how misguided or dangerous an idea might be. nor do i believe that it is reasonable or responsible to make it easier to bring guns in and around schools where they endanger our children. we must do a better job securing universal background checks and treating mental health issues, but more guns is not the answer. mrs. devos also said in her testimony that she believed that compliance with the individuals with disabilities education act should be left up to the states.
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idea, as the act is known, guarantees a free -- i dea guarantees a free appropriation to meet students with disabilities. when congress first passed idea in 1975, though it was called then the education for all handicapped children, it came with a promise that the federal government would cover 40% of the costs to educate those with special needs. unfortunately, we have not met that be 0 gaition, providing less than half of that funding in recent history. now, idea is federal, not state law. it is federal law that needs increased funding and attention from the federal government. and when this was pointed out to mrs. devos she said simply that she -- quote -- "may have been confused." our children with disabilities deserve a real federal partner that understands the challenges they face and is committed to getting them the resources that
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they deserve, not a secretary of education who is confused about the federal role in education. these are only a few examples of how mrs. devos has shown herself to be unprepared and unqualified for the very serious position to which she has been nominates. if confirmed, mrs. devos would take over a multibillion-dollar federal student aid and student loan program that helps american families afford the skyrocketing costs of higher education. i myself was a recipient of pell grants and other federal student aid and would not have been able to afford the cost of a college degree without them. yet, not only does mrs. devos have no experience with student loans or managing such a program, but she has very little, if any, engagement with any policy issues pertaining to higher education. and at a time when trillions of dollars of student debt are acting as a barrier to obtaining a higher education, hindering a generation of graduates from
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entering the middle class and acting as a drag on our economy, we deserve a nominee who understands these issues. as we struggle, continue to struggle with the best ways to measure student progress and achievement, we deserve a secretary of education that understands basic concepts like the difference between proficiency and growth. so let me just say my own experiences have given me an incredible faith in the power of public education systems. while mrs. devos has only worked to undermine it. i believe that the federal government can be a strong partner in ensuring a free, quality public education for all students, especially those with disabilities, while mrs. devos seems to think that the federal government should not be involved in these endeavors. i believe that guns must remain out of our schools. mrs. devos seems to indicate that they could have a place there. and most importantly, i believe that our students, parents,
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teachers and educators should be able to trust the person tasked with overseeing them. and the 50,000 new jerseyans who have reached out to me to oppose her nomination have clearly shown that she has not earned that trust. here is one example of a constituent who reached out to my office. dear senator, my name is beth moore and i live in your great state of new jersey in phenwood in union county. i am writing today to express my deep opposition to the appointment of betsy devos as secretary of education. as a mother of two boys in our public school system and one with special needs, i am deeply concerned and troubled about mrs. devos' lack of public school experience. in fact, the thought of her steering money and funding away from public school is not only a threat to my children, but a threat to the 50 million other children currently receiving a public education. she lacks understanding in even the most basic issues that affect our schools, and that, my senator, is scary. i urge you to strongly oppose this and tell your other
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colleagues in the senate to do the same. so i implore my colleagues to put politics aside, examine mrs. devos' qualifications closely and to be open to the input that you are all receiving from your own constituents like beth moore. and i hope that if you you are n in your mind in that regard, you will oppose betsy devos' nomination to be secretary of education, as i will. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that a quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: i ask unanimous consent the appointments at the desk appear separately in the record as if made by the chair. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mcconnell: i suggest the
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absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call:


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