by Ron Gregory
Washington, DC — West Virginia’s United States senators split today in a historic vote that confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, as Education Secretary.
Senator Joe Manchin remained with his Democrat colleagues and two stray Republicans in forging 50 votes against DeVos while Republican Shelley Moore Capito voted with 49 of her party partners in granting 50 “yes” votes. For the first time in Senate history, according to published reports, a vice president, this time Mike Pence, broke the tie for confirmation, 51-50.
“As a former Governor, understand how crucial it is for an executive leader to have his team in place,” Manchin said in explaining his “no” vote. “But as a Senator it is my job to evaluate a nominee’s qualifications and determine if they can lead that agency. After meeting with Betsy DeVos, reviewing her experience and watching her hearing, I could not vote for her to be our next Secretary of Education.
Capito was lukewarm in her support for DeVos, saying, “as my voting record indicates, I do not agree with Mrs. DeVos on every issue. However, I do believe she is a passionate advocate for children and learning, and she will work hard to improve education for all students across West Virginia and the nation.”
Capito continued, “Congress acted in a bipartisan way when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 to shift decision making authority away from federal officials in Washington and back to states, local officials, teachers and parents. I am confident Mrs. DeVos will keep the promise she made during the confirmation process to comply with this law. Mrs. DeVos has also provided assurances that she will not impose a school choice or voucher program on any state or school district, sharing my belief that such a mandate should not be required by the federal government.
“In addition, Mrs. DeVos has indicated she shares my commitment to the enforcement of all federal laws which protect the rights of students with disabilities. These laws, most importantly the Individuals with Disability Actor IDEA, are essential in ensuring students with disabilities gain access to, and succeed in a high quality education system. Every child, regardless of where they attend school, deserves an excellent education. I am confident that Mrs. DeVos will work hard to make that promise a reality.”
Manchin concluded, “For many communities in West Virginia, our schools are more than just classrooms, teachers and textbooks. Our children in West Virginia learn more from their public schools than reading, writing and arithmetic. They’re the heart of the community and a home away from home. They’re a safe place to stay after school where no harm will come to you. They’re a place where nutritional meals are served and healthcare services are provided by trusted school nurses. 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 to privatize public schools, not investing in and improving them. The policies that she supports would divert already very limited public funds to private schools, reduce accountability from those schools, and significantly harm the public school system in a rural state like West Virginia. Betsy DeVos’s views are not in tune with the needs of the students and families in my state. My opposition to Mrs. DeVos is not personal or political. It is principled. While she is Secretary of Education, I will continue to fight to protect funding for our schools and teachers and ensure equal access to a quality education for all of our students.”