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Editorial: DeVos a terrible choice for education

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail / Gazette:

Among many affronts of the new Trump administration, selection of Amway billionaire Betsy DeVos as U.S. education secretary was especially disturbing.

She has been a lifelong cheerleader for “school choice,” which sounds nice in theory but, in practice, easily turns into funneling tax money away from public schools that accept everyone and instead giving it to religious and private schools. Giving tax money to religion violates the separation of church and state, embodied in the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Senate testimony showed that she has little grasp of public schools or education law. She never attended public schools or taught in them. She expressed ignorance about student loan debt. She didn’t seem to comprehend that disabled children must be educated. Can she really serve the needs of all American children and young adults?

Opposition to DeVos was so intense that she almost didn’t attain Senate confirmation. Two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, were brave enough to break from their party and vote against her. The nomination squeaked through only because Vice President Mike Pence cast a history-making vote to break a 50-50 tie.

If West Virginia’s Sen. Shelley Moore Capito had as much courage as Collins and Murkowski, DeVos would have been defeated. But Capito obediently followed her party’s dictate. She ignored protests outside her Charleston office by public school supporters.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote a Sunday Gazette-Mail commentary saying DeVos lacks “the qualifications to be the secretary of education.” He said schooling determines America’s future, and “we cannot afford to play political games with our education.” He rightly pointed out that DeVos’ attitudes will be particularly hard on rural schools.

Now, America is stuck with an unfit billionaire in command of federal education policy. If she tries to steer more tax money to church schools, we hope federal lawsuits block such a violation of the Bill of Rights.

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