Baker’s education secretary has no opinion about DeVos

Governor Charlie Baker’s secretary of education, James Peyser, said on that he has no opinion about President Donald Trump’s controversial education secretary nominee, billionaire Betsy DeVos.

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“I don't know Betsy Devos,” Peyser told State House News Service on Feb. 1 after participating in a State House ceremony honoring schools across the state. “I don't know — other than what I sort of read in the papers. I don't have a view really one way or the other.”

Pressed again by the news service on whether he watched the DeVos confirmation hearing in January, Peyser reiterated, “I just don't know her.” He added: “I saw just some of the hearing. I didn't even watch the whole thing.”

As of Thursday, Feb. 2, it appears almost certain that DeVos has the votes for confirmation. The Senate vote is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 6.

“That is a transparent dodge,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “No one asked Secretary Peyser if he knew her personally — only if he had formed an opinion about her policies based on the literally hundreds of media stories about her and her widely criticized performance at her confirmation hearing. He is the Massachusetts secretary of education. He ought to have an opinion on the nominee for U.S. secretary of education.”

“It is extremely troubling that our governor and secretary of education have not loudly denounced her nomination to protect our public schools.”

— MTA President Barbara Madeloni

The MTA, the NEA and many other education and civil rights groups have come out strongly against DeVos, whose only experience in public education is attempting to privatize it. She and her husband have used some of their fortune to support the creation of for-profit charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers to send students to religious and other private schools.

DeVos has also come under fire for having contributed heavily to right-wing religious groups, including Focus on the Family, which calls homosexuality a sin and supports “sexual orientation change efforts.”

“If Betsy DeVos is given the keys to the Education Department, she will drive public education right over the cliff,” said Madeloni. “It is extremely troubling that our governor and secretary of education have not loudly denounced her nomination to protect our public schools in Massachusetts.”

DeVos successfully pushed “school choice” in her home state of Michigan, and the results have been a disaster. She is adamantly opposed to holding charter schools accountable or regulating them in any way, preferring to let the free market rule, regardless of the negative impact on students.

The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12 to 11 on Jan. 31 to send her nomination to the full Senate. The next day, two Republican members of that committee, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said they will vote against her confirmation, bringing the total opposed to 50. One more Republican would have to vote “no” if her confirmation is to be rejected. No date has been set for the full Senate vote.

Read more about the DeVos nomination.