tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN January 17, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST
but a reality that all students are unique, learn differently, and excel at their own pace. our high school graduates are having increasing difficulty accessing affordable, higher education. escalating tuition is pricing aspiring and talented students out of college. others are burdened with debts that will take years or decades to pay off. we do need to take action. it would be a mistake to shift that burden to struggling taxpayers without first addressing why tuition has gotten to siso high. we need to embrace new pathways of learning. for too long a college degree has been pushed as the only avenue for a better life. the old and expensive brick mortar and ivy model is not the only one that will lead to a
prosperous future. craftsmanship is not a fallback but a noble pursuit. students should make informs choices about what type of education they want to pursue post-high school and have access to high-quality options. president-elect trump and i agree we need to support all post-secondary avenues including trade and vocational schools and community colleges, of course, on every one of these issues, congress will play a vital role. if confirmed, i look forward to working with you to enact solutions that empower parents and students, provide high-quality options and spend tax dollars wisely. we'll work together to ensure the every student succeeds act is implemented as congress intended with local communities freed from burdensome regulations from washington and i look forward to working with congress and all stakeholders to reauthorize the higher education act to meet the needs of today's college students. president-elect trump and i know it won't be washington, d.c., that unlocks our nation's
potential. nor a bigger bureaucracy, tougher mandates, or a federal agency. the answer is local control and listening to parents, students and teachers. for nearly three decades, i've been involved in education as a volunteer and advocate for children and a voice for parentparent s. i've worked as an in-school mentor in the grand rapids public schools and had the privilege of interacting with parents, families and teachers in ways that have changed my life and perspective about education forever. i've worked with governors, legislators and business and community leaders to expand educational opportunity through options that are making a lifetime of difference for hundreds of thousands of kids this year alone. and i've worked with many dead ka dedicated teachers who strive every day to help students achieve, fulfill their potential and the global challenges they will face. for me, it's simple.
i trust parents and i believe in our children. thank you, again, for the opportunity to appear before you. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you, mrs. devos. we'll now begin our round of five-minute questions. i'm going to defer my questions until later. we'll begin with senator enzi then to senator murray. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mrs. devos. i want to welcome you here and thank you for being willing to take on this kind of a project and to appear before us. i enjoyed our meeting last month and look forward to working with you as we consider your nomination and then after that. you're going to be dealing with a great variety of states from high population to low population. i happen to come from the lowest population state. it has some special challenges in education, call it rural and frontier challenges.
we don't allow a child to travel more than an hour by bus to or from school. and as a result, we have some schools that have one or two students. it's a little different situation that was even envisioned with no child left behind so i'm glad we've chased to essa. the federal government -- quality counts 2017 report, i'm pleased that wyoming was ranked number seven out of the 50 states in that and in the area of financing education, we were number one. and that comes at a time when our state's going through some economical suffering because of the obama administration's war on coal and fossil fuels and hardworking families that support those industries. but rural frontier has some special problems.
part of them are that the submission of some of the applications and some of the applicable reports have no bearing on what we're doing. and that's important when we have the rural aspect as well as the wind river indian reservation which has the home of two tribes. when every student succeeds, there are provisions to permit the secretary to reduce the departme department's workforce. with the return of educational authority to the states and the elimination of federal programs, it's important that workforce be reduced to ensure more educational funding is provided to the schools and not kept in washington. also i'm troubled by the government accountability office report that was issued at my request last november that showed the cost projections for the income-driven college loan repayment program are tens of billions of dollars higher than
the original estimates. and those estimates were based on data and accounting methods that were deeply flawed. you'll inherit that in the current department of education's data lack transparency omitted, key information, made other flawed assumptions. as an accountant, i was appalled. then there's the career and technical education that you mentioned. i appreciate your emphasis on the value of craftsmanship and also technology. i just saw the movie "hidden figures" that introduced people to computers and the value of women in the workplace in nasa to get them into space. i have one-sixth of my schools that don't participate in perkins career technical education funding because the low population gives them such a low amount of funding that it
isn't worth doing it and that needs to change. mrs. devos, one of the most important jobs you'll have is the implementation of every student succeeds act. i'm pleased with what you said about it. can you talk about your plans to engage rural and frontier state and communities in that process? >> senator, thank you for that question. i, too, enjoyed our meeting in your office. i particularly enjoyed hearing a little bit about the special needs of schools like the wappatee school has has the grizzly bear fence sir rouurrou it, a unique need to wyoming certainly. certainly rural schools in rural settings require different approaches and different options and so i refer to the every student succeeds act and i think the implementation of that and the wyoming's plan for that will be particularly important to
recognize the unique needs of the rural population that you have as will many of the other states represented here in the committee. and when we think about the future, i think about the opportunity for more choices and options for those parents at a distance learning type of a situation. and the possibility that, you know, course choices or online courses could be offered in ways that they may not have been previously, and i would, if confirmed, look forward to working with you and some of your other colleagues that face those same types of challenges such as senator collins and senator murkowski and work with you to address the specific needs of rural communities and rural -- high rural population states. >> thank you. look forward to working with you. >> thank you, senator enzi. senator murray? >> mr. chairman, it's your committee, if you want to go
first. >> no, i'm -- thank you for the courtesy. i'm going to go a little later. thank you. >> okay. miss devos, i really am troubled by some of the comments and things you said about public education and how you see the role of the department you've been nominated to lead now. my first question for you really is yes or no, all i want is a yes or no. do i believe the mission of the department of education should be to strengthen public education for all of our students? >> yes, i do. >> good. so can you commit to us tonight that you will not work to privatize public schools or cut a single penny from public education? >> senator, thanks for that question. i look forward if confirmed to working with you to talk about how we address the needs of all parents and all students. we acknowledged today that not all schools are working for the students that are assigned to them. i'm hopeful we can work together to find common ground and ways
that we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them. >> i take that as not being willing to commit to not privatizing public schools. you're cutting money from education. >> well, i guess i wouldn't characterize it in that way. >> well, okay. let me ask you about conflict of interest. president-elect trump thinks he can resolve his financial conflicts by having his family manage his interests while he's in office. do you think it's okay for family members to profit off companies directly impacted by the decisions you will make if confirmed? yes or no? >> no, i do not. >> we do know from press reports you and your family have invested in what you call the education industry. that includes investments in sofi, a student loan refinancing company and k-12 inc., a chain of for-profit online charter schools. you told this committee you'd sever ties with your family businesses if confirmed but also
said you intend to return to these businesses owned by your family when you leave public service. how is that different from president-elect trump's arrangement? >> senator, first of all, let me be very clear about any conflicts. where conflicts are identified, they will be resolved. i will not be conflicted, period. i commit that to you all. and with respect to the specific ones that you cited, one of them we were aware of as we entered the process and that is in the process of being divested. where if there are any others that are identified, they will be appropriately divested as well. >> so from your answer, i assume that you and your family intend to forego all investments in education companies from now on? >> anything that is deemed to be a conflict will not be -- yes, will not be a part of our investing. >> okay. how do you intend to convince this committee that no entity
will feel pressure to purchase, partner or contract with corporate or non-profit entities you and your family invested in should you be confirmed as secretary? >> i can commit to you that nobody will feel any pressure like that. >> well, as you know, this committee has not received your required paperwork from the office of government ethics, and they have told me they cannot provide me assurance right now that your conflicts of interest have been identified and resolved by the office. so, again, will you be providing this committee with three years of tax returns? that we've requested? >> senator, i have provided the committee with everything that's been requested and required of the committee and i'm frankly very proud of the team that's been working very hard on my behalf to get all of this together and i know the oge is working very hard to work through my and others' confirmation processes as well. as is the department. i'm very hopeful that we will get this resolved and to a point of resolution here very soon. >> since we do not have your
ethics paperwork tonight, we've not had a chance to look at it, we've not had a chance to know whether we have additional questions. would you commit to coming back before this committee once we have that from the oge so we can ask additional questions? >> i commit to having -- making sure we have ethics -- ethics agreement resolved and reached. >> well, i hope that we have a chance, mr. chairman, if we have questions to be able to follow up on that. i just have a few seconds left. you have vast wealth, obviously, and you have used it as you have said, yourself, to influence the political system and elect candidates who support your ideological agenda. if you are confirmed, i want to know if you believe it's appropriate for you and your family to continue to use its wealth to pressure state, local and federal candidates to support your agenda? >> senator, as -- if i'm confirmed, as you know, i will not be involved and engaged in political contributions and i --
my husband will not be, either. >> okay. thank you very much. i appreciate that. >> thank you, senator murray. senator burr deferred to senator isaacson. >> thank you, chair, mr. chairman. thank you, mrs. devos, for your commitment to your state, your commitment to education and being here today. congratulations on your nomination. i have a statement and would like to ask you three questions in regard to that statement. this committee established a task force on government regulation and identified 59 specific burdensome regulations that engaged public education, pry maimarily higher education. of the 59 recommendations, 12 are totally at the office of the secretary of education, they can be validated and changed immediately. in 2015, senators bennett, king, booker, burr, alexander an myself introduced a bill to simplify the burdensome application process, financial
aid. three well-known institution in my state have all said this is a priority for them to move forward and sitmplify, getting our kids the best education they can get. would you work with the office to advance the -- >> senator, thanks for that question. i'm aware of this task force report and it sounds like the direction that it's taken is very promising and if confirmed i look forward to working with you and the others who have been working on this to implement the things that are deemed appropriate to be done. >> will you work with us and commit to us that you'll work with us to implement those items identified by the task force, the secretary, himself, or herself, currently has the authority to change, meaning this won't be another government report that goes on the shelf, one that will be acted on one way or another? >> you have my commitment on that, senator. >> lastly, will you work with this committee to simplify the application for federal financial aid known as fafsa,
reduce the burden of application, families, easier to apply to college and to attend college? >> indeed, i will. i know that's been a very burdensome process in the application, in fact, i recall chairman alexander's actually unfolding the entire length of it. it's a very long process and i would look forward to working with you to -- >> 104 questions. i remember correctly, mr. chairman. 104 questions. the committee came up with a two-page, four-question application that worked just as will, so it's an important way to improve attending college and getting financing done. >> i don't think we should make it any more difficult than absolutely necessary for students to be able to further their education. >> right question. is mr. boy here? >> yes, indeed. he's right here. >> could you stand up? i want to thank you for when you've done to show the leadership we need to help people who otherwise don't get any help, may be discarded through life's disposal. you've done a great job with potter's house. we have a number of have georgia
investments in potter's house. appreciate what you've done. >> thank you. >> this brings me to this point, senator murray was talking about privatizing schools and talking about the importance of -- lack of importance of charter schools and importance of protecting public education. she talked about her goal, my goal, which we've shared with each other, work toward requiring 4-year-old prekindergarten for every student in the country. it's important for the early learning years for kids to get access. we did it in georgia. how we did it in georgia was taking faith-based educational 4-year-old prekindergarten programs and private 4-year-old prekindergarten programs and private institution to provide us with the classrooms and teachers to teach the curriculum in the new program. today in georgia 61,000 4-year-old kids go to prekindergarten delivered by the state, paid for by a variety of public institutions and entities. if you're going to meet the challenges of public education today and have to defend solely
on the resources available to it, you'll never get where you want to go. if you get the private sector making an investment in education and have seamless standards that everybody commits to, you can greatly expand the accessibility of education and do it through using faith-based, private and other type institutions. would you agree with that is. >> i think it's a very interesting approach and -- that georgia has taken and it's very similar to what florida has done as well. as the essa act is implemented, i think we're really entrusting for states to take a look at some other successful programs and i would also look forward to working with the other agencies that are involved with some of the preschool funding of head start and so forth, hhs, and see if there's ways to more effectively use those moneys to help kids be ready for kindergarten when they reach kindergarten. >> my time is up. i just want to acknowledge in
reading your testimony, talking to you in my office, i appreciate your recognition that the nontraditional student, of 25 years ago, has become the traditional student of today. not every kid lives in a two-parent household, not every kid lives in an academic environment. we have to come up with programs necessary to train our kids to be able to do the jobs of the 21st century in different ways all the time. congratulations on your nomination. i yield back, plchl chairman. >> thank you, senator isakson. >> thank you for being with us, thanks for dropping into the office a few days ago. >> thank you, senator. >> mrs. devos, there is a growing fear, i think, in this country that we are moving toward what some would call an oligarchy form of society, a small number of very, very wealthy billionaires control to a significant degree our economic and political life. would you be so kind as to tell us how much money your family has contributed to the republican party over the years?
>> senator, first of all, thank you for that question. i i, again, was pleased to meet you in your office last week. i wish i could give you u ththa number. i don't know. >> i've heard the number is $200 million. does that sound in the ballpark? >> collectively -- >> over the years, yes. >> -- between my entire family, that's possible. >> my question is, i don't mean to be rude, but do you think if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family has not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the republican party, that you would be sitting here today? >> senator, as a matter of fact, i do think that there would be that possibility. i've worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years to be a voice for parents and to -- a voice for students and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children primarily low-income children. >> thank you.
in your statement, your prepared statement, you say, i quote, "students should make informs choices about what type of education they want to pursue post-high school and have access to high-quality options." some of us believe that we should make public colleges and universities tuition-free so that every young person in this country, regardless of income, does have that option. that's not the case today. will you work with me and others to make public colleges and universities tuition-free through federal and state efforts? >> senator, i think that's a really interesting idea, and it's really great to consider and think about, but i think we also have to consider the fact that there's nothing in life that's truly free. somebody's going to be pay for it. >> well, yes, you're right. you're right. somebody will pay for it but that takes us to another issue. and that is, if i may, and that is right now we have proposals
in front of us to substantially lower tax breaks for billionaires in this country while at the same time low-income kids can't afford to go to college. you think that makes sense? >> senator, i think if your question is really around how can we help college and higher education be more affordable for young people as they anticipate -- >> actually that wasn't my question. my question is, should we make public colleges and universities tuition-free so that every family in america, regardless of income, will have the ability to have their kids get a higher education? that was my question. >> senator, i think we can work together and we could work hard on making sure that college or higher education in some form is affordable for all young people that want to pursue it. i would look forward to that opportunity if confirmed. >> would you agree with me that if there is a mom watching this hearing who makes $30,000, $40,000 a year, single mom,
perhaps, who has to pay $10,000 or $15,000 a year for childcare for her daughter, that that is a burden that is almost impossible to deal with? what are your proposals about making childcare universal for our working families? do you have ideas on that? do you agree with that idea? >> that certainly is a burden and while -- and i can understand the challenge that that family, that young mother, would face in deciding how to best serve her child's needs. again, i think if we're talking about the future of that child and their education, i would look forward to working with you. i know we have common ground on a lot of things and could find ways to work together to ensure that that young mom's child will have a great opportunity for a great education in the future. >> there are countries around the world which do provide
universal, very inexpensive, or free childcare. would you work with me in moving our government in that direction? >> senator, again, i feel very strongly about the importance of young families having an opportunity for good childcare for their children. i'm not sure that -- >> it's not a question of an opportunity. it's a question of being able to -- very often, my republican friends talk about opportunity. it's not a question of opportunity. it's a question of being able to afford it. how do we help somebody who's making 8 or 9 bucks an hour at a time we can't raise minimum wage because of republican opposition, how can we make sure the moms get quality childcare they can afford? >> i look forward to helping that mom getting a quality education for their child or their children so they could look forward to a bright and hopeful future. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, senator sanders.
we're going next to senator hatch. >> thank you, mr. chairman. certainly happy to have you here, miss devos. i appreciate your abilities that you exemplified, the work of your family, the care that you have for education, the hard work that you've done. i have to say, very few people in this country can even come close to what you've done. let me just say, i welcome you to the committee. it's a pleasure to consider your nomination. i appreciate your commitment to expanding opportunities for all children and your tireless work in the field of education. your record of services is in line with utah values, especially your commitment to restoring local autonomy over schools. those closest to students
know -- truth, you have championed as a reformer. this committee's support and passage of the every student succeeds act illustrates these values are not unique to you and me, instead shared by many of my colleagues who care for education as a reality. all i can say is many of my colleagues' selections for this position have worked very hard to try and make sure that good people are in these positions. not just people of stereotypical education, but those who might bring really new things to the forefront. and i hope -- all i can say is that we've helped many of our colleagues to usher -- we've ushered them through this process on both sides of the floor and i hope my colleagues will extend the same courtesy to you. i also believe in extending
presidential selections, benefit of the doubt, recognizing, for example, that a person's views as a private citizen do not necessarily reflect their future actions as a holder of public office. from my private conversations with you, i trust that you will not have -- you will not force particular policies on states, unlike what some in education do. your predecessors have come -- have done in some cases in violation of congressional intent. i also recognize that support for parental choice for all students is not an attack on public education. my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have attended public education as a reality and i have to say that they've attended these schools and i believe that you share my commitment to ensuring that every child receives a quality education, regardless of the type of school they attend.
now, i spent my entire service here fighting to make equity in education a reality and i believe that you will be an indispensable partner in this fight and i look nard forward t working with you on priorities that are important to the people of utah including increasing transparency, accountability and access to higher education, as well as increasing innovation and evidence-based reforms. unlike others here who may be interested in attacking your donations, i know you want to do right by all children, so i will stick to focusing on how we can working to on sound policy. right now the department of education does not have a uniform measure for describing whether borrowers are repaying their loans. according to the confusion, the department is usiing a differen borrower repayment rate methodology for each policy it
comes up with. the uniform metric might prove helpful in making information available to congress. the higher education community and the public about the success of former students in repaying their federal student loan debts. this information could also tell us the extent to which student loan repayment rates vary across institutions. i believe students should have access to a wide variety of data when choosing a school just like they would when choosing a car. greater access to information would lead to wise decision-making when choosing an institution. now do you support increasing transparency and, you know, transparency regarding loan results for students and parents to use when deciding upon a post-secondary school? >> senator, thank you. thank you for that question and your kind comments. i agree with you 100% that the
issue of student debt and the amount of student debt, over $1.3 trillion right now, up almost 1,000% in the last 8 years, it's a very serious issue and one which we all have to, i think, pay very close attention to and resolve in some way and if confirmed, i certainly will look forward to working with you and your colleagues on ways to get after this issue, the issue of the cost of education as well as debt repayment kind of go hand in hand and i will look forward to working with you and your colleagues should i be confirmed. >> thank you so much. i hope you'll be confirmed. i think you'll make a great secretary. >> thank you, senator hatch. senator casey. >> mr. chairman, thank you very much. put me on record as asking for a second round as well. i know that's under
consideration. miss devos -- >> it's not under consideration but i'll be glad to put you on record. >> we'll keep trying. miss devos, thank you for being here. appreciate you and your family being with us tonight. i wanted to start with a basic questions, would you agree with me that the problem, and that's an understatement, in my judgment, but the problem of sexual assault on college campuses is a significant problem that we should take action on? >> senator, thank you for that question. i agree with you that sexual assault in any form or in any place is a problem and no disagreement there. >> second question is would you uphold -- let me give you a little background here that you might know, in 2011 the department of education issued guidance on title 9 by this administration, the current administration. i ask you, would you uphold that
2011 title 9 guidance as it relates to sexual assault on campus? >> senator, i know that there's a lot of conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance and if confirmed, i would look forward to working with you and your colleagues and understand the range of opinions and understand the issues from the higher ed institutions that are charged with resolving these and addressing them and i would look forward to working together to find some resolutions. >> i agree with the guidance, so i'm just asking for a yes or no. i guess you're not going to give me a yes-or-no answer on committing to upholding that guidance. >> it would be premature for me to do that today. >> this problem is, to say it's an epidemic i think is also an understatement. the centers for disease control told us back in 2009 that one in five women are the victims of sexual assault on campus and yet
a lot of those women who were in that one in five never have an opportunity or never report incidents. it's a major -- in so many ways, it's the ultimate betrayal. parents, for generations, have told their daughters study hard in school, get good grades, because when you get good grades, you might have an opportunity to go to college and if you go to college, the world is open to you. and you can succeed by having higher education. but too often, it happens every year on many campuses around the country, too often a young woman is a victim, sometimes in the first day she's there, the first week, and sometimes over the course of her first year, and her life is destroyed by that. so we have to long way to go to addressing this problem.
we took some good action on this issue, as part of the violence against women act. it just happened to be my bill that got passed into law, the so-called campus save act. what we did in that bill was for the first time say to colleges and universities, you have to do more than you're doing. certainly on one broad topic of prevention and on awareness. so young men on the campus who are the perpetrators of this have to be part of the solution. they have to be part of bystander education, a preventative strategy. but in addition to all kinds of transparency and requirements, this is what the act did for women, or for victims, i should say, or victims of assault. colleges and universities must provide clear statements regarding the procedures followed. they must do more than they had been doing when it comes to enforcement, and in particular with regard to victims, it says
"the college university must indicate to the victim her right to notify law enforcement should the victim choose to, that the obligation -- "the institution has an obligation to help the victim report the incident to law enforcement including helping her get a protective order." among other things that the school has to do. so that's what the law is now, based upon my bill. the fall of 2015, this went into effect across the country. there's an organization called the foundation for individual rights and education. they support a bill that would totally change that. they would force a victim to go to police departments to report and they would change the standard of evidence. would you commit, as secretary of education, to retaining the standard of evidence that is currently the law? >> senator, let me just say, my
mom's heart is really piqued on this issue. assault in any form is never okay. i want to be very clear on that. so if confirmed, i look forward to understanding the past actions and the current situation better and to ensuring the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that is -- >> the organization -- >> -- that recognizes both the victim, the rights of the victims, as well as those who are accused as well and that the -- >> i'm out of time. the organization that has that position, which is contrary to the law, current law, and contrary to the spirit of what we try to do in that piece of legislation, is the recipient of donations from you totaling about 25,000 bucks over 4 years. i hope, i hope that's not a
conflict of interest, but i would hope that you would make a definitive commitment as the nominee to enforce the law as it relates to sexual assault on campuses and i'll send you more questions about it. >> thank you, start. >> thank you, senator casey. senator paul. >> congratulations, miss devos. thanks for your testimony. i grew up and went to public schools and got a great education and a big fan of public schools. my kids have gone to public schools. but there are also some public schools that aren't doing very well. even the department of education says about half of them aren't doing very well and of half the kids that are dropping out are kids of color. so i commend you for your work, trying to help lower-income kids and trying to help everybody get a better education. i think the status quo just isn't really working. i have traveled to a lot of schools, though, and have been amazed at some of the schools. i went to st. anthony's in milwaukee. boy's latin school in philadelphia. and just amazing success
stories. and you see the success in front of you with 100% of the kids are going to college. just amazing stories where, you know, 50%, 40%, 30% maybe of their contemporaries in their communities are going. there are great successes. i think we need to think about the kids. people get caught up in, oh, i don't want any religious schools, any private schools, and all of this, and it's like, look at the kids and look at the success there. i think maybe in you tyke a cak couple minutes, things you've seen in michigan, schools you've either visited that are a success or some of what you've seen that has excited you about the potential that all these kids do have potential and we shouldn't leave them, you know, behind. >> thank you, senator. thanks for that opportunity. i would love to talk about some of the schools and some of the individuals that i have seen benefit from the success of being able to choose the right educational setting and i've
already mentioned the potters house school and john boy who's with us today, that's a school i regularly visit. the students there come from a multitude of different countries, speak many different languages and most of them are from very, very low-income circumstances and it's just amazing to see the transformation that those students have in going through their potters house years. there's another student here right behind me, denisha maryweather whom i've gotten to know the last several years who is a recipient of a tax credit scholarship program in the state of florida. she will tell you very promptly that she had a very troubled early childhood in her grade school years. i think she was kicked out multiple times before she -- her g godmother actually finally found a school that was going to work
for her and the transformation was just almost overnight. denisha is the first in her family to have graduated high school. she's graduated college and in may she's going to get her master's in social work degree. so she's just a tremendous example of what can happen when you get -- when you get an opportunity to go to the right school. nidia salazar is also here and she has -- her mom took her and emigrated from peru because of the opportunity she knew she would have a much greater opportunity to succeed and thrive and so nidia has been the beneficiary of a tax credit scholarship program in arizona and she's now in college and pursuing a higher education there. those are two students, there's many schools that i see that are doing amazing things, actually trying new and innovative ways of approaching education for children and one of them i'd
love to mention is called act academy, it's truly a unique model in it's totally student directed. they form their own constitution and there's no teacher in the classroom. there's just a coach or a guide and the guide cannot answer questions. they can only pose a question back to the students. and the results from this act in academy are simply amazing and the school is actually proliferating pretty rapidly throughout the country, so those are just a few examples but i could give you dozens more. >> well, in putting a face on it, meeting these kids and seeing they're going to succeed and looking them in the eye, knowing these young ladies succeed is an amazing thing. for those who have this philosophic hatred for vouchers and school choice and things, watch the movie "waiting your superman" and see the mom with tears down her face whose child got the lottery and won to get in a good school then the one who didn't get in and senator alexander and i went to a kip
charter school in nashville and met a young woman there. she got a full scholarship to boston college. i'll never forget, here we are, we like to talk to the media. the media didn't want to talk to us at all. they wanted to talk to this young lady, an amazing success story. i wish yoi you tu the best of l. thank you. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, senator paul. senator franken. >> i'm a member of the minnesota dfl party, the party that the chairman invoked at the beginning of this hearing. charter schools are not the issue here. minnesota is thoroughly in the mainstream. there are 37 states in this country that constitutionally prohibit the use of public school money for religious schools. so it is a dfl party in minnesota, thank you very much, that is in the mainstream. and not our witness or the chairman.
senator lieberman mentioned proficiency in the -- just reminded me of this -- when i first got into the senate, 2009, i had a roundtable of principals and one of the principals -- in minnesota -- and he said, we think of the nclb test as autopsies. and i knew exactly what he meant because what he was saying is the students take the test in late april, if they're lucky, they get them back in late june. the teachers can't use the results to inform their instruction. so i saw that minnesota, in addition to the nclb test, a lot of schools, a majority of schools, were taking a computer adaptive test. a computer test so you get the results right away and adaptive so that you can measure outside of grade level. and this is -- brings me to the issue of proficiency which senator cited versus growth. and i would like your views on
the relative advantage of measuring, doing assessments and using them to measure proficiency or to measure growth. >> thank you, senator, for that question. i think if i'm understanding your question correctly around proficiency, i would also correlate it to competency and mastery so that you, each student is measured according to the advancement that they're making in each subject area -- >> well, that's growth. that's not proficiencproficienc. so in other words, the growth they're making isn't growth. the proficiency is arbitrary standard -- >> if they reached the level, proficiency -- if they reached a, like, third grade level for reading, et cetera. >> i'm talking about the debate between proficiency and growth. >> yes. >> what your thoughts are on that. >> well, i was just asking to clarify then --
>> this is the subject that has been debated in the education community for years. and i've advocated growth as the chairman and every member of this committee knows because with proficiency -- >> looking back -- >> -- teachers ignore the kids at the top who are not going to fall below proficiency and ignore the kid at the bottom, no matter what they do will never get to proficiency. i've been an advocate of growth. it surprises me you don't know this issue. mr. chairman, i think this is a good reason for us to have more questions because this is a very important subject, education. our kids' education. and i think we're selling our kids short by not being able to have a debate on it. and i didn't know of any rule about this, you know, everyone gets one question and one other senator gets a question. i don't know where that rule comes from. >> well, i'll tell you where it comes from, senator franken. it comes from the committee
president and the way we treated president obama's nominees, john king, and the way we treated arne duncan and the way i was treated when i was a secretary. but i'm -- i'm applying the same rules to them, to secretary devos, or mrs. devos -- >> i think we're selling our kids short by not being able to ask follow-up questions and i was kind of surprised, well, i'm not that surprised, that you did not know this issue. mrs. devos, your family has a long history of supporting anti-lgbt causes including donating millions of dollars to groups that push conversion therapy. the practice of trying to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. for example, you and your family have given over $10 million to focus on the family, an organization that currently states on its website that, "homosexual strugglers can and do change their sexual behavior and identity." mrs. devos, conversion therapy has been widely discredited and rejected for decades by every
mainstream medical and mental health organization as neither medically nor ethically appropriate. it has been shown to lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide. particularly in lgbt youth. in fact, many of the leaders and founders of conversion therapy, including both religious ministries and mental health professionals, have not only publicly renounced it, but have issued formal apologies for their work and how harmful it has been to the individuals involved. mr. chairman, i would ask that this be included in the record. >> it will be. >> mrs. devos, do you still believe in conversion therapy? >> senator franken, i've never believed in that. first of all, let me say, i fully embrace equality and i believe in the innate value of every single human being and that all students, no matter their age, should be able to attend a school and feel safe and be free of discrimination. so let's start there.
and let me just say that your characterization of contributions i don't think accurately reflects those of my family. i don't -- >> well, you've been -- >> i would hope you wouldn't include other family members beyond my core family. >> well, in terms of throwing numbers around, you said that student debt has increased by 1,000% since -- >> 980% in 8 years. >> i'm sorry? >> 980%. >> that's just not so. it's increased 118% in the past 8 years. >> well -- >> so, i'm just asking if you're challenging my figures, i would ask that you get your figures straight about education policy and that's why we want more questions. because we want to know if this person that we are entrusting may encrust to be the secretary of education, if she has the breadth and depth of knowledge that we would expect from
someone who has that important job. thank you. >> thank you, senator franken. i had as many disagreements with secretary king as you apparently do with mrs. devos, and we ask -- we're treating her in exactly the same way that we treated him. and i think that's what i would call the golden rule. >> i did not hear one member of the committee ask more questions. and here virtually every member of the minority is asking to ask more questions and that's a very substantial difference. >> we have -- because you've got a nominee of the republican party. we're not going to treat a republican nominee differently than we treat a democratic nominee. we've had -- we've had the same -- >> we'll go here next.
>> i do want to put in the record that michael levitt had two rounds. >> he was never education secretary. >> rod page under bush had ten-minute rounds. there is other precedent. that's why my members are asking -- >> i appreciate that, senator murray, and i appreciate that. i'm trying to be fair by treating mrs. devos in the same way we treated both president obama's education nominees. we'll go next to senator cassidy. >> mrs. devos pap thanks. good to see you again. i'm really struck. the kind of reaction your nomination has elicited. so let me just ask some questions. do you support public education? >> absolutely, senator. >> man, that's amazing. you would think some would have us think that you do not.
do you believe that all children, all children deserve to have the opportunity to receive quality education? >> absolutely i do. >> do you support the rights of all chirp regardless of income or race? by the way, this means a lot to me, this next one -- to have the option to choose the school that meets their child's needs? >> absolutely i do, and i commend you and your wife for the school that you started that's specifically focused on dyslexic students. >> i will tell you, by the way, my son, who's very bright, graduated from -- speaking of dyslexia -- graduated from an inner city school, public school, then graduated with honors from some fancy school in the northeast. and my daughter, who has dyslexia, we're able to pay the tuition so she can have her needs addressed. not all parents can pay that tuition, so it matters very much to me a parent, regardless of our income, can get her child's needs addressed, so thank you for doing that. just a few more. do you support the belief the
decisions affecting our children's education are best left to the states and locals to decide to allow them to tailor the education policies and programs that best need -- that best meet the needs of their students? >> i do, indeed. >> oh my gosh. do you view the role of the u.s. secretary of education as an opportunity to advance your personal education views and agenda? >> not mine personally. i'm going to hopefully be able to advance this president-elect's and also the views of many, many parents nationally. >> as secretary of education, is it your intention to undermine our nation's public education system? >> not at all. >> as secretary, will you carry out the implementation of federal education laws in a way that reflects the very letter and intent of the law? >> indeed. >> do you intend to mandate, direct, coerce, or control any state, local school district or school on any education program that is specifically prohibited
by the secretary and federal law, one such example being common core? >> no. >> do you intend to mandate, direct, coerce, or control any state, local school district or school to require school choice policies including private school vouchers or scholarships? >> no. let's clear that for the record. next, just -- you mentioned dyslexia. i am passionate about that. 20% of us are dyslexics. 20%. i'm told one out of four children at age 4 of color reads substantially below grade level. that's important because we learn to read then we read to learn. if you've not learned to read, you're behind the 8-ball. so that is an issue i'm passionate about. as secretary of education, will you commit to working with me and others to find common ways to promote better awareness and
understanding of dyslexia, land you commit to working with me and this committee to develop better federal education policies to ensure that dyslexic children and all students with differences have the resources they need? >> i would look forward to that opportunity, senator. >> now, you may not agree to this one or not. will you develop new federal policies that will ensure early screening for dyslexia in school are universal screenings for all children in school, tho ensure any differences are diagnosed early and the appropriate services are provided to students? snild look forward to exploring that with you to see whether that's a federal role or best left to the states, but i would look forward to that opportunity. >> that is a fair answer. i have a couple more i've got to ask, but this meeting is going long. i will thank you for your answers and i will yield back. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, senator cassidy. senator bennett. >> thank you, mr. chairman. in view of how fair you've been to me and other members of the
committee, it pains me to say this, i really wish we had a second round of questions too. i really wish we had the tax returns from this nominee. i don't believe you are a precedent for this. when you were the nominee you'd been a governor, you'd been the president of a university. john king had been a school principal, had been the commissioner of education in the state of new york. arne duncan had been the superintendent of the chicago public schools. those were the experiences they brought to their committee hearing, and their records were well-known and well established. there is no way in the period of time we have here that we're going to be able to elicit that level of background. so i would ask that some consideration be given to our having additional questions and that the tax returns be made available to the committee. i want to thank mrs. devos for your willingness to serve and for being here, for your passion about education, for your family as well. i agree with you and the committee members know this,
that our public school system is not working for many of our kids, particularly those living in poverty. i think it's utterly unacceptable and the fact we don't pay attention to it, the fact we treat america's children like they're someone else's children i think is something that this generation is going to have to pay for in the future. every kid in this country should have had access to a great public school. i support parents' choices among high quality public schools and charter schools, and i think plays a critical role in education. but the goal for me has never been school choice. for its own end. the goal is high quality public schools where every kid and every neighborhood can receive a great education. for a kid from a low-income fami family, there may be a philosophical, but there's no practical difference between being forced to attend a terrible school and being given a chance to choose among five terrible schools.
that's no choice at all and certainly not a meaningful one. in denver, we made a different deal, a deal that said we're going to create a public choice system, authorize charters, create innovation schools and strengthen traditional schools. but without exception we demanded quality and implemented strong accountability. and as far as i can tell, detroit and michigan to a degree has followed exactly the opposite path. according to one analysis, the detroit public schools -- by the way, it's not easy to figure this out because there's so little accountability in michigan. the detroit public schools average 9%, 9% of the kids are proficient. the charter schools do a little better at 14% of the kids are proficie proficient. i'll stipulate that the charter schools are doing better, but that's a horrible outcome for everybody involved. according to an education trust report 2013, the majority of charter schools in michigan perform worse than the detroit -- in michigan perform
worse than the detroit public schools when it came to african-american students in eighth grade math. nearly half of charter schools in michigan ranked in the bottom quarter of all schools statewide. so my question is this -- not a false choice about whether we should have choice or shouldn't. we should have choice. but what you've learned of the last 20 years of this work in michigan that has changed your mind about what it is that kids need in america in the 21st century? >> senator, thank you for that question. first of all, i look forward to correcting some of the record regarding detroit, and i think it's important first of all to put detroit in context. in 1950 there were 1.8 million people living in the city of detroit. today there's less than 700,000, 675,000 roughly. anyone with any means in the city of detroit has -- with
school-aged students has basically left the city, and the students -- the students there today -- >> i'm sorry, with respect, i'm not asking for a history of detroit. what i'd like to know -- what i asked about was the last 20 years of school reform you've been so involved with in michigan. >> yes, but you are referring specifically to the detroit schools. >> right. >> and the reality today is that 8 out of 10 students in detroit are living in poverty. nobody accepts that the results in detroit overall are acceptable. there's cheerily room for a lot more improvement. but the reality is that more than half of the -- >> i'm sorry. i'm not going to get a second round of questions. what have you learned about the failures of the detroit public schools and detroit charter schools that has informed your decisionmaking as the secretary of education?
what went wrong there that's going to go right in cities all across america as a result of your philosophy about how we -- >> okay. we -- >> actually, i believe there's a lot that has gone right in -- >> we'll continue to monitor this hearing. right now our special coverage continues with "erin burnett out front." starting right now. thanks so much to you, wolf. we are going to keep an eye on the devos hearing. next, we have breaking news. chelsea manning, the army private sentenced to 35 years in prison for disclosing secret documents to wikileaks going to be freed. why did president obama do it? the white house responds out front tonight. plus more democrats boy catting donald trump's inauguration. we'll talk to one top democrat. is what they're doing un-american? more breaking news. donald trump arriving in washington. we'll see him momentarily as we count down to his inauguration. let's go out front.