January 24, 2017 at 10:04 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Sen. Baldwin to vote against DeVos as education secretary
Tammy Baldwin, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks at the International LGBT Leaders Conference at the Washington Hilton on Dec. 9, 2016. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) announced in a statement Monday she intends to vote against the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, citing concerns about whether the nominee will support public education and insufficient efforts to ensure no conflicts of interest exist after her appointment.

Baldwin said she’s opposing DeVos, known for her support of school vouchers, based on the fundamental belief in her home state of Wisconsin that everyone should be able to access education.

“Wisconsin has a long and proud tradition of supporting quality public education for every student,” Baldwin said. “In fact, from our beginning in 1848, the state constitution provided for a free education for all children in the state. This is a tradition I have a deep respect for and have worked to move forward. It is very important to me that our next secretary of education respects this tradition and is committed to it, but after meeting with Betsy DeVos, and participating in the hearing as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, I don’t believe she does.”

On ethics issues, Baldwin said it was “deeply troubling” DeVos didn’t “complete her ethics homework and address in a transparent and timely way” prior to the her confirmation hearing a report outlining potential conflicts of interests she may have as a result of her finances.

The Office of Government Ethics ultimately issued its report on DeVos to the Senate HELP Committee late last week. The committee vote to approve DeVos as education secretary was once scheduled for Tuesday, but has now been postponed until Jan. 31 to give lawmakers more time to read the report on DeVos outlining her intent to avoid conflicts of interest as education secretary.

DeVos faces opposition from teacher’s groups over her support for charter schools as well as LGBT advocates, who have cited her family’s donations to anti-LGBT groups that support widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

During her confirmation hearing, DeVos said she never supported conversion therapy and critics are conflating anti-LGBT donations from her family to include her, but stumbled over other questions related to education policy and notably suggested locales should be able to decide whether to allow guns in schools in the event of grizzly bear attacks.

In questioning over the anti-LGBT donations, Baldwin told DeVos during her confirmation hearing she should submit to the committee in writing a statement denying she personally donated to anti-LGBT groups. Baldwin’s office hasn’t responded to repeated requests from the Washington Blade to comment on whether DeVos submitted the statement to the committee.

“Betsy DeVos lacks the public education experience qualifications for this job and she would not rule out defunding public schools. For all these reasons and more, I will not support Betsy DeVos’ confirmation to be our next secretary of education,” Baldwin said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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