Emboldened House Dems to question DeVos on Trump education cuts

President Donald J. Trump holds a roundtable discussion on school safety with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos , December 18, 2018 | Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour via Flickr Public Domain

WASHINGTON — U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is slated to testify in the U.S. House next week for the first time since Democrats took control of the chamber earlier this year.

DeVos — a West Michigan billionaire and one of the most polarizing President Donald Trump administration officials — is scheduled to testify Tuesday before a U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education spending.

Her visit is certain to be dramatic.

She’s been called to Capitol Hill to defend Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget, which again seeks to boost voucher programs.

Vouchers have long been an issue close to DeVos’ heart. In 2000, the DeVoses pushed a constitutional amendment in Michigan creating a voucher program. That failed, despite a $13 million investment from the family, which routinely spends the most of any clan on elections in Michigan.

House Democrats will seize the opportunity to deride the administration’s controversial education policies.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), one of DeVos’ most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill, now holds the gavel of the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over federal education spending.

DeLauro and DeVos have gotten into heated exchanges before — including a fight during a hearing last year in which an exasperated DeLauro shouted at a clearly flustered DeVos about the Trump administration’s student loan policies.

DeLauro said earlier this year that she would use her subcommittee post to “hold Secretary DeVos accountable for her agency’s failure to uphold federal protections for our students.”

The Connecticut Democrat pointed specifically to DeVos’ “actions that have hurt student borrowers and survivors of sexual assault, protected predatory for-profit schools, and moved towards privatizing public education.”

DeVos on Tuesday will be defending Trump’s budget request, in which the White House proposed to cut the Education Department’s funding by $8.5 billion — or about 12 percent — from what it received in fiscal 2019.

The administration said its spending plan “reduces the federal role in education, and prioritizes targeted investments in school safety, teacher quality, school choice and workforce development.”

The budget proposal “would allow $5 billion in federal tax credits for donations to organizations that provide voucher-like scholarships to private schools,” the Washington Post reports. 

DeLauro, however, called Trump’s budget “cruel and reckless.” She criticized proposed cuts to after-school programs, Pell Grants and federal work study programs.

John Moolenaar

She added, “It would be a cold day in hell before I helped pass a budget like this — one that hurts the American people in order to lavish tax cuts on millionaires, billionaires, corporations and special interests.”

One Michigan lawmaker sits on the appropriations subcommittee, U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland). He’s been a DeVos ally in the past and lauded Trump for picking her in 2016.

“She will do an outstanding job empowering parents to advocate for their children as the next Secretary of Education,” Moolenaar said at the time.

Advance Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this report.

Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.

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